Friday, April 30, 2010

Jaroslav Who?...Pens Win 6-3 in Dominant Fashion

Nope, it wasn't the Washington Capitals you were facing huh Canadiens? Instead, it was a team that knows how to play a team game and has a leader in Sid who keeps his mouth shut and lets his play do the talking. The Pens registered 6 goals tonight and surprisingly none were from Sid or Geno. Granted Sid had a couple great setups and Geno was a force throughout.

Coming off 6 days of rest the Pens looked very sharp. The Habs on the other hand looked a bit tired, sloppy, and emotionally drained from their epic upset over the Caps just a few days ago. Has Halak been cracked? Will the Pens breeze through the Habs? Will Price start in game 2? Halak I'm sure will start in the next game although he got pulled with the Habs trailing 5-2 with 11 minutes left in the 3rd. I think Coach Martin realized it'd be good to give Jaro a good rest because they'll need him in the next game.

The Pens weren't overly-dominant, in fact the Habs outshot them 31 to 24. But the Pens made their shots count where it mattered: on the PP. They went a perfect 4 for 4 with 3 goals coming from D-men (Gonch, Letang, Gogo) and one from Staal on the 2nd PP unit. After the Habs drew first blood off a PK Subban goal the Pens took over the game. Geno drew a penalty, goal. Cooke nails Markov (clean hit) and then Gomez retaliates, goal again.

The Habs wouldn't go away as Cammy made it 3-2 in the 2nd period but Adams scored a huge goal to make it 4-2 and solidify the victory. Secondary scoring is a crucial part of winning in the playoffs. Cooke, Dupuis, and Adams were tremendous. Finishing checks, backchecking, and adding some offensive flair as well. Dupuis and Cooke were key parts to the game 6 victory in Ottawa last weekend and they were back at it tonight.

What about the Habs? How could they shut down the Caps PP and limit them to 3 goals in 3 games? The Habs were clearly emotionally and physically drained. And they do NOT have the offensive depth to match the Pens. Moore, Metropolit, Lapierre, and Pyatt were pretty much invisible. While the Pens 3rd and 4th lines created most of the offense for the black and gold. Frankly I only see Chicago and Detroit with depth up front to match the Pens.

Bylsma mentioned in the post-game presser that he'd like to see more shots. The Pens D were pinching in the off. zone throughout this game because the Habs offense is so bad they can afford to take some risks. The Habs had trouble exiting the zone and creating any off. zone time, just like in the Caps series. Cammy was a threat tonight, Gionta was solid, and rookie PK Subban is a gem. He scored the 1st goal and his fancy moves lead to the Habs 3rd goal.

The Habs are clearly overmatched in this series and guys like Plekanec, Kostistyn, and Cammy will have to elevate their level of play if this series is to prolong. But the Pens can't take them for granted like the Caps did after going up 3-1. The minute you relax or think the series is over, the Habs will capitalize and score. After all Gomez/Gionta and several others have Cup rings on their resume, they won't give up.

Markov and Staal both left the game and did not return. Hopefully Staal is OK but the collision with Subban looked nasty. Staal has played in 358 consecutive games including the playoffs. Let's hope the streak keeps going. Meanwhile Markov is the Habs' PP QB and a huge off. threat from the backside, let's see what happens. Adams now has 2 goals in 7 playoff games after going scoreless during the regular season LOL.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Crosby Leads Pens to 2-1 Victory Over Sens, Series Tied 1-1

-Fleury didn't have to be the hero tonight for the Pens, but when called upon he delivered a number of solid saves. 18 secs into the game, the talented Dane (Peter Regin) hammered a wrist shot glove-side, 1-0 Sens. Uh-oh. But this didn't seem to rattle the Pens one bit. Instead they turned it up and went about business by playing Pens hockey: outhitting the opposition and controlling the puck in the offensive zone.

-Orpik was hitting left and right, Rupp nailed Phillips, and Kunitz continued his bashing of Ottawa d-men. The Pens came to play with a purpose and had passion on nearly every shift. Alfy and Spezza were nearly invisible. The lack of offense for Ottawa is clearly evident. So by shear talent alone, if the Pens play solid/smart hockey they can't lose this series.

