My thoughts on whether or not the Pens can afford to retain Max Talbot, and whether his ultra fan-faveness makes up for his disturbing drop in production:
Posts Tagged ‘Max Talbot’
When Brent Johnson let in a wrister from 40 feet then Brad Richards threw in a second goal after parking himself in the right circle uncovered for an hour and a half both within the first eight minutes of the First Period, I’m pretty sure we all had the same thought running through our heads: This is going to turn out to be the most perfect game the Penguins have ever played. And you know something? We were right.
The Penguins were completely flawless against Dallas in every conceivable way, and were extremely entertaining to watch in the process. The defense? Perfect. Johnson? Perfect. Michalek in his return from injury? Perfect and perfectly healthy. The power play? Is there a word more perfect than “perfect”? Like, “doubleplusperfect”? Because that’s how good the power play was.
Sure, the scoreboard at the end of the day said Dallas 5, Pittsburgh 2, and the only life the Pens showed was a string of random fights in the middle of the second including Sidney Crosby getting into the action, Kris Letang dropping his gloves, remembering his hand is injured, and pathetically clinging to Brenden Morrow, and Mike Comrie making himself useful and sticking up for his teammates by punching the puck. Shockingly, none of these actions sparked a four-goal comeback.
Hopefully the Pens can continue this flawless play in Anaheim on Friday night. The way the power play has been looking lately, in addition to the defense and the incredibly indistinguishable play of Comrie, Mike Rupp, Max Talbot, and Chris Kunitz, I’m moderately confident that they can keep it up.
2 Quick Sidenotes, after the jump:
Max Talbot, star of the seminal A&L Motors Commercial and its inspired sequel, Marginally Less Retarded A&L Motors Commercial, now completes his local commercial trilogy by starring opposite Hines Ward in this ad for “City Of Champions Crunch,” the first cereal smug enough for our newly-spoiled Pittsburgh fanbase:
Shortly after this exchange, Ward blindsided Talbot, severely injuring him, then Talbot got up, made a “shhhh” gesture to the crowd even though he just got the crap beat out of him, and this somehow inspired “Tastes Great” to come back from a three-goal deficit.
(via Empty Netters)
GAME THREE: Pens 4, Red Wings 2 — The Hockey Gods Giveth, The Hockey Gods Miss A Really Obvious Too Many Men CallJune 3, 2009
After the Pens ended up on the dark side of both physics and officiating in Game Two, they played their worst game of the series so far and walked away with a 4-2 victory.
Credit Where Credit Is Due:
– Max Talbot played his ass off, Fleury had arguably his best game since mid-Caps series or possibly Philly Game 4, and the Pens’ power play actually scored twice against a team without Tim Gleason on its roster, including at the game’s most crucial juncture.
And Now, Ripping On People:
–The refereeing sure took a wild swing back in the Pens’ favor last night, with Pittsburgh avoiding a lengthy, crazily obvious too many men penalty that just simply doesn’t ever get missed in the NHL (unless it’s a three-second infraction where the player hops back on the bench right as the opposing team starts yelling, which this most certainly wasn’t). The refs also forewent a Chris Kunitz cross-check to Johan Franzen’s head, but went ahead and whistled Jonathan Ericsson for interference in the third, which was definitely interference but also more minor than about 30,000 other uncalled plays in this series. Again, I’ll always argue that it’s tough to say refereeing “cost” a team a game, as the Wings did allow two power play goals on only three opportunities, to the same power play that we spend about a paragraph making fun of every other day.
– Detroit also managed just three shots on goal in the third period. I don’t think the refs blocked many.
– Kris Letang’s goal was pretty weak on Chris Osgood’s part; I’ve always felt that if you don’t one-time a power play point shot, there’s no point in then going ahead and shooting it anyway once the defense adjusts, because it gets blocked and cleared about 80% of the time, but Letang’s shot got through the D and went right through Osgood for a refreshingly questionable goal. Now if only we can get one to hit off the boards, post, his pad, and his ass before trickling in…
Didn’t write anything about Game Four for a while because I really didn’t have anything new to add to the series; it just seemed like no matter how well the Hurricanes played, the Pens just kept this air of inevitability around them, and when that Max Talbot goal fluttered past Cam Ward’s glove, I think we all knew where this one was headed. It just wasn’t Carolina’s series, and I know that statement is served dripping in molasses-thick cliche juice, but this sentiment was overwhelming from about Game Two onward.
