Posts Tagged ‘Power Play’

Stars 5, Penguins 2: Pens Play Flawlessly. End Of Story.

November 4, 2010

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:

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Penguins 5, Flyers 1: If You Give A Million Penguin Power Plays A Million Chances, They’ll Eventually Produce Hamlet

October 18, 2010

Before the season, I have to admit, I wasn’t totally enthused about the Pens’ re-signing of Brent Johnson, and not because I questioned Johnson’s ability as a backup or his performance in ’09-’10, but because I wanted the Penguins to go after a backup who could potentially get hot for a few games and challenge Fleury – perhaps someone in the Johan Hedberg / Martin Biron price-and-skill range — rather than a very clear backup goaltender, albeit a reliable and inexpensive one like Johnson. Now, six games into the 2010-11 season, Fleury has started three games and lost all three, and Johnson has started three and won all three. Obviously it’s super early and nothing Johnson does now (or probably ever) would or should unseat Fleury as the team’s long-term #1 goaltender, but for the meantime, Johnson is pushing Fleury for that starting job much in the way I’d hoped a Hedberg-type would have, and at the exceedingly reasonable cost of a two-year $600,000 cap hit (while also pulling the Penguins from 1-3 to 3-3).

It’s entirely possible Johnson will start letting in Scott Gomez dump-ins along the ice from 30 feet and this entire newfound confidence in his ability to challenge Fleury while helping the Penguins win in the short-term will immediately dissipate, but at least for the first six games, Johnson’s sudden steadiness couldn’t have come at a better time. Ideally, he can keep this up for a while and split the next 10 starts or so with Fleury 50/50, and after some confidence-redeeming Fleury spot-starts, Fleury can go back to being their 80/20 starter and playing like it. Or maybe he’ll keep letting in Scott Gomez dump-ins along the ice from 30 feet and I’ll have to keep copying and pasting my “Seriously, I’m not just whining, Fleury is factually not playing well” posts.

As for the Flyers game itself, the Pens got 700 power plays and finally scored on a few of them, the Flyers had trouble finishing and basically folded in the third, and after the game Mike Richards said a bunch of stuff that would’ve been interpreted as bitchy whining if Crosby had said it (gets going about a minute in):

Penguins 3, Flames 1: On Marc-Andre Fleury And Wes Anderson

January 14, 2010

When someone asks me if a Wes Anderson movie was “funny,” I usually respond with unnatural, waffling analytical half-statements like “I guess it was… kind of… well this one part was kinda weird, but in a funny — well not “ha ha” funny but like, pleasant, and like… there’s some quirky… like… there aren’t really ‘jokes’, but there’s… I mean, I love Bill Murray, and in this movie he’s… interesting…”

But when I see a movie that’s actually funny (at least by regular human definition), and someone asks me if it was funny, I just say “Yeah, it’s really really funny.”

Similarly, when Marc-Andre Fleury is struggling, I go into “describing Wes Anderson comedy” mode to defend his play, always wondering if I’m being too harsh on him for looking at a “4 goals on 24 shots” stat and immediately criticizing him without reflection, with statements like:

“I guess that first one got deflected, so that’s bad luck… Ehhh, I guess he could’ve covered that one rebound but the D should’ve tied the guy up in front… That third one wasn’t a great shot to give up, but it was a 3-on-2, so I guess it’s not… totally Fleury…”

But when Marc-Andre Fleury is playing well, like he did against Calgary Wednesday night and against Toronto on Saturday, I don’t have to qualify any statements or co-criticize the Pens’ D, I can just straight-out say without having to think that “Fleury played really, really well.”

With 37 saves on 38 shots — including more than a few near tap-in chances — Fleury absolutely stole a win last night for the second time in the Pens’ last three games. Here’s hoping Fleury’s turned the corner and I won’t have to drag out my Wes Anderson descriptions anymore, if only because I hate speaking when I don’t even know what I’m trying to say (though you’d be surprised how often this happens). Marc-Andre – please just be Superbad.

Other thoughts on last night’s game, including Crosby’s 30th goal:

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Penguins 4, Avalanche 1: Pens Score Timely Power-Play Goal; Sequel To “Miracle” Planned

December 4, 2009

A timely Penguin power play goal in the third period proved the difference in a 4-1 victory over Colorado last night, which…

Wait, hold on a sec.

When I typed “timely Penguin power play goal,” a squiggly red line appeared underneath the entire phrase, and when I right-clicked it, WordPress suggested “timely Penguin power play FAILURE”. Thanks for looking out, WordPress, but for once, this was not a typo; I was gonna click “add to dictionary,” but I don’t have tremendous confidence that I’m gonna need to type this phrase again any time soon.

Still, the Pens kept rolling along last night, with Sidney Crosby notching his 18th and 19th goals off the season, putting him on a ridiculous pace for 54 goals over an 82-game season. Obviously, he probably won’t keep this pace up forever, but this projection takes into account his career-worst scoreless streak from earlier in the year, so it’s not like the dude scored twice in the season opener and we’re putting him on pace for 160 tallies. Right now, Crosby is playing the best regular-season hockey of his career; he’s playing so well, we might actually stop complaining about how the Pens still need to get a winger to play with him. But seriously dude, the Pens still need to get a winger to play with him. Crap, guess we’re not totally there yet.

