I had a sinking feeling the Pens were gonna lose tonight, but that’s not worth any Nostradamus points, cause I had the same feeling before the recent Devils and Maple Leafs games and the Pens won both of those in regulation. Really, they were destined to lose eventually, and 12 straight wins is still incredibly impressive, so I’m not that annoyed…
Dammit, Flyers.com homepage, I’m really trying not to get mad at you guys tonight.
Basically, there’s not much to say tonight other than the Pens got slightly outplayed by a team that’s currently even deeper than they are offensively and defensively. I wish that weren’t the case — I wish I could point to a specific breakdown or an unlucky bounce or two or a blown call here or there (there were several, but ended up mostly a wash) and say that the Penguins should’ve won so I can sleep tonight feeling superior, but really, the Flyers just did a little more than the Pens to win the game, gave up almost no significant scoring chances 5-on-5, and came away with the win.
Deryk Engelland has played mostly ok in his starts this season, but he looked slow and out of place tonight, finishing the game with only 9:48 of ice time — either Dan Bylsma saw what I saw and benched him, or Engelland had an undisclosed injury. The Engelland/Lovejoy pair has been mostly passable throughout the season, if at times unspectacular, but if the Penguins are gonna make a move at the trade deadline in a couple months, I can foresee them going after a Jordan Leopold / Phillippe Boucher type veteran defenseman to fill the 6th D spot. Right now it’s not a huge issue, but Engelland and Lovejoy still have a ways to go to prove they won’t be playoff liabilities, and if a late-season blue line injury forces both of them into the Pens’ lineup, particularly with Goligoski’s defensive deficiencies already evident, the Pens will suddenly face a glaring hole.
Malkin looked decent in his return, an assessment which I don’t intend to sound disingenuous as he provided both Penguin goals, but he was forcing constant inessential passes through traffic and turning the puck over too frequently, and his retaliatory penalty in the Third led to the Flyers’ go-ahead goal. He still has a ways to go before I (and the other less-forgiving Pens fans) will completely set aside my current Malkin FrustrationsTM. I realize I just used the phrase “ways to go” twice in the same short recap, but it’s late and I’m tired and the Pens just lost to the Flyers in a boring game and we can all deal with it.
The Flyers assume First Place in the Eastern Conference for the time being, though they’re also one of the few teams in either conference that’s been essentially 100% healthy the entire season (besides Michael Leighton, who is unquestionably a crucial component of Michael Leighton’s family). This isn’t really a knock against their success over the past month and a half, just a reminder that the rest of the conference won’t necessarily be as far behind them talent-wise come Playoff time, particularly if Jordan Staal returns to his previous level of utility and Danny Briere suddenly remembers he’s Danny Briere and misses the next three years.