-Elliott had another good outing for the Sens in making 29 saves. The Pens PP had a 4 on 3 PP in the 2nd that failed and another PP in the 3rd that failed. They have to get their MO going. Their seemed to be much more energy in their 5 on 5 play last night but not with the man advantage. Kunitz's high shot and the big juicy rebound lead to a Crosby goal and a 1-1 tie after 1 period.

-In the 2nd the hitting just got outright brutal. Sutton nailed Leopold with an elbow to the head. I thought it was illegal but Leopold did have his head down and Sutton is a giant, so who knows. But Rupp pushing Smith into the Zamboni gate was hilarious and then Talbot dropping the mits with Smith was nice to see as well. Granted Max can't fight to save his life, he does have a lot of heart though.

-The 2nd line of Poni/Geno/Dupuis played pretty well in this game. It was one of Poni's best games. His name didn't appear on the scoresheet but he was making several good passes and using size to create room for his wingers. Give the Pens D credit for taking away time and space from the Sens. There were still good chances where the Sens players would skate up 10 ft from Fleury uncontested, not good.

-Notice how the Pens stopped making passes through the middle and started using dump ins which in turn lead to big hits. It's all about the "investment" philosophy that Bylsma loves referring to. The 51 hits the Pens generated clearly tired out the Sens by the end of the game. Crosby outdanced Spezza and made a nice pass to Tanger who sniped it past Elliott. First time Tanger's shot actually got on net and didn't miss by 20 feet.

-Leopold is day-to-day and Ben Lovejoy was recalled today from WB/S. Look for Mckee to step in tomorrow night in Ottawa.
Game 3 on Sunday at 6:38pm.


Friday, April 16, 2010

PREVIEW: Game 2, Sens vs. Pens...Must-win?

-Game 2 is only a few hours away and the Pens need this win big time. Fleury HAS to play better and it's time for the Pens to use the glass, high dump ins and deep dump ins behind the Ottawa D as a means of generating offense. There was hardly any puck possession in game 1 outside the first 5 minutes.

-Rupp will be making his Pens debut in place of Fedotenko. Feds was nearly invisible the last game. And Rupp's presence on the 4th line will be surely be felt. Moreover, Bylsma likes throwing Rupp in with Sid/Geno whenever he can as well. It's time for the "other" guys to start producing. Sid and Geno can't run the show for 60 minutes. The off. d-men have to help out as well. Letang especially.

-Michalek being out for the series is a big break for the Pens, time to exploit that.
Staal/TK/Cooke have to start doing their thing in wearing down the Ottawa D. Then it'll be easier for Geno/Sid to do their thing. The Pens shouldn't be nervous tonight or hesitant tonight and they cannot play into Ottawa's hands.

-Expect Ottawa to continue clogging the neutral zone and trying to capitalize off Pens turnovers. The Pens have the speed and the offensive firepower to break that sort of game plan, they just have to execute.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ruutu Haunts Old Team...Leads Sens to 5-4 Victory

-Sure wasn't the start you were expecting, huh? Well they actually started out on fire the first 5 minutes. Elliott was clearly nervous after bobbling the TK shot and then soon after Geno hammered it on the PK, boom 1-0 Pens. But then the Pens seemed to sit back and didn't have a shot for 16 minutes. Wow right? Truth is several of those shot attempts were either blocked or missed. Good bet that the shots that missed came off Letang's stick, hehe.

-But where was Fleury when he needed to make a big save? Where was the defense when he needed to get bailed out? Gogo was the best Pen d-men on the ice, and that's not a good thing. But Fleury's big rebound on the 1st goal, his lack of covering the side on Neil's goal and Ruutu's 5 hole game winner are inexcusable goals. Especially for a goalie the caliber of Fleury.

-Secondary scoring 5 on 5 was the story in this game. Neil, Ruutu, and Kelly all scored goals while only Adams got one for the Pens. First in 82 games lol. But Feds, Poni, Staal, Cooke, and Guerin weren't too visible offensively. They were close and had some chances. Kunitz was a physical machine and I thought Talbot/Adams did a good job of playing their game. But the Sens D really shut down on Crosby and Malkin knowing that their wingers weren't going to do much.