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Pens Gear Up For Annual Blaming Of Anything That Goes Wrong On Gonchar Being Out

October 21, 2009

Sergei Gonchar is out 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist after being checked awkwardly in the Pens’ 5-1 victory over the Blues Tuesday night. The Pens will most likely shuffle NHL vet Martin Skoula into the 6th defenseman spot and hand Gonchar’s role on the top power play unit to Kris Letang.

As long as Gonchar recovers fully it’s not too big a loss, given the timing in the season and the Pens’ replacement options, but nonetheless, gear yourself up for the following exact scenario to occur 15 times per game for the next 4-6 weeks:

[On the power play, Crosby carries the puck, makes backhand saucer pass at blue line, Pens are Offsides]

Bob Errey: The Pens’ power play really misses Sergei Gonchar right now.

[Repeat x 9,000,000,000]

GAME THREE: Flyers 6, Pens 3 – A Fine Chaotic Tapesty, Like A Jackson Pollock If You Took A Dump On It

April 20, 2009

My head is telling me to throw out some cliches about how I expected the Flyers to bounce back at home and play a desperate must-win game and that the Pens’ power play would come back to haunt them and that we hadn’t seen the Flyers’ stars play their best, but truly, I’m not sure if I believed any of these things; intellectually, perhaps, and rationally, but on a genuine gut level I really expected the Pens to seize the opportunity to bury Philly after their Game 2 collapse, which perhaps was part wishful thinking and part ignorance, but it simply didn’t happen for a number of reasons. And by “reasons” I mean “terrible things.”

Terrible Thing #1: Pens’ Defense. The Pens’ team D never made the trip to Philly, and simply didn’t bring the effort or cerebral competence to slow down the Flyers in the slightest bit. Jeff Carter looked like a kid screwing around at the end of a team scrimmage on his first goal; how is any player afforded that much time and space in the offensive zone, especially an opponent’s best scorer in the first period of a playoff game in which both teams clearly had to be fired up? Sure, Fleury coughed up a juicy rebound on the Briere-Giroux one-timer, but no one touched Briere or Giroux within about a week of that entire play. And then there’s Sergei Gonchar’s pathetic casualness that led to the short-handed goal, which brings me to (Awesome Transition Alert)…

Terrible Thing #2: The Power Play. Several volumes of encyclopedias have been written about the Pens’ power play this season, and while I don’t have a clear solution, their main problem becomes more obvious with every game: you can’t keep Crosby, Malkin, and Gonchar all out on the ice for a full two minutes. Those three players are unable to battle for loose pucks 45 seconds into power plays, rendering the second half of man advantages essentially worthless and immensely vulnerable to short-handed retaliations, plus because the three of them know they’re gonna be out for a full two minutes, they don’t play the first minute of the power play with the same intensity or sense of urgency that a playoff series against a dangerous, opportunistic penalty killing team absolutely requires. It’s one thing for the Thrashers to throw out Ilya Kovalchuk for the full two minutes or for Nik Lidstrom to man the point for an entire power play, but a team can’t have 3/5 of its unit on the ice for two full minutes; at some point, a fresh Tyler Kennedy or Jordan Staal chasing loose pucks and getting to the net are more valuable than a tired Malkin and Gonchar playing catch at the point and settling for a 40-foot one timer that gets blocked by seven dudes and immediately flies out of the zone.

Terrible Thing #3: Finishing. The Pens have controlled the majority of the 5-on-5 play in this series and at worst have never appeared overwhelmed for any extended periods, but they simply haven’t made Marty Biron work in any of the three games, including Game 1. They’ve shot countless quality opportunities directly into Biron’s chest, had more than their share of shots convincingly blocked, and far too many 2-on-2 breaks and lengthy cycling shifts (and power plays) have evaporated without Biron being forced to break a sweat.

Petr Sykora semi-fanned on a handful of chances in Game 3, which should be the one thing Sykora doesn’t do, even when he’s struggling; a friend of mine suggested possibly swapping Miro Satan into the lineup in Sykora’s place, which could provide a minor spark (and possibly a bigger spark when a rejuvinated Sykora returned) but given Sykora’s playoff experience and the fact that such a move would be a slap in the face of a productive player and likely cost him millions in the offseason, I don’t forsee it happening. Also, Miro Satan is Miro Satan and the playoffs are the playoffs.

Despite the Pens’ well-earned 6 on the scoreboard in Game 3, I’m extremely optimistic that they’ll rebound Tuesday night; the coaching staff will have a number of glaring corrections to make which the embarrassed Pens should absorb without hesitation, plus Fleury didn’t have his best game Sunday, the Pens won’t have to manufacture a sense of urgency this time, and the power play can’t…. I don’t know if I should type this… the power play can’t get any……. they only gave up one shorthanded goal………ahhhh I’ll say it — the Pens’ power play can’t possibly get any worse.

One Mike Richards shorthanded natural hat trick comin’ up!


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