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.”
Posts Tagged ‘Tyler Kennedy’
See the difference between Good Fleury and Bad Fleury? If Montreal-Game Fleury played this Islanders game, New York would’ve probably been up 2-0 after the first period, but on justifiable goals, and we’d all be blaming the defense for their many glaring lapses and far too-frequent allowance of quality shots. Instead, with a little help from a Kris Letang diving stop, Fleury stuck through a surprisingly open first period and kept it 0-0, then survived a 5-on-3 in the second, keeping the Pens in a perfect position to win what amounted to a pretty solid victory on the strength of a handful of just a couple random goals.
The only event keeping Fleury from his first shutout was a total defensive breakdown that allowed Franz Nielsen to earn tenure in front of the Penguins’ net before popping in an easy backhander. Bob Errey blamed Tyler Kennedy for blowing his assignment and not following his opposing centerman to the net, but upon watching the replays, Orpik and Letang seemed to be unaware that Nielsen was ever born, and Letang looked like he was covering a possible pass between two invisible men. (Sidenote: it’s mind-boggling that Fleury doesn’t even have one shutout…46 goalies in the NHL have recorded a shutout this season, including Josh Harding, Steve Valiquette, and the immortal Jeff Deslauriers.)
It was nice to see Chris Kunitz back on the scoresheet too; the fact that people almost never mentioned that the Pens were missing a “top line winger” over the past couple months really underscored just how inessential Kunitz’s pre-injury contributions had been. I barely noticed him against Washington (other than his dumbass goalie interference penalty), but last night kept saying “Oh yeah, forgot we have this dude!”, which is about the highest compliment I’ve paid to him since the second week after the Ryan Whitney trade.
Sidney Crosby commented on the victory with this unintentionally-damning quote that more or less sums up the Penguins’ malaise over the last two months:
“That’s the type of game we have to play, that kind of style, where we’re playing hard.”
How bout that? Turns out, this avant garde “Playing Hard” style actually results in victories! Hopefully they’ll keep trying it.
A quick factoid that most Penguin fans including myself tend to forget: Tyler Kennedy is still 23 years old.
It’s an easy detail to overlook with the Pens’ collection of high-end talent still yet to reach peak NHL-player ages (the usual suspects, plus Staal, Letang, Goligoski, and arguably even Fleury), but Tyler Kennedy put up 10 and 15 goals in two partial seasons as a 21 and 22 year old, respectively, and at 23 now already has 5 goals in the Penguins’ first 9 games, all at even-strength.
Does this mean that Kennedy will necessarily keep up the pace and morph into a consistent 25-30 goal scorer? My writer-instincts want me to complete this predictable rhetorical question with the answer “Of course not, but it does mean that he could develop into a consistent secondary scoring threat,” but what the hell, the Pens are playing better out of the gate than any of us expected, and I’m feeling strangely optimistic about the world, so I’ll instead say “Yes, it definitely means Tyler Kennedy will score 30 goals this season, and probably 50.”
Congratulations, Tyler, on me deciding that will happen! You earned it.
I thought for sure we’d see Pavel Datsyuk tonight, and I was wrong, but I did also think for sure we’d see the Pens score three goals in five minutes in the second period including a shorthander and two warmup-drill-looking tic-tac-toe one-timers through a bewildered Red Wings defense, and I was correct on that prediction, so we’ll call it even. The highlights and the low-highlights of the series equalizer:
— Fleury came to play for the second straight game. Of the two goals he did allow, the first came off an unusual braincramp giveaway by Rob Scuderi, who was apparently just jealous of Hal Gill appearing in all the Red Wings highlights, and the other came while Bill Guerin — a winger who should never be as low in his own zone as he was even if he was trying to cover someone, which he wasn’t — screened the crap out of him. My brother suggested that Guerin suffered from a senile lapse and thought he was in the offensive zone, which isn’t as funny as it is probably just completely accurate. I’m going to temper any Fleury praise until the series is over, though, because every time I begin to praise him on this blog, he turns around and craps in my hat (literally – it’s super uncalled for). So for the time being, I’ll just say “U SUCK MAF!! Y R U SO BAD A BABY CUOLD PLAY GOOD GOAL BETTER THAN U U SUCKKKKXX!!!!!!”
— Malkin is playing in some other ethereal dimension where the rules that bind mortal hockey players do not apply. I’ve said it before, but he really creates scoring chances as though he’s running a practice drill and the defending team is intentionally backing off a little so the goalie gets to face a quality shot. Ever since I started this site, our faithful banner representative has taken his game to another level; I’m not saying my blog is the only reason for this, just the most important one.
