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The Pittsburgh Penguins squandered a 2-1 second-period lead en route to a tough 4-3 loss in Montreal on Monday night. The Pens' loss sets up a win-or-go-home Game Seven on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, the first such Game Seven in the city since Florida beat the Penguins on June 1, 1996, sending the Panthers and their rat-throwing fans to the Stanley Cup as a result. A Penguin win this time around would boost them into the Eastern Conference Finals for the third consecutive year; a loss would end their title defense and also would be the final game ever played in Mellon Arena. The stakes, as they say, could not be higher.

But I'm getting ahead of myself in discussing Game Seven, because we first have to revisit Monday's loss, an extremely disappointing contest played in front of 21,273 rabid Montreal fans. I'll cut right to the chase: there was some good news and some bad news for the Flightless Birds. I'll start with the good news: Sidney Crosby finally scored a goal in the series, Kris Letang netted his fifth of the postseason, and the Penguins did battle back to score a third goal late in the final period on a Bill Guerin deflection. 

Unfortunately, the bad news came in greater numbers on this night for the Pens. The defense, for the most part, was pretty bad in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, who himself was mediocre at best. Evgeni Malkin came back to Earth from a great Game Five, the power play hit only once on five attempts, and the Penguins allowed the insane Montreal crowd to become a huge part of the game. 

Combine that with the fact that the Habs were playing without Hal Gill and Andrei Markov, the Penguins were not getting the bounces, and Pittsburgh's failure to display the same level of desperation as Montreal, and it's not too hard to see how we've reached a Game Seven. It's no surprise to me - I thought all along that this one was going seven, regardless of the fact that the Pens were/are the favorites and the fact that Montreal beat a team that's become known as a playoff underachiever. But beating the #1 seed is beating the #1 seed, and if Montreal could pull that off, any other opponent was fair game. To boot, they had (and still have) an outstanding goalie in Jaroslav Halak, and Mike Cammalleri has now scored five goals in each series. Seeing this series extended to a seventh game should not raise many eyebrows.

The Pens will have to come out with their collective hair on fire on Wednesday night, to get the crowd even more involved in the game (although I have a feeling the fans will surely be bringing their A-game). Dan Bylsma and Co. will have some work between now and then to tweak strategies, matchups, and lineups, but if the Pens can't do better than they did on Monday night, it will be a heck of a sad night in the Steel City. The end of the Penguins' title defense and hockey in Mellon Arena in one night might be too much to handle. Obviously, the answer is easy for these potential problems: the Pens just have to go out and win the game.

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Koz said...

We must protect this house! /underarmoured

AJ said...

Gologoski is horrible.

If it wasn't game 7, I'd wish they'd bench him for Lovejoy or McKee.

BAMAQT said...

I'm telling you guys. The Pens are the best team.. They are not playing the best hockey. These guys are burned out mentally!!! 3 LONG SEASONS is showing on these guys....

Anonymous said...

anybody else see skippy reed sitting front row behind jerry lawler at wwe raw tonight?

Adam said...

As painful as it would be to lose game seven, I think it'd be a valueable lesson for the bandwagon that's formed in the last few years about the reality of playoff hockey.

Too many folks rubber stamped the Pens into the finals after the Caps lost. They don't look to fricking bright now, do they.

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

There's being confident, and there is taking for granted. I do agree that much of the fanbase is taking for granted the fact that other teams aren't going to bow down to our greatness.

Here's hoping our boys aren't "burnt out" and they take care of business on wednesday, but Sid may just indeed find himself in that picture again (remember the commercial from last years playoffs?).

JeremyT said...

My favorite part was when Halak made no remote attempt at covering up a puck, swept it to his left directly to an uncovered Malkin, who buried it in the net as the ref blew the play dead. At least the world now has concrete, video-supported, irrefutable proof that there is no conspiracy to put the Pens in the finals/"give" them the Cup. That and Crosby being tackled on a breakaway, then cross-checked in the face as he lay on the ice in the 3rd period. And Cooke's gash on his nose that was shaped EXACTLY like the blade of a hockey stick

Even with the Malkin goal that we got robbed of, I got a strong feeling we would have lost 5-4 in OT anyhow. Fleury steals it on Wed!

BurressWithButterflywings said...

but it sure would have been nice to have the goal and that chance. There is no excuse for that whistle, none. The Canadiens fans have far too much influence over the officials. I dont care if we got 5 PP and they got 3, they got away with a lot more than was called and they made up calls on Cooke.

We need to play a better puck control game, but how lucky can one team get and for how long?

Steve said...

Yes Goligoski sucks and he has no business playing in the NHL. He's a turnover machine with no physical ability and no defensive skills whatsoever.

I thought if the Pens made it past the 1st round it would be an achievement anyway based on how they played all season, so I don't find this surprising at all. I said it would take a miracle even if they didn't have to face the Caps and NJ, so it comes down to a game 7 and a miracle will be needed to keep from being bounced by an 8 seed lucky to even be in the playoffs. Maybe if all goes as planned, they can coordinate tee times with the Red Wings.

It wouldn't have mattered if they had to face the Islanders, Edmonton, or Toronto to get back to the Finals, they just don't have what it takes this season. Not enough heart (mostly from the defense), or want on this team and Shero did nothing to address it in losing Gill and Scuderi and by adding Ponikarovsky and Leopold. When they get scored on they crumble and play like a bunch of beaten housewives. Outside of Dupuis, there isn't a single player on this team earning his paycheck.

Fleury isn't stealing anything Wednesday. If they manage to win, it will simply be because they can score more than 5 and we can only pray that Halak The Invincible, has an off day.

JeremyT said...


You may be right. Fleury has already stolen two games in this series. Why not another? This guy is flaky enough to get burned 4 times in a game 6 clincher and then turn around and throw the big squadoosh on that ass in game 7. It's not like we haven't seen the guy flake out in both directions in back-to-back games or anything already. We will see which direction very soon, my man.

Steve said...

The only game in this series that could be considered a steal was the shutout game, and even then he didn't have to stand on his head. He made a couple great athletic saves but for the most part, posting a shutout while seeing only 19 shots isn't exactly godly like everyone wants it to be. He was really good, but a steal? A steal is when you're outshot by 20 and still win, you know like the Canadians have been doing.

What I'm saying is: as inconsistent as he's been, the difference in the next game won't come down to him but our ever-disapppearing defense limiting scoring chances while being able to hold a lead (if they even get it this time) and our offense being able to put more than 2 or 3 behind Halak.

I'm pretty sure there will be at least one lame goal given up by Fleury Wednesday because that's a more concerning trend anymore than the rare "steal" he may have once every series. Besides, the only goalie stealing anything in this series is Halak.

Think about it, is there any reason Fluery should have to steal a game? Those goalies usually play for teams that are underdogs, facing superior firepower and don't have a good chance of winning in the first place. Is that what this defending Stanley Cup Penguins team has become, inferior to the great 8th seeded Montreal Canadians? The answer is, probably...yes.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

One positive thing about the playoffs right now is that Kris Letang seems to finally be turning into the player we all thought he'd be.

So to those who criticize Goligoski, just remember that we were saying the same things about Letang very recently. Give him time.

Of course, that doesn't help us right now and with game 7 coming up, we may not have too much time.

Fact: Last night was the first time since game 1 that we scored more than 2 goals.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...
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Ryan said...

The problem with the Pens last night is that on too many occasions their shifts got way overextended. It started to really take a toll in the third. I think through 2 periods, Crosby's average ice time was 68 seconds. I don't care if we had 3 1/2 PPs, it's way too long and it catches up with you. Especially at game 93 of the season.

That and GoGo seemed to just throw the puck towards a Canadian every chance he had.

Also, way too sloppy with puck control in the offensive zone. Errant passes and total lack of communication at times.

I hope they can rest up and close this one out in style at home. Don't send the Civic Arena to the grave with a loss.

Let's Go Pens!

Steve said...

Letang's unforced turnover led to the Canadians first goal. Not to be nitpicking or anything but the corner might be a ways off.

Letang at least has a physical element to his game that players like Goligoski and his step sister Cryin Ryan Britney don't have. Those guys are the epitome of soff.

I only ever had a real problem with Letang's reluctance to use his offensive skills. Also, Letang was drafted in 2005, Goligoski in 2004. You'd think it was the other way around.

okel dokel said...

Tough loss..they look tired.

Need to bring the physicality back.

Their defense can just be plain horrible for long stretches. We will have even more new d-men next year. Should be fun watching them grow together.

The lack of secondary scoring from their forwards is starting to add up. Someone other than Sid and Geno has to be relied on to score. That first line with Dupuis and Kunitz was a gift to the Canadians. I like Dupuis as a third and forth liner, but Halak was not concerned when he was streaking towards him on a breakaway last night.

Steve said...

At least Dupuis was streaking, as opposed to Guerin who needs the wheels for his walker greased. Can't complain about Dupuis at all, he's doing more than any other winger we have in terms of effort and energy.

Should be fun seeing all the new forwards too. I'm thinking 3 or 4, if not 5 new ones. Hopefully the salary space gained by Gonchar leaving will equate into 1 top winger for the Crosby line finally. How long can this team go on with only 3rd line talent and over the hill vets filling out the top two lines?

Papa Eo said...