Carolina’s defense played terribly. Cam Ward was a nonfactor. Ray Whitney was a nonfactor. Eric Staal was a nonfactor until it was way too late for anything he did to matter (and this picture before Game 4 made the entire series worth it).
I thought Fleury played a pretty solid game after his WTFey first goal, even though any remotely questionable Fleury play still results in between 3 and 5 instantaneous texts to my phone from friends; I feel like I subcribed to the Sprint “Fleury Worry Mobile Updates” service inadvertantly. Otherwise, Crosby and Malkin are still awesome, Crosby’s linemates are looking a lot more competent than they did against Washington, the special teams are resembling decency, and the defense played a lot better in the second and third periods of this game.
Let’s bring on the Red Wings!
Sorry for the post-delay, I was busy taking Memorial Day weekend off and enjoying life. And now back to ripping on random hockey players for a devoted group of like seven blog readers!
– Carolina’s defense is downright awful. I wrote before the series (which I still thought would be a hard-fought seven gamer) that I wasn’t sold on Joe Corvo or Joni Pitkanen as impactful playoff-caliber defensemen, and nothing that’s happened this series has dispelled that belief; Corvo is a solid pointman and good transitional passer but sub-mediocre defensively and physically, and Pitkanen, while never emerging as the offensive threat multiple teams hoped he’d become, is still prone to monumental defensive lapses, including getting burnt up the middle by Max Talbot and torched to rubble by Evgeni Malkin on two separate Game Three sequences.
– Even worse, can someone who follows the Hurricanes year-round tell me, has Tim Gleason always been the worst defenseman in the NHL, or has he just been playing like it for three games? If he plays half as badly in the regular season as he has in the Pens games we’ve seen, he has no business being a professional ice hockey player. His giveaway to Malkin to spark the Pens’ tying goal en route to their unrelenting lead was laughable, but just one of about a half-dozen goals he’s been directly responsible for in this series.
– Cam Ward hasn’t gotten much help from his defense in this series, and by “not much help” I mean, “at least Tim Gleason didn’t literally grab a bucket of pucks and pour them into his own net,” but he also hasn’t been great himself, and certainly not on the level of series-stealing impenetrability that I and many media types feared heading into this series. Other than a stellar second period in Game Three, Ward has been eminently beatable in this series, and the previously snakebitten Penguins have been more than happy to oblige.
– After three Carolina-ripping bullet points, time to state the obvious: Malkin and Crosby have owned this series on a level rarely ever demonstrated by individuals in an NHL postseason. Short of a hot goalie or possibly one player here or there, you simply don’t see two players absolutely just take over entire serieses in the NHL Playoffs; every time Malkin touches the puck, he creates a scoring chance as though he’s running a lax 3-on-2 practice drill where the defensemen intentionally back off to make sure the goalie gets to face a solid shot attempt. I also lamented Crosby’s finishing ability during the regular season, wondering how for all the offensive chances he creates he always ends up in the 30-goal range, but he’s just thrown everything near his stick into the back of the net this entire postseason. Even if the Hurricanes’ D had showed up in this series, I can’t imagine they’d have made much of a dent in the Malkin/Crosby momentum.
– Chris Kunitz has played two straight legitimately impactful playoff games, which, based on his track record, I’m inclined to interpret more as a return to the norm for Kunitz as opposed to a two-game anomaly before he reverts back to uselessness. He’s still playing physically but has been much stronger on the puck, he’s patient, he’s creating chances, he’s hitting the net ever, and in general, I’ve stopped instantly changing the channel to the WE Network every time the puck comes near him.