— The refereeing was spotty but didn’t seem to favor either side; Versus showed a replay of the Pens appearing to go offsides on the sequence that ended with their first goal, and the first Kronwall tripping penalty on Malkin wasn’t a trip (though he got away with an uncalled interference seconds earlier). The refs also missed a pretty obvious Matt Cooke interference penalty, then didn’t call anything on Detroit in the second or third until the hook on Kunitz while their net was empty, ignoring, among other things, a laughably deliberate Kirk Maltby stick-jab on Crosby well away from the play. I vote to replace the buzzterm “New NHL” with “Just Whatever The Hell”.
— I don’t know who keeps the “Giveaways” stat, but apparently the Red Wings only turned the puck over six times last night. Can someone check and make sure the Giveaways tracker didn’t have a heart attack and die halfway through the first period?
Game One of the Eastern Finals wasn’t entirely unlike the majority of the Washington series: The Pens dominated the first and mostly controlled the third, sandwiched around a dangerously lackadaisical second and topped off with an apparent willingness to give away their two-goal lead as easily as possible. The Pens only allowed 25 shots, right around the total they gave up in many of the Capitals games, yet the Canes had about 23 heart-attackey scoring chances, for an out-of-whack “Scored/Almost Scored per Shot” ratio also right in line with the Capitals series.
The difference? Marc-Andre Fleury made all the saves he had to plus a number of spectacular ones, and Cam Ward allowed two semi-questionable goals certainly not befitting his reputation as a playoff game-stealer. Just as we predicted. . . [Cough] . . . what?
The Game One win was exactly that, though: a Game One win. The Hurricanes played a couple sloppy periods, only had two power plays, and didn’t get their best game from Cam Ward, and they still almost tied this one up on the road in the third period. To think this series is anything but just beginning — even independently of the Canes’ comebacks in Rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs — would be foolish. Not to be Captain Pessimist McRepetitive, but when I remarked to my brother “Fleury straight-up outplayed Ward, how bout that?” he instantly, soberly replied, “Yep. And do you really expect that to happen throughout the entire series?” In case you were wondering, that loud bursting noise you just heard was my precious, precious bubble.
— I’m really glad we finally have a proven playoff performer who can go to the net and bury his chances like Miroslav Satan, cause Chris Kunitz just wasn’t getting it done. (This sentence would have been a wacky joke one month ago, and now it’s a funny/sad truth)
— Clearing the zone continues to be an adventure for the Pens’ defensemen and backchecking forwards, even when they’re six inches from their own blueline with the puck and no one pressuring them. They’re like an ongoing experiment in finding creative ways to not get the puck out of their zone against all odds and physics.
— Not Eric Staal’s loudest playoff game; I wouldn’t expect this to keep up for the majority of the series, especially if the Canes start earning more power plays. Did you know he is brothers with Jordan Staal of the Penguins?? In fact there is other Staal brothers wowww!
— The Scott Walker interference penalty and Satan holding penalty in the first were both BS; the refs appeared to get their antsyness out of the way early, then decided not to call anything the rest of the game (including Matt Cooke’s interference/leg thing on Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal shooting Fleury’s stick away from him right before the Canes’ second goal).
— I don’t want to see the Pens try to grind out the remainder of the playoffs with only eleven forwards, but can they really afford to bench Philippe Boucher for Pascal Dupuis after Boucher’s game-winning goal and really nice assist in Game One? I imagine he’s bought a starting spot for at least another game; you never know, too, as injuries are always possible at any time. I also miss Dupuis’ super-predictable slapshot from 50 feet away coming down the left wing that goes in once every fifty games.
— How much better did both Hurricanes power plays look than any of the Pens’ power plays? The Pens’ first two advantages were particularly embarrassing. I said in my prediction post that I don’t trust the Pens’ superior PP% numbers to the Canes’ for one second, and was justified by their man advantage misadventures once again this game.
— A friend of mine reminded me the oft-forgotten detail that Tyler Kennedy is still only 22. He’s been playing with unbelievable patience and confidence this entire postseason, and came close to two well-earned goals in Game One.
— Another friend of mine pointed out that Mellon Arena sounded strangely quiet for the majority of the game, which I couldn’t help but notice also, especially in the third (and was dead silent after the Corvo goal). If the Arena was actually loud and Versus merely did a poor job of capturing the sound, then I stand corrected, but it would also be the first time the Versus NHL coverage ever did anything that wasn’t completely perfect.