I am not a huge Goligoski fan, but I thought he played fairly well last night. Kept most pucks in the offensive zone when they scooted down the boards to him, didn’t have that many ghastly turnovers in his own end in the face of an aggressive Montreal forecheck. Thought he was ok.

My question is why does Sidney Crosby, after a year in which he scored 51 (!) goals, all of sudden seem like 2008 Sidney Crosby? At least 3 times last night, he got the puck with a full head of steam, crossed into the Montreal end, and rather than attacking the net or firing a wrist shot to one of the corners, he slowed down and looked to the middle of the ice for the perfect set-up or one-timer pass. I know he has made some GORGEOUS plays that way over his career, but especially after A.) this season, and B.) the way the team has been struggling to score, I would think he’d be ready to rip some shots to the cage on the rush and let himself and his teammates crash the net for some punch-in rebounds. It just seems odd to me. Anyone else think he could possibly be hurt? He doesn’t seem to be flying towards loose puck after loose puck like he did in all those regular season games vs the Capitals, for instance.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I dont think he is going to try and beat Halak with perimeter shots if there is not traffic cutting to the net. I think we way to score on him is moving him laterally with cycle passing or on screens and rebounds. We do not go to the front of the net nearly enough. That has been a problem all season long and in order to cash in tomorrow night, we are going to have to literally throw people at him left and right. Plus, based on what I saw Gionta do last night, it's perfectly acceptable to tackle the goaltender.

Scott said...

If you knew nothing about hockey and just started watching this series, you'd assume the Canadiens were the team with all the talent. They're the team scoring pretty, top-shelf, on-the-rush goals, while the Pens have to settle for "lucky" goals from the point that get deflected or go through a screen.

Not sure what that means, just a strange observation. It's frustrating to watch. But the Pens actually have to score that way because it's the only way to beat Halak.

Dirty Sanchez said...

I have no qualms with Dupuis, it's not his fault that the Penguins never have someone suitable to play on the top two lines. Hopefully this will be the last time we see Guerin, Poni, or Fedotenko in a Pens jersey.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

My point is that Letang's getting close. He's still young, and so is Goligoski.

okel dokel said...

I agree about Guerin but he does know how to create traffic even with a walker.

Not sure what to make of Sid. Some of the pundits seem to think the Pens are using him as a decoy.

Not sure. He looks frustrated but is also carrying one or two guys on his back at all times.

okel dokel said...

I have no problem, nor am I complaining about Dupuis. He is a solid player. Just whining about the lack of any real top 6 forwards outside of Geno and Sid.

May be time to put Max on Sid's line.

Steve said...
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Steve said...

Maybe the Pens are just waiting for Mario's text message to find motivation.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...
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Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

I don't think Guerin's been too bad these playoffs. He was lackluster at times in the regular season, but the guys like 90, so I'll forgive him if he saves something for the playoffs.

And dare I say that he's been a better "old guy" than everyone's hero Gary Roberts was.

Ponikarovsky and Fedetenko have been a big zero.

Dupuis is one of the best skaters on the team, the guy flies. But he just can't finish. I always said that if Dupuis was armed with even a slightly above average shot, he'd be one of the best wingers in the league. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

I think our main problem is not scoring. We're scoring 2 2/3 goals per game, which is slightly inflated by a couple of empty netters, and by the fact that Halak somehow let in 5 in the first game.

Since game 1, we've scored 9 non-empty net goals (or 9 goals actually against Halak) in 5 games.

1.8 goals per game just isn't going to do it.

The part of this that kills me is that I just know someone's going to knock Montreal out of the playoffs (hopefully us) and Halak will crash back to anonymity next season, and join a long line of jobber goalies that got hot in the playoffs and carried a team a round or two further than they had any business going.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

I am hoping that crash and burn starts tomorrow evening at Mellon Arena!

The Pens seem to only get it going when absolutely needed, that attitude won't work in game 7. It's going to have to be all businesss all the time. Let's see how many early whistles and goal posts bail out Les Habitants tomorrow.

Unknown said...

Someone needs to knock Cammalleri on his ass...or at least put a body on him like the Habs are doing with Sid. He's 85% of their offense.

Steve said...

Pens don't play that kinda D homie, it goes against their "aggressive" offensive game plan of burying the opponent with 2 goals a game. Besides, you saw what Lapierre did to Goligoski 1 on 1 and according to Bylsma, he's a much better defenseman Mckee is. Plus, that would involve actual coaching to keep the lines matched up in the Pens advantage against Mike Cameltoe and the flying smurfs and we all know how Bylsma feels about that too.

Christian said...

Good Lord, Steve. You do realize that they haven't lost yet, right? And they're one game away from going to their 3rd straight EC Final, Stanley Cup trips/victories, etc., etc., etc. Did you just sit at home and hit youserlf in the head with a hammer during the lean years?