– Even though Versus showed the clip of Fleury bobbling the puck that trickled wide of the net about 470 times, I thought he played a decent game; he gave up a bad rebound on the second goal, but critical announcers never seem to realize, every goalie gives up rebounds in every game, they only get blasted for them if their defense fails to pick up the opposing forwards, and Fleury continues to be victimized by this nearly every game. Carolina had a power play in the third with a chance to tie the game at 3 and couldn’t convert; I’ve been more critical of Fleury than most other people this postseason, but I had no problems with his Game Three performance.
– I ripped on Eric Staal in the last game recap and he didn’t spring to life and score seven goals, so maybe that jinx is over.
– Watching Hal Gill skate at full speed is my new favorite activity. Not just in hockey games, I mean in life.
– Kris Letang still worries me a little; he’s been really weak on the puck in his own zone and can’t seem to clear or shoot the puck with any force. I imagine he’s still a little banged up from the earlier series, and hopefully he’ll get another chance to rest if the Pens can finish off the Hurricanes quickly, but he’s simply not going to squeak by against the Red Wings playing the way he has been in his own zone.
– Bob Smizik argues that the Pens don’t really need to win Game Four, because the profit they’ll make off a home Game Five would benefit the franchise more than a quick end to a series they’re going to win anyway, which does make sense on paper, but who in their right mind would actually prefer even the slightest increase in the chances of an injury to Crosby or Malkin with an additonal game? The Pens have already played eight sold-out home playoff games and have at least two Finals home games on the way — they can afford to frickin’ win a hockey game tonight. The days of trading Dan LaCouture to save $800,000 are long over.
GAME TWO: Capitals 4, Pens 3 — As Gary Bettman’s Orgasm Subsides, Pittsburgh Stares Down A 2-0 DeficitMay 5, 2009
Hockey Quiz Time! And you don’t even have to go to Ask.com for the answer (or Google it after you don’t find it on Ask.com).
Q: If you make sure to cover one player in the NHL during one specific situation, which of the following should you choose?
A) Alexander Ovechkin one-timing the puck from the left hash.
B) Joe Thornton behind the net.
C) Mike Richards during your power play.
D) Mark Eaton always.
If you said “A”, you’re wrong! The correct answer is “OBVIOUSLY IT’S FRICKIN’ A DO YOU HONESTLY NEED TO BE TOLD TO COVER GODDAMN ALEXANDER OVECHKIN ONE-TIMING THE PUCK ON THE GODDAMN OFF-WING???” That was the answer we were looking for, caps included.
Sure enough, the Pens twice failed to cover an Alexander Ovechkin one-timer, the first coming on a spontaneous 3-on-2 in which no forwards got back and the defense gravitated towards Viktor “I’m Big And Try For About Nine Seconds A Game” Kozlov instead of the guy who’s scored 121 goals over the past two seasons, and the second coming on one of about 75,000 perfectly clean Capitals special teams face-off wins that resulted in a power play goal an embarrassing FOUR SECONDS into a man advantage.
Penguins, if we really need to go over whether or not you need to watch out for Alex Ovechkin one-timing a puck from the left side when you play against the Washington Capitals, then we might as well just save some time and skip directly to working on your golf swings. Golf swing tip #1: Do not jump into the water hazard with a plugged-in radio. Sounds self-explanatory? Yeah – so is keeping an eye on Alexander Ovechkin when you play the Washington Capitals. Jesus Christ.
– Sweet dive by Ovechkin on the Kunitz penalty though, huh? If Crosby had gone down like that and they showed the replay in the Verizon Center, all of D.C. would still be booing, plus more Caps fans would jump on the bandwagon to join in the booing, and Flyers fans would have reconvened in Wachovia to continue booing as well, and Crosby would be getting ripped on every blog on the internet right now including financial blogs, tech blogs, and this website. The refs barely impacted the game, though; a lot of the penalties for both sides just weren’t replayed on Versus at all and I never saw them, plus the Pens’ power play is bad (anyone else noticed this? I feel like I’m really alone on this one), and Kunitz got away with a really bad cross-check on Varlamov on the Pens’ third goal – “If you can’t score,” Badger Bob once never said, “at least cross-check the goalie in the head when it’s too late for the refs to care.”