— Finally, for all the Pens fans who complain about how the team doesn’t shoot the puck enough and tries to make a nice play too often, which is often true, the Hurricanes last night passed up more no-brainer shooting chances than I recall the Pens ever passing up in a single game this year. Ray Whitney is essentially reverse-Ovechkin with his shooting decisions, and if the Pens had attempted that double-pass from point blank range that the Canes ended up shooting into Kris Letang’s ass, the cries of “JUST SHOOT IT!” from the Mellon Arena crowd would have struck a chord so loud as to shatter the scoreboard and short-out the lights in the building, Sudden Death style, resulting in a home team forfeit. Just remember that next time Crosby tries to set up Chris Kunitz and he whiffs on a one-timer instead of firing it three feet wide.
Thoughts on the game that wasn’t a game:
— Fleury’s save on the Ovechkin breakaway was enormous (following some more of that Rob Scuderi Ovechkin-shutdown we keep hearing about), and definitely changed the complexion of the first period. However, I don’t share the optimism that this necessarily bears any impact on Fleury turning things around in the Conference Finals. No one’s ever doubted his ability to make spectacular saves, or even clutch saves; we worry about Fleury because you never know when he’ll just randomly let an untipped wrist shot in from anywhere at any time, and until he strings together multiple games where he doesn’t allow it to happen, I’ll have a renewed Fleury-nervousness going into every game.
— That being said, I don’t read too much into the Fleury giveaway that led to the Ovechkin wrap-around. Everyone was playing super lazily, and it likely wouldn’t have happened if everyone was more locked in (not an excuse, just an explanation). I received no fewer than four angry texts when he let up that goal, just to show you how forgiving my Pens-fan friends are even when they’re up by nineteen.
— ESPN’s Matthew Barnaby breaks down Fleury’s save on SportsCenter:
Huge save — maybe the biggest save of the game, cause this could have changed the whole…turning point.
It sure could have changed that turning point, Matt. It might have even altered the whole…momentum swing. And maybe the biggest save of the game; it was either that one or that Theodore one with seven minutes left in the third.
— Washington came out flatter than Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s perception of the earth (OHHH SNAPPP!!!! Break out the SNAP-ple!!! When the Pens win, the painful joke filter goes off…), but the brunt of this loss, fairly or unfairly, has to fall on Varlamov. He allowed 4 goals on 18 shots, and goals 2, 3, and 4 were all reasonably stoppable, and stoppong even two or one of them would’ve still kept the game within some realm of actual competition.
— When a team is excited to see Jose Theodore between the pipes, its season is over.
— Can we please stop talking about players’ “Game Seven” experience now, because it’s completely and utterly meaningless? The Capitals had more “Game Sevens played” on their roster because they frickin’ PLAYED ONE LAST SERIES, thus giving them a free 20 Game Sevens played to add to their numerical total. Does this mean they unlocked the secret, mystical Game Seven spirit because they beat the Rangers 2-1 in a game two weeks ago that was no more or less intense than any other Playoff game? Granted, Crosby and Malkin really looked lost out there, especially when they kept yelling “WHERE DO THEY PUT THE NETS IN GAME SEVEN?? WHAT ARE THE GAME SEVEN RULES???? I’VE NEVER PLAYED IN ON OF THESE BEFORE AND I’M SCAWWWWED!!!”
— Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke each managed a -1 plus/minus this game, which isn’t significant, but funny.
— Think fans at MSG or Wachovia would be cheering in the final five minutes of its team’s pitiful Game Seven chokefest, in honor of the tremendous season they accomplished despite the final performance? Definitely.
— If Mike Green ends up winning the Norris Trophy, it’ll be the bitterest after-the-season trophy acceptance since the year Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA MVP right after the #1 Mavericks were knocked out in the first round of the Playoffs.
— Is Crosby too talented to be labelled a “leader” by the media? If Mike Richards had duplicated his performance (8 G, 5 A) in winning a seven-game playoff series, he’d be the clutchiest clutch leader who ever clutchleadered.
— You know what would’ve just made this game totally absurd? Chris Kunitz on the scoresheet. Glad that didn’t happen, then I would’ve known the NHL was just kidding, and the real game was actually taking place tonight.