-Look for Feds to be a scratch tomorrow in place of Rupp. Rupp at least adds some physicality and could give either Geno/Sid more space on the ice. The Sens did what the Devils have done to us this year and what Tampa did on their last visit to the Mellon: clog the neutral zone and eliminate passes up the middle. The pens weren't dumping it in enough and when they were, they were beat to the puck by the Sens d-men.

-There was fight in the Pens as they came within 1 goal on several occasions until the Sens would score one more and the Pens would get deflated again. But they have to play with more passion and energy. Use their speed rather than play into their opponents hands. You saw how effective the forecheck can be in the first 5 minutes, but that has to continue for 60 minutes, or somewhere close to it. Spurts of dominance and spurts of sloppiness defined the Pens play in this one.

-Michalek tore his ACL so he'll be out for the post-season, that's great news, another legit top 6 winger down for the Sens. Look for a better game plan from Bylsma tomorrow and look for Fleury to be lights out. He is after all one of the top "rebound" goalies in the league, says Billy G.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pens vs. Sens Series PREVIEW...Game 1 tomorrow

Guess who's back, back again. The Sens are back, tell a friend? There's a good chance that even your friend knows the Pens/Sens will square off yet AGAIN, for the 3rd time in the past 4 years. Three years ago it was the Sens who ran over the young and inexperienced Pens in 5 games and just one year later it was Hossa and the Pens who swept the series.

But this year's gonna be different, right? The Sens are more systematic then they were a couple seasons back but they're also not as deep. No Heatley, Kovy is injured and so is Kuba (a top 4 d-men). Goalie Marty Gerber was the only bright spot a couple years back, can Elliott do the same? He has a better save percentage than our very own MAF, but he has yet to feel the nerves and intensity that come with the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Pens are 2-2 against the Sens on the season. Each game was pretty one-sided.
What will lead Pens to victory?
For one their offense and second their goaltending. Fleury has yet to hit his mojo of playing consistent hockey but the playoffs seem to be his coming out party every year. And the offense has to get going. Malkin is healthy and looked extremely scary vs. the Isles on Sunday, can he continue? And will Poni and Feds start rallying behind him, because they sure as hell need to.

Crosby will be seeing some familiar d-men in his grill, Phillips and the "Russian Tank" Volchenkov. Both are extremely tough to play against, but the next thing closest to God or Neo from The Matrix seems to be Crosby. It looks as though Sutton/Campoli will matchup against the 2nd unit (Geno's line) and that won't be easy either. The Sens WILL take stupid penalties because the Pens like to control the puck and the Sens have several edgy players: Neil, Ruutu, Carkner, Fisher, and Winchester. Neil/Ruutu are known for dumb penalties.

The Pens PP has to capitalize, and that means Gonchar time. One bright spot on the backend the past couple weeks has been Leopold. He has 4 goals and does an excellent job of jumping into plays and getting pucks on net. Gogo on the other hand has been atrocious. The 3rd line is also starting to play with some poise as it did during last year's cup run. With an injury ridden backend and a lack of secondary scoring for the Sens, the Pens have the edge in the series. Not to mention in goal. Elliott has played better than Fleury, but he also doesn't have a Cup.

Sens players to watch: Michalek, Fisher, and Spezza. Michalek is very strong on his skates and is fast as hell. And the other two guys can wake up and be machines if they want to as well.

Pens players to watch: Malkin, Dupuis, and Fedotenko. Dupuis has had an excellent season and he'll need to keep his offensive prowess in tact during the playoffs. Will the legend of Ruslan Fedotenko wake up and start scoring? God I hope so. Orpik and Poni will play tomorrow, but Kunitz is still questionable. Rupp will play if Kunitz can't, and Talbot will be scratched if Kunitz can.

Pens win series in 6. Too much offense and better goaltending will help them prevail. I give the defense edge to the Sens but we'll see how long they can keep either Sid/Geno off the board. Two is better than one, just ask Taylor Swift.