– And that brings me to the power play…I feel like mentioning the power play in these recaps is like when someone during a roast finally gets around to the guest of honor, and everyone knows what’s coming… Yes, they scored twice tonight, but the second goal was a semi-irrelevant 6-on-4 goal following that missed cross-check to the Caps’ goalie, and until Dan Byslma stops leaving 4/5 of the power play unit on the ice for the full two minutes (Letang was getting 2-minute shifts tonight too – whoopeee!! Everyone is early-2000s Chris Pronger!!), we’re going to have to continue to put up with man advantages like the jamboree of failure following the Jurcina interference call. Then, the cherry on that shit sundae, Evgeni Malkin took the penalty that led to the go-ahead goal while at the end of an extended power play shift, presumably tired from watching Sergei Gonchar chase the puck behind his net a bunch of times.
– I’ve always felt that commentators overrate the importance of faceoffs to the outcome of a game, unless a team is absolutely, noticeably dominated on them. Tonight, the Penguins were indeed absolutely, noticeably dominated on them, losing 38 of 61 draws (61%) with no individual Penguin winning more than 42% of his draws. The Capitals’ faceoff wins also averaged 9.77 Clean-and-Easy points per draw, which is a stat I made up just now to emphasize how cleanly and easily the Caps won every single faceoff in every single remotely important situation.
– As much as I’ve complained about the Pens’ D, the Capitals did leave Crosby basically untouched on his first two goals. If the Pens had won this game, we’d likely be hearing more about the Caps missing John Erskine’s presence in front of their net. On the TSN coverage, at least, I’m pretty sure ESPN’s 30-second wrapup might focus on Ovechkin a bit more.
– Simeon Varlamov essentially outplayed Fleury for the second straight game (not a slight to Fleury so much as a credit to Varlamov); I don’t wish to revisit this argument here, as we’ll have plenty of time to fill during the offseason, but Varlamov’s success continues to taunt teams who draft goalies really highly or overpay for free agent netminders. Varlamov was a #23 overall pick; I’m not sure what Rick DiPietro, Kari Lehtonen, and Al Montoya are up to right this minute, but they’re not currently playing in the NHL Playoffs, and Marc-Andre Fleury won’t be for much longer barring a Pens defensive surge over four of their next five games. Tim Thomas (217th overall pick), Jonas Hiller (undrafted; international free agent), Cam Ward (25th overall), Nikolai Khabiboulin (thought to be washed-up) and Chris Osgood (was definitely washed up) are all still playing in the playoffs, for the record (and yes, Roberto Luongo, a 4th overall pick who was traded twice). But I digress.
– Was something going on with Max Talbot’s stick? He seemed to be hustling, positioning himself well, and blocking shots, but any time he tried to pass or stickhandle the puck would immediately, spastically turn itself over to the Caps, often in an impossible ‘Talbot just kept it in the Pens’ own zone when the Caps weren’t even trying to” way. Talbot also blocked two shots on the same penalty kill and neither one left the zone or went to a Penguin player. That sequence plus the weird bounce on the Steckel goal (who’s living up to his poster billing, by the way) had me scratching my head, at least in between fits of swearing at Gonchar and Orpik.
– Petr Sykora remains useless, injured or not, and is probably costing himself millions in free agent dollars with his noticable irrelavence.
– My pick of Pens in Six is still extremely mathematically possible. Yep…just call me “Nostradamus.” Seriously, call me on the phone right now and refer to me as “Nostradamus,” because I can foresee the future like Nostradamus claimed to have been able to, as evidenced by my ability to predict this series. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go plug in my radio and go golfing.
– And for good measure, the Pirates also blew a lead in the 8th inning and another one in the 9th to lose to the Brewers tonight. And the Steelers traded Troy Polamalu to the Cowboys for a fifth round pick in 2012. C’est la vie.
