I wrote a piece for SB Nation Pittsburgh debating the value of Tyler Kennedy to the 2011-12 Penguins and beyond. The Synopsis: “Everybody Chill.”
Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category
I realize I’m twelve, but I can’t be the only person amused that Calgary’s GM is named Jay Feaster and he looks like this:
Calgary named Feaster, the former Tampa GM who was acting as the Flames’ interim GM, as their permanent General Manager after they determined he was the candidate most likely to eat Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen, thus solving numerous problems simultaneously and painlessly.
Headlines read a lot funnier when they’re in all caps with no punctuation:
“Coo” as in, entertaining babies or “Cool” pronounced without the “L”?
Awww, damn, it’s just “C.O.O.” (pronounced like Cee-Lo, but more executively). I was hoping The Penguins hired a new “Coo,” which would’ve been awesome because that would mean the Penguins have a job called “Coo” and just hired a new person to fill the job that is called “Coo.” I really got my hopes up and had them dashed in a very short window of stuff-taking-a-second-to-think-about. People could’ve addressed him in meetings by saying “Coo’, Coo’…” like rappers if rappers still do that — SUCH a missed opportunity. They still should.
Also, my instant reaction upon reading the word “Coo” was identical to that of Charlie from It’s Always Sunny when hearing the word “Spa”.
I’m not right about a lot of things in life, whether it be sports predicting, relationships, or my constant screaming that all doctors are just failed shamans who lack the necessary magic powers, but here’s one paragraph I wrote two weeks ago explaining why I thought the Penguins would lose the Pittsburgh/Tampa series:
Right now, the Pens’ offense isn’t producing 5-on-5, their defense has been decent but certainly not playoff-tight shut-down style, they have no forward depth, their power play is terrible, and their penalty killing has been suspiciously leaky over the past month and will be without Matt Cooke for the Tampa series. The Lightning, by contrast, are completely healthy, boast tremendous depth up front, are in many ways just as playoff-tested as this Penguins group, they’re extremely well-coached (as are the Pens), and their power play likely poses a larger threat against the Pens’ penalty killing than the Penguins’ PP does against the Lightning killers. The Pens have home-ice advantage, and will likely pack the stands in Tampa, but as we saw last season and pretty much every season, home ice is meaningless.
Oh, of course THAT prediction comes true, but my prediction that Rico Fata would turn out to be the next Alfred Hitchcock just HAPPENED to be wrong. GO FIGURE. I can’t catch a break in this stupid universe.
Seriously though, I’ve spent the last three months annoyingly “ehhhhh….”-ing at every column about how resilient this Penguin team has been, pointing out that even during their impressive post-Crosby-and-Malkin run, the Pens were mostly beating bad teams, and Fleury’s career performance was masking some very serious talent issues that would quickly become unignorable against playoff competition. Tonight, bathed in the cold comfort of actually having been right about something, I ironically just keep coming back to one overwhelming sentiment: “Man, this Penguins team sure was resilient.”
Sometimes I have the tendency to be particularly verbose in my postgame recaps, mostly because right after Penguin games, I’m scrambling to crystallize my own thoughts on the game while simultaneously also conveying those half-thoughts and using my spare hand to respond to angry dad-texts. As an example of this verboseness (verbosity? Virtubosity with Denzel Washington?), I’m already rambling in this intro paragraph that I started with the intention to convey that for once, in my Recap of Pens/Lightning Game 6, I actually wouldn’t have to ramble on forever, because it was an exceedingly simple loss to analyze.
Now that I’ve wasted all this time describing how little time I’d have to waste before summarizing this game, let’s summarize this game in two easily digestible Dairy Queen Mini-sized fail desserts:
- Penguins Power Play goes 0-for-5, plus a (very) missed Penalty Shot.
- Fleury gives up 4 goals on 21 shots (Dwayne Roloson stops 27 of 29).
There ya go. Pretty much a perfect storyboard for a movie about this Penguin team losing a game, which would be a really boring idea for a movie for a number of reasons (though they could bill it as a Miracle reboot and call it Plausible?)
While trying to wrap my head around the first four-game chunk of this hopefully nearly-over first round playoff series, my thought process has gone something like this:
Well, the Pens are dominating 5-on-5, they just need to limit Tampa’s power play chances and hopefully grab a power play goal of their own, and they shou–
The gravity of the first half of that sentence shouldn’t get minimized by the details of the second half. It is EMBARRASSING how badly the Penguins have outplayed Tampa 5-on-5 in this series, with the exception of the first periods in Game One and Game Two. But whether we split hairs and argue that the Pens have dominated about 70% of the 5-on-5 play in this series or if it’s closer to 55-60%, the fact that we’re talking about this Penguins team dominating this Tampa team 5-on-5 for the majority of this series, and readily accepting that fact as though it’s a given, is, I will say again, embarrassing.
Tampa is completely healthy. Ryan Malone is obviously dragging, and Steven Stamkos is very likely dealing with a nagging injury that’ll come out after the playoffs, but they’re still both in the lineup. This is the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference that’s clearly loaded with a Top-5 team in the NHL in terms of top-end offensive talent, and they’re getting noticeably and routinely outplayed by a Penguins squad that’s only one seed higher, missing two of the top players in the NHL, and essentially dressing two #2 lines and two #4 lines.
All the borderline “damning with faint praise” compliments we’ve been showering on the Pens over these past few Crosbyless months — “Tyler Kennedy has really elevated his game!”, “This team is really resilient and showing a lot of character,” “Dan Bylsma is doing his best coaching job yet, keeping these guys playing hard every night” — usually sounded like one big “attaboy” thumbs-up as we justified our own surprise that this team didn’t completely collapse. Honestly though, and perhaps I’m only speaking for myself, I didn’t believe that any of those positives in the Pens’ recent play would truly matter against a more talented, healthier playoff opponent that’s also well coached, strong in goal, and experienced in the playoffs. If the most dangerous thing you can say about a Playoff team is “Tyler Kennedy’s been playing pretty well,” you’re basically saying “Ah well, it’s been a good run.”
The one possible tipping point, as I said in my series prediction, was Fleury. I thought if Fleury played out of his mind for 4 of 7 games, then the Pens had a shot, but I didn’t foresee that happening — not for lack of faith in Fleury, just for the general unlikelihood of any one player maintaining such routine dominance in a long playoff series. Fleury did indeed play out of his mind in Game One, and the Pens had no business escaping the opening period of that game tied 0-0; however, while Fleury also played excellently in Games 3 and 4, he didn’t have to steal Games 3 or 4, and that’s just not at all how I saw this series playing out. Perhaps my attempt at dispassionate, rational analysis of this series actually just meant that I deliberately underestimated the team I root for and equated that with even analysis, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case.
The Penguins outshot Tampa on their home ice in Game 3, 30-27, and didn’t allow an even-strength goal. They then outshot Tampa on their home ice two nights later, 53-31, in a game that Tampa absolutely needed. The Penguins don’t have Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin — a fact that’s so significant, it’s incredible that we now mention as if it’s a footnote — and they are badly outplaying a super-talented team that’s one seed below them. I’m certainly not complaining, but I certainly didn’t see it happening.
Other Random Thoughts On The Series: