Big Lead Sports Bar

4/14/2010

PENS COME UP SHORT IN GAME ONE


An early 1-0 lead was as good as it would get for the Penguins in their 2010 Stanley Cup Playoff opener at Mellon Arena, eventually falling to the Ottawa Senators by a final tally of 5-4.
An Evgeni Malkin power play goal 3:03 into the game would get the ball rolling for Pittsburgh, but history will remember this as a night dominated on the scoresheet by the Ottawa role players. None of the Senators' top-five goal scorers beat Marc-Andre Fleury, as their five goals came from Peter Regin (13 goals in 2009-10), Chris Neil (10), Chris Kelly (15), Erik Karlsson (5) and Jarkko Ruutu (12). To say that Fleury did not bring his A-game to this contest would be a very accurate statement. As Bob Errey commented, four goals should be enough to win a playoff home game. But Fleury is traditionally very strong after a poor outing, so expect a big game from him on Friday.

In Fleury's defense, I always subscribe to the cliche that you win as a team and you lose as a team - and the Penguins certainly lost this as a team. The Pens never hit double-digits in shots in any period, with only four in the first, eight in the second, and nine in the third. And they didn't test shaky Senators goalie Brian Elliott nearly enough, as witnessed by his lowly 81% save percentage in his first career playoff game. But credit has to be given to the Ottawa defense, which held the Penguins to a single shot during a stretch lasting 21 minutes, 53 seconds. They also kept the NHL's leading goal-scorer in check for most of the night, limiting Sidney Crosby to a mere two shots and no goals. Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov, and Mike Fisher were standouts on that front for the Sens.

That being said, Evgeni Malkin did rise to the occasion, scoring two of the Pens' four goals on the night and looking every bit like the best player on the ice. And while not getting as many as the Sens, the Pens did get some goals from non-traditional sources, like Alex Goligoski, who scored eight in 2009-10, and Craig Adams, who last lit the lamp on May 13, 2009 in Game Seven of the Washington series last year. There were definitely some positives for Dan Bylsma to build upon for the rest of the series.

But all-in-all, the Penguins will have to do better in Game Two if they want to give Mellon Arena a few more weeks of excitement. If I may be bold enough as to mention a few names beyond Fleury that have to step up, let me include the entire third line of Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy, the underwhelming Alexei Ponikarovsky, and the disappointing Penguin defense as a whole, which did little to slow down Ottawa in the offensive and neutral zones. It's worth noting that the Pens' disappointing performance in this game should not be a total blind-side. They've been inconsistent the entire season, and they were 2-2 against the Senators this year. This opponent is not going to roll over and gift-wrap an invitation to the second round for the Penguins.

Game Two is set for Friday night at the Igloo, with a 7 p.m. start. I'm confident that won't be the last game in the arena's storied history, but it's up to the Pens to truly make that happen.

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22 comments:

Paul Rupp said...

Is this game completely Fleury's fault? Absolutely not. The goal that came off the boards and the powerplay goal that took a bad bounce of a defender can be chalked up to luck.

That being said, if the Pens are going to repeat any sort of run deep into the playoffs like they have enjoyed the last two years, Fleury needs to make saves on the other 3 goals. Ruutu's shot should be a routine for an NHL goalie (easy for me to say, but still...)

If you told me the Pens would get 2 goals from their powerplay and an additional goal from Craig Adams, I would guarantee a win. Fleury needs to play better or it will be a long summer, simple as that.

Paul Rupp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Someone Somewhere said...

It's only a matter of time before Max Talbot is back on Evgeni Malkin's line. Every time he was on the ice something good happened...he is just one of those guys who steps up when it matters most. The vast majority of Pittsburgh's grinding came from the Adams/Talbot/Dupuis line. Granted, that's what they are out there for, but Ottawa simply outworked the Pittsburgh stars. That's the only way Ottawa is going to have a chance in this series. If I can't even remember the (Ottawa's) goaltender's name he obviously wasn't standing on his head...I just can't see them winning 4 games with goaltending like that. With Fleury, you usually know what you are going to get within the first 5-10 minutes of a game. He's like the Kurt Warner of hockey...he may throw for 400 yards or he may turn it over 5 times. Pittsburgh wasn't going to sweep them anyway. Maybe it's good to get punched in the mouth, knock a few teeth out and realize that it's no longer the regular season.

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

Fleury needs to be better. Average simply isn't enough in the playoffs.

Crosby talied 3 assists and Geno's 2 PP goals were huge, but 5 on 5 we were not consistent enough. Whatever we had going to start the game could not be duplicated the rest of the way.

Spezza really took a cheap shot at Sid, too. If that's Matt Cooke, he's gone.....

Steve said...

Oh, the Pens found the switch last night...problem is, they switched it up and down, couldn't figure out what it controlled and left it off. Lots of observations from last night, starting with some not so obvious: A defensive pairing of Letang and Gonchar is brutal and should never be used again...ever. Kunitz is a moron, if you're going to take a charging penalty on a player like Spezza for roughing your captain, then you better make sure he winds up needing medical attention...at least send a message. The word is out that Malkin can be easily agitated and everyone is trying to provoke him. If they're going to win even 1 game this series, he needs to keep cool (which he has so far) and stay out of the box. The Sens have read the book on the Pens authored by the Devils and found out they are easily beatable and the Pens have to figure out how to beat that kinda system.