In between the first and second periods of Game 6 in Philadelphia, I sent my friend a text that read “[BLANK]ing finish you [BLANK]s”. I won’t get into the specifics about whether or not the first word began with F or if the second word was a term for ‘penis,’ but I will say that the Pens sure took my in-depth advice to heart and played two periods of legitimate playoff hockey: they got pucks to the net, they got rebounds, they tested Biron (he failed), Fleury came up big when he had to, they won almost every single loose puck, and stars like Crosby and Malkin looked like Crosby and Malkin and not, as they have at times in this series, imposters in replica jerseys who make commission on turnovers.
Ed Olczyk and a number of my Philly friends were all over Daniel Carcillo after the game for agreeing to drop the gloves with Max Talbot in the second, calling him undisciplined, but I wonder how much of that momentum swing can be truly attributed to the fight. Yes, Crosby did compliment Talbot after the game, but I think it’s a little easy to just say “before fight = no goals, after fight = four goals, therefore the fight led to goals.” The Pens actually played a solid first period in terms of puck possession, they just had some isolated mind cramps and continued trouble with basic puck clearing, but if the Pens were really waiting for the spark of Max Talbot getting the crap beat out of him to actually start getting pucks to the net, then I’m severely skeptical about their motivation for upcoming playoff games.
The goals the Pens did give up did appear to be on independent breakdowns as opposed to a lengthy period of being dominated or anything, but that still hardly bodes well for future series; Talbot getting his stick lifted by Mike Richards looked like something that an uncle would do to mess with his toddler nephew in a driveway hockey game, Goncher was pathetically out of position when he got back too late to do anything to Richards but also too soon to account for Knuble on the rebound, I still don’t know how the Pens’ D let Briere get behind them on a frickin’ penalty kill (we thought they were gonna just dump and change!), and Hal Gill, who’s actually had a strong series for the Pens, caused more than a few heart attacks with his pass from behind the net to a wide-open Flyer in the slot to set up a picture-perfect scoring chance that somehow didn’t go in. Give the Flyers credit for burying chance after chance in this series (besides Game 4), but it’s the Playoffs, and the Pens aren’t gonna be able to win by making it that easy for a team to rack up numbers on the scoreboard regardless of how many long cycling shifts they muster in response.
Still, there were a lot of positives to come out of this game; the first period of Game Five combined with the second and third of Game Six comprised a wholly dominant three-period span of Playoff hockey, and yes, as all locker room postgame quotes love to remind us, games are 60 minutes, but the Pens should at least be able to build off the notion that when they’re hustling for pucks, banging for rebounds, and playing competent defensively, they’re right there with any team in the East.
Also, did any one notice that for all the Flyers fans’ unhealthy obsession with Crosby whining and diving and baby-murdering, there wasn’t a single penalty in this series called as a result of something done to Crosby after Game One? Not saying there should have been, but it amuses me that Crosby’s “NHL special treatment,” the absolute #1 preoccupation of Flyer fan animosity, ended up being the single least relevant aspect of the series. Even behind Mark Eaton’s offensive prowess.
Where does the loss leave the Flyers? De facto Flyers owner Ed Snider says the team doesn’t need major changes, just “tweaks”, but we can assume the departure of the UFA Biron and likely pursuit of Florida’s Tomas “I Glove More Things Than The Power Glove Dude From The Wizard” Vokoun or Atlanta’s Kari “Good When Healthy But Never Healthy Or Even Good” Lehtonen, but they’re gonna run into some serious cap issues if they’re not able to move/buy out Simon Gagne or Daniel Briere, even with the expiring deals of Biron and the merciful end of Derian Hatcher’s Philly tenure. Knuble is also a free agent, but he’s likely expendable because of the low-cost rescue offered by Claude Giroux, their best forward in the postseason by far, until he signs his first major RFA deal. But even though John Stevens deserves tons of credit for turning this team around, they’re not going anywhere with him as their head coach, as he’s clearly entered the dreaded NHL “Good Coach But Time With Team Is Up, Sorry Dude” Zone.
Hey, I made it through an entire Game Recap without mentioning the power play OHMYGOD I JUST DIDDDDDDDD [Puking uncontrollably for seven hours]