ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more like it.
OFFENSE: B. A much, MUCH better effort than in Game 1. In the first and third periods, they got the job done. In the second, not so much. There was forecheck pressure that led to the third goal. That was just a beautiful play by Ouellet and Roberts. That might be the hardest check Ouellet has ever thrown. Then Roberts follows up with one of his own, and voila, there is Staal all alone in front. Yes, Ottawa, the Pens can hit every bit as hard as you can. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re happy that you got Oleg Saprykin instead of Gary Roberts at the deadline, eh? HowÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s that working out for you? Then, on the winning goal, that was just a beautiful transition rush. Tic-tac-toe, in the net. I must say, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of those plays, that when it works, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s great. Had Crosby not scored, I would have been yelling at Recchi for not shooting. But this time it worked to perfection. The third period in general was just great hockey by the Pens. The offense finally came alive after Therrien switched up the lines.
DEFENSE: D. Probably could have been an F, but they did play a little better than the last game. The second period was a total disaster, and only FleuryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stellar goaltending kept the Pens in the game at that point. I lost count of how many odd-man breaks the Senators had. In the second period, it seemed like just one after another. They got their first goal on just such a play. They outmanned the Pens down low, and that left Spezza with a wide open shot in front. On the final Ottawa goal, Orpik went for a hit along the boards, and for some reason Malkin decided to go at that guy rather than covering the middle, and Kelly walks in and uses Whitney as a screen to beat Fleury. They did tighten up the defense down the stretch after they got the lead. But unless they stop giving the puck away and allowing easy odd-man breaks for the Senators, they are going to be in big trouble.
POWER PLAY: A. Once again, they light up the Sens for two power play goals, and this time it meant something. They had good movement most of the game, as evidenced by the first goal where Whitney and Gonchar had essentially swapped spots. Just a bomb by Whitney from the center point area. The second goal was more of a dirty goal, a typical Roberts goal, if you will. Gonchar fires from the right point, Emery gives up the big rebound, and there is Roberts to spin and put it in. That is just great hockey instinct by him, but weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve come to expect no less. Considering they were only granted three power plays all game, to pot two goals is just tremendous.
PENALTY KILL: A. What a job by the penalty killers. The striped buffoons had it in for them today, yet they managed to kill all but one of the nine penalties the clowns called. Some of the good work on the PK was Fleury, but most of it was just a dogged effort. They exerted a lot of pressure up the ice, frustrating Ottawa on numerous occasions. They were much more aggressive in this one, and it caught Ottawa off guard. Great job on the PK by Scuderi and Melichar. This is the one thing those two guys do pretty well. Those two and Eaton combined to block a total of nine shots. The one goal they allowed was just a great passing play by Ottawa that they really couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do much about. But I think it can safely be said that the PK won them this game.
GOALTENDING: A. Okay, if the PK didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t win them this game, then FleuryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s goaltending certainly did. He was just tremendous. He faced one odd-man break after another and never wilted. This has to be a great confidence-builder for him, after he got shelled despite playing reasonably well in Game 1. What might be especially big for his confidence was that incredible save he made in the waning seconds when Spezza thought they had scored. But he was brilliant all game long. He did a good job of controlling rebounds, and that made it easier on the defensemen.
OVERALL: B. Still not their best effort, but a heckuva lot better than Game 1. The turnovers must stop and the defense must get better. But the offense finally came around in the third period and produced two goals. The special teams were tremendous and were the difference. They got stellar goaltending. It was just, top-to-bottom, like night and day from Game 1. They hit, hit, then hit some more, led by an incredible seven by Roberts. They certainly discovered what it takes to play playoff hockey. So they have evened the series and still havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t played their best game. That is unlike Ottawa, which simply cannot play any better than it did in Game 1.
DISCIPLINE: F. Terrible job by the Pens in this department. They took way too many penalties, and are playing with fire here. Chances are not good that you can give up nine power plays and continue to win. Most of the calls were legit (more on that in a second), and many of them were just stupid, lazy penalties, typified by StaalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right off the opening draw. This simply must stop.
STRIPED BUFFOON HUH? CALL OF THE GAME: We have a tie here, so weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll go in chronological order. First is the non-call when Phillips cross-checked Sid in the throat, right in front of Action Jackson. The clown is 10 feet away, and he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see that? Or is he in the employ of the Senators? Boy, that sends a great message to the national TV audience, doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it? Here they are marketing Sid to death, and some high school dropout hockey player wannabe decides he will show Sid whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s boss in right front of the camera. And they wonder where Ã¢â‚¬Å“garage leagueÃ¢â‚¬ï¿¾ comes from? Then, we have the Malkin call at the end. Diving Whining Choking Dog Alfredsson blatantly hooks Malkin, again in full view of the striped buffoon. Yet somehow, Malkin is called for holding the stick. At the very least, it should have been coincidentals. But they even commented on this very type of play in another game, noting that players are now being taught to clamp down on the stick when they feel it in them. Yet Malkin does this and draws the penalty. It just tells you how pathetic this league is when guys like Jackson and Mr. Magoo are among your 16 best referees. Scary, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it? The standard has been set hereÃ¢â‚¬â€you basically canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t touch the God-like Sens without risking a penalty. But they can basically do whatever they want all game long and not have to worry.
MICHEL THERRIEN: A. I give him lots of grief from time to time, but not in this one. He switched the lines in the third period, and it worked to perfection. It gave the offense a jump start. Now weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll see what he does about the matchups on home ice, and whether heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll stick with the new lines.
KARMA: A. Dame Karma, meet Christoph Schubert. Christoph Schubert, meet Dame Karma. What a lovely couple they make.
MICHEL OUELLET: A. He is playing better than I have ever seen him. He is doing all the right things. Did you realize he was on the ice for the final defensive shift? He gets much criticism from all quarters, but maybe Therrien saw something in him after all. He is a responsible two-way player right now, and the Pens need more of those.
JORDAN STAAL: A. One word, monster.
GARY ROBERTS: A. And this surprises you why? This guy is the epitome of a Ã¢â‚¬Å“hockey player.Ã¢â‚¬ï¿¾ Plus he gets away with numerous penalties because of his veteran status.
OTTAWA FANS: F. Front-running morons. They grew deathly silent after the Pens scored first, as they went into Ã¢â‚¬Å“here-we-go-againÃ¢â‚¬ï¿¾ mode. The booing of Crosby is just plain stupid, and likely inspires him to play even better. Good job, Ottawa.
EVGENI MALKIN: C. Would have been much lower except for the beautiful play he made on the winning goal. But until then, he was basically invisible.
SERGEI GONCHAR: G, for gutless. On at least two occasions, I saw him have an opportunity to get a loose puck along the boards, but then stop and back off because an Ottawa guy would have hit him. If nothing else, this series is showing who wants it and who doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.
NBC: F. So I tune into my local affiliate to watch the game in HD. What do I see? The New York/Atlanta game, which I had no interest whatsoever in. So, no HD hockey for the moment. I switch over to the analog local broadcast, and at least the correct game is on. After awhile, I check the HD again. Now, there's a picture (in HD) but no sound. Then, I try for a third time between periods and now the sound is back, but the picture is not in HD. Finally, in time for the third period, we get HD picture and sound. Major accomplishment! Can someone explain exactly why the NHL contracts with a network of such gross incompetence? It just baffles me that we, as fans, are forced to put up with the type of lazy indifference to the game that NBC network demonstrates. NBC Sports is an out-and-out embarrassment to both the NHL and sports in general.
TEAM 1200 RADIO: F. Can someone explain to me why Marc-Andre Fleury was NOT one of the three stars? Good luck on that one.