Now for the obvious: The flower has wilted. He hasn't played this bad since Game 5 of the Cup Finals last season and should be given no more than 20 minutes to prove he's up to the challenge, or Bylsma would be a fool not to pull him. It would be one thing if this was a weird off night for him, but he's been doing this all season and I don't see Johnson as being a down grade at all at this point. The Ponikarovsky trade will go down as one of the worst Pens blunders of all time right after Naslund for Stojanov and Jagr for Beech/Sivek. Shero is officially worthy of serious criticism now and CP welcomes him to the club.

And lastly, our defense flat out sucks balls. Don't know if it's the system, or the players, or both but right now, there's nothing good to be said about it at either end of the ice. Orpik and Leopold are salvagable but the rest of them can ride off on the bus to Palookaville and I wouldn't miss them at all, Gonchar included.

If the Pens go down 0-2 this time, there ain't no coming back, not with this team, no way.

Charlie said...

It seemed overall they were sloppy and could not get things clicking.

Offense or defense could not make a clean pass to save their lives. Defense couldn't clear the Sens out and turned it over to them way too much in the Pens zone.

Obviously MAF was not at his best. I agree, Poni was a terrible pick-up, how much time until he's a healthy scratch, why waste the roster spot on him? Has he done anything other than turn the puck over and take penalties?

I'm beginning to think the Letang deal was a big mistake, but hopefully he proves me wrong.

It also seemed like no one could stay on their skates - did anyone else notice that?

Steve said...

They basically let Scuderi and Gill walk so they could sign Letang. I guess the thinking was keeping a young offensive-defenseman (god, I hate that term), who is actually very little of both at this point, and putting more emphasis on the aggressive offensive game plan they have, was more important than honest-to-goodness defensemen.

We basically could have kept the same exact team we had last year with all the little, imeasurable intangibles it had (minus Satan and Sykora), for letting Letang walk in the offseason and in hindsight, I would have been ok with that.

Shero probably made the realization early on that Gonchar would probably be gone, so he decided to keep Letang to fill his skates. In the end, it was an internal trade, Scuderi and Gill for Letang.

Clint Pitts said...

Scuderi makes $3.4 mil/yr. and Letang is getting $3.5/yr after this season and is 9 years younger. The Letang deal is more of a replacement to Gonchar's $5.5/yr.

I was sad to see Scuderi go, but you should not overpay for a 32 year old 2nd line defenseman. I was glad to see Gill go, thought he was a little too slow.

Also, I didn't think Letang looked that bad, everyone seemed a little sluggish, but I agree with whoever said it before, Letang and Gonch should not be on the ice together unless its a PP.

My prediction of a renergized Pens team coming in and sweeping looks pretty stupid now.

espo said...

Therien got little to no credit when this team won the cup last season, but the fact is his defensive system made players accountable in their own end and kept them in possition in the defensive zone. When Bylsma came in he added creativity which complemented the system that was in place and created something great. Slowly but surely, the defensive structure has continued to break down to the point now where our defensemen look like they're lost and our wingers stand at the blueline. Like I've been telling people, Ottawa in 5 and the Penguins front office better think about how to fix this broken defense.

Steve said...

Can't argue with the results regardless of the price. Last season the Pens were competetive defensively with one old, slow defenseman and one 32-year old defenseman not worthy of a top pairing.

Sometimes experience wins and youth doesn't mean better, especially at the defensive role and honestly, I don't see Letang being any better a "core player" as even Ryan Whitney was and they should have traded Letang for a winger at that price who could really contribute, especially seeing as how the Pens have decent enough depth at defensemen coming through the system while they will be losing 3, if not more forwards this offseason and it's cheaper to get a player at the trade deadline than in the offseaon when every team is buying.

I can't wait to see the cheap, old, or 3rd line scrubs that Shero will have to settle for again and plug into Sid and Geno's line next season and that's "if " Tangradi can make the jump. If they can land one legit 30+ goal scorer who isn't old enough to remember life before the internet, I'll poop a rainbow.

"Also, I didn't think Letang looked that bad, everyone seemed a little sluggish."

Sorry, but are you refering to last night, or most of the games played this season?

NickDawg said...

I agree that Therien's system and Bylsma's system complimented eachother very well last yr. This season, Therien's system is totally gone and forgotten with the new offensive system.

Also, the ice last night was brutal, the puck seemed on edge more than half the game. Its hard to pass and shoot accuratly when it feels like your doing it on gravel.

Also, im officially campaigning for the Pens to hire Tocchet after his firing from Tampa. I think he could instill the grit missing from this current squad.

Christian said...

Oh goodness....you lose a single playoff game and now everyone needs to be fired. Calm down.

1.) Before we wax all nostalgic about Hal freaking Gill, I distinctly remember him going through is own goal crease and knocking MAF over, invariably leading to an easy goal...like every other game. Guy was like a buffalo on skates.