The Penguins more or less dominated this game from beginning to end, and while I feel a bit greedy to be disappointed that they didn’t win this one in regulation even after trailing 3-1 going into the third, everything about this game indicated that the Penguins are a vastly superior team to the Panthers. The Pens outshot Florida an astonishing 52-20 including 18-5 in a third period that largely resembled a 20-minute Pittsburgh power play, and a series of spectacular saves by Tomas “I Get My Glove On Everything Including Shots Into The Stands” Vokoun singularly stole a point (and nearly 2) for the Panthers tonight.
The bad news for the Pens: Bryan McCabe and Nathan Horton, aka 40% of Florida’s power play and a solid 40+ minutes of Panther ice time, didn’t play tonight. Even more discouraging, the officials gave the Pens two absolute gift power plays (and six total power plays to Florida’s two) and Pittsburgh again pulled an 0-fer with the man advantage. The power play continues to be the Pens’ most baffling liability, and they’re running out of excuses; Crosby, Malkin, and Gonchar are all healthy, so are we now supposed to, I don’t know, lament the loss of Tim Wallace? I expect the Pens’ D to spastically break down every now and again (read: second Panthers goal), but how in the world can a power play with the Pens’ talent be ranked 25th in the league BEHIND THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS?
Also, for Pens fans who think they’ve been cursed with the only team in the NHL that doesn’t shoot the puck enough (sidenote: every fan of every team believes this), how about Richard Zednik’s non-shot in the final minutes of the third? He practically had the puck four feet from the goal line and tried to spin a pass to a winger who was below the net and in no position to physically shoot. It was like watching your Sega NHL ’94 player somehow pass the puck instead of shooting when you hit the C button; whoever was playing as the Panthers whipped their controller across the room and cursed out the computer for cheating after that one.
The good news: The Pens got two points after trailing 3-1 in a game that wasn’t Fleury’s best and certainly wasn’t the power play’s best, plus Sykora was still out, they totally avoided the cliche “letdown home game after a long road trip,” and they’ve now bombarded Florida with 97 shots in their last two meetings, which is absurd. They’ve won seven games in a row and are now 9-1-1 under Dan Bylsma.
– Malkin logged 27:33 of ice time, which is ridiculous for a forward, even in an overtime game. Also, attempting to poke-check Malkin in a shootout is apparently the only way to make him score.
– Tyler Kennedy looked outstanding tonight, and basically created the second Pens goal; having him on the third line is just a terrific depth-bonus.
– Why are NHL coaches always so stingy with their timeout? I thought for sure Peter DeBoer was gonna use his after the Pens got that third goal and the Arena exploded (not literally, yet), but he let the period proceed and the Pens almost scored about another 10 times. Though maybe he was trying to lure the Pens into a false sense of security to create that Zednik chance.
– Man, Jordan Staal is awesome and frustrating, but I know he’s had a generally positive game when I yell “YEAH! Way to get to the net, Staal!” more times than “THERE ARE NO HUMAN BEINGS WHERE THAT PASS WENT YOU DUMBASS.”
This was the most satisfying overall win of the Penguins’ season so far, with the possible exception of the January 13th win in Philly (mostly because I was in attendance in my highly conspicuous blue ‘Malkin‘ jersey). The Penguins pelted 47 shots on Tomas Vokoun (which is closer to around 70 shots in Penguin currency), Fleury only allowed one bizarre goal on 32 shots including numerous quality chances, and the Pens remained up-tempo and aggressive when leading in the third, a trait that’s been frighteningly absent this season even during their recent win streak.
Furthermore, the Kunitz and Guerin acquisitions have completely transformed the depth on the Penguins’ lines; instead of clinging on as underqualified top-line wingers, players like Pascal Dupuis, Max Talbot, and Tyler Kennedy are now serving as perhaps overqualified 3rd and 4th liners, providing Pittsburgh with the basic depth required of any legitimate contender. Craig Adams skated hard, never got caught out of position, and randomly even generated some scoring chances; he looks to be a welcome addition even if he never recaptures his dynamic 7-goal potential.
The Pens’ four-game win streak coming into this game was built on a sleepwalking victory over a Long Island expansion team, a game in Chicago they tried to throw several times, a win over Dallas about an hour after the Stars just played another game, and a win over a Tampa team with nothing to play for. A win’s a win, but tonight, that win came on the road against a playoff-caliber opponent who embarrassed the Penguins in January, and it came in a wholly convincing fashion.
Pssst…also, now that he’s out of the room…can we all admit that Kris Letang is better than Ryan Whitney, both offensively and defensively, and still more than four years younger? Ok, cool.