2.) Letang > Scuderi (especially considering the price). Next 5 or so years: Gologoski/Letang > Gonchar/Scuderi.

3.) Average wingers are what you get when you have 2 of the top 3 centers in the league on your team, plus a third whose in the top 20 or so.

4.) MAF needs to step up, yes.

5.) The sky is not falling.

Clint Pitts said...

@Steve

I meant last night but could easily have been talking about every game since the first 10.

Even a guy like Orpik seemed slow, which I was surprised by. What was his injury?

Dirty Sanchez said...

Thank you Christian. Jesus, you'd think it was 2003 and we were bemoaning the fact that Rico Fata and Dick Tarnstrom were our best players. 2 Finals appearances with 1 Cup win, and now all of a sudden we're longing for the days of Michel Therrien.

They played like absolute dogcrap and still almost pulled the game out. MAF needs to play better (obviously) and I think he will, he usually bounces back pretty well from games like this.

Kyle said...

I want to hear people's opinion on Kris Letang lately. He hasn't been doing a whole lot, and while I blame that on his just being off, my dad has been a strong supporter of this being his last year in a Pens sweater. Is it getting that bad?

Steve said...

Sorry Christian, this ain't puck bunny, pom-pom's and glee time. If you don't see what's been nagging, consistent issues with this team this season and long before last night game...

MAF needs to step up? Wow, can't believe you went there, that sounds like actual criticism. Really now, time to open the eyes a bit and see that the sky actually fell quite a while ago and people are simply trying to figure out what the real problems are and how things can get better next season because it isn't going to magically turn around now, even if they can squeek past the Sens.

Oh, and I think most here know why the Pens have average (being kind there) wingers...don't need the cap lesson either.

As far as freakin Gill goes, he could at least occupy an opposing forward from time to time with his reach and size (and had a darn good poke check with that 14' long stick), something McKee and any defensemen other than Orpik haven’t been able to accomplish much of lately and Letang may be greater than Scuderi...someday, but right now he's not and he's not helping the team as much as Scuderi could now or did last season.

So Scuderi couldn't score, big whoop, neither can Letang. He is starting to block shots more now, so all that means is we paid $3.5 million a year for a shot blocker. Isn't that what Scuderi is? Besides, it was McKee who was brought in to help replace Scuderi and we can all see how well that's working out.

@ Clint Pitts – Orpik’s not injured as far as I know, he's just playing with the energy and enthusiasm you'd expect from a guy who see's everyone else on his team taking it in the A. He's probably as shell shocked as you and me.

Steve said...

"2 Finals appearances with 1 Cup win."

There ya go, nice to know we're living in the present.

Steve said...

Oh, should I throw in that we finished 2nd in the division and 4th in the conference? That counts for something too, right?

Christian said...

Well, hell then Steve, blow the team up. Start over.

All I'm saying is people shouldn't be having a coniption over a bad loss.

Sure, they haven't been playing all that well lately, but good gracious, let's take a step back before we start calling for people's heads. That's all.

Dirty Sanchez said...

Steve - go kick your fucking dog or something, or open up your window and scream at the clouds. What are you going do if the Pens lose the series, jump off Clemente Bridge?

Maybe they're worn down from two long post-season runs (forgot, those are way in the past and don't count), maybe having crap for wingers has finally caught up to them, maybe they miss the awesomeness of Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi, or a combination of all of the above.

Any Pens fans who has paid attention this year knows the shortcomings of this team, so we don't need to see you cyber screaming about how much the Pens suck. They don't suck, but they aren't Cup material right now either. Goodbye Guerin, Feds, Poni, McKee, and probably Gonchar. Hello Lovejoy, Tangradi, and any other winger that can keep up with Crosby and keep his stick on the ice.

Charlie said...

OK, we lost Scuderi and Gill essentially for Letang. Yes, Gill was a "buffalo on skates", but if I recall it was Letang that launched the shot off Geno's skate that kept him out for about 2 weeks. Not that that is an issue now, but as of recent Letang couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.

So in my opinion, we've replaced buffalo Gill with a one-eyed slapshot Letang and lost Scuderi in the process. Bottom line is we lost 2 defensive defensemen for a potentially offensive defensemen who really isn't doing his job right now. Letang officially scored 1 more goal than Gill this year and 3 more than Scuderi... so where is this offense?

But your team typically gets picked apart after you win a championship... I think it was brought up on this page that after the Steelers won SB 43, very few coaches were signed elsewhere, hint-hint, which is why we crashed last year.

Well then again, every time I shit talk Letang, he proves me wrong... so here is hoping on Friday.

Dirty Sanchez said...

I would run one drill for Letang after every practice - you can't leave the ice until you put 10 consecutive shots on net. I've seen way too many of those one-timers miss the cage on the far side and end up going the other way on an odd man rush.

No doubt the Pens didn't want to lose Gill and Scuds, but what can you do when teams throw that kind of money at your 32-34 year old defensemen? Those guys aren't irreplaceable, but the Pens better hope that Strait or Lovejoy or someone else from WBS can fill that role next year.