Game, set, andÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
OFFENSE: D. For the third straight game, they generated little offense at even strength. As it has been for all but the third period of Game 2, the forecheck was non-existent. It is amazing how easily Ottawa has been able to move the puck up the ice. The Pens just canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get there in time to generate a forecheck against a skilled passing team like Ottawa. Both goals they scored were off the rush, and they had precious few of them at even strength. The first one was yet another typical dirty goal by Gary Roberts. Armstrong shoots it, Emery gives up the rebound, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in the net. Simple, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it, especially against a stiff like Emery. The meaningless second goal was just a nice play by Malkin and Crosby. Too little, too late. The Pens have had way too many unproductive forwards to win a series. Guys like Christensen, Talbot, Malone, Ruutu, and Petrovicky have basically been invisible at even strength. Those types of guys were the forechecking demons all season, but they have not gotten the job done in this series. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect them to carry the team, but I would like to see a contribution.
DEFENSE: F. Once again, the porous defense gets exposed. After seeing how these guys play under the bright lights, I would be perfectly happy if the only two defensemen they brought back were Whitney and Eaton. The rest just flat out stink so far. And even Whitney has been bad, but at least he has potential. The first two goals were hideous misplays by Orpik. The last two were all Gonchar. First goal, Orpik inexplicably pinches right after a power play, allowing an odd-man break that led to the biggest goal of the series. Then, on the next goal, Fleury stops the original shot (a deflection), and kicks the rebound toward the corner as he should. Comrie picks it up and has a day and a half to deposit it behind Fleury as Orpik stood there picking his nose. Then the Gonchar horror show began. Diving Whining Choking Dog fires an easy wrister from the left dot. Well, it would have been easy had Gonchar not set a perfect screen by weakly trying to block the shot. Then the last goal was Gonchar at his comical best. First, he weakly tries to hold the puck in on an ill-advised pinch. But he actually gets back into position when Ottawa fumbles the puck. But the Sens move it into the zone as Gonchar starts doing figure 8s in the middle. Diving Whining Choking Dog is wide open for a one-timer that should not have been available had Gonchar played this even semi-competently. Aside from the goals, there were numerous quality chances against the Pens that belied the low Ottawa shot total.
POWER PLAY: F. A major step down from the first two games. Not only did they generate little in the way of opportunities, they allowed Ottawa to score at the end of two power plays. Just a horrible, horrible game for the power play units. They never really threatened at all. Ottawa was very aggressive and just never let the Pens get comfortable. The less said about this, the better. It was just awful.
PENALTY KILL: D. Would have been an A had Gonchar not screened Fleury for the one goal they gave up. Other than that, they had done a very good job, though they were less aggressive than they had been in Game 2. But it still worked, as Ottawa had few good chances on the PP. Heck, even the one they scored on wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a good chance per se, just a weak shot that was made into one by Gonchar.
GOALTENDING: B. Once again, Fleury could absolutely not be blamed for any of the goals. They were all screens, rebounds, and odd-man breaks. They were all defensive breakdowns. But it would have been nice if he could have somehow made the save on the first goal, because that one goal turned the whole series around. He had a chance to cover it and didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. It would have been a great save and play, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the kind of save you sometimes need to bail you out. Fleury wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bad, and is the last one I blame for any of the goals, but he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t spectacular, either. And the grading scale gets harsher in the playoffs. He still earns a pretty high grade, though, because he did play well for the most part.
OVERALL: D. They came out storming and played a great first ten minutes. But then it was back to the same old, same old. It is clear at this point that Ottawa is the vastly superior team. They have depth up and down the lineup. They have actual NHL-caliber defensemen who can move the puck and hit people. The Pens have neither of those. They have an advantage in goal and possibly on special teams. But with the striped buffoons putting the whistles away, special teams arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that important. Well, except in this game where the PensÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ power play was so brutal. I was thinking to myself during the first intermission that the McAmmond goal might have just turned the whole series around. Looks prophetic right now, eh?
ACCOUNTABILITY: F. There is none from Michel Therrien, unless you are a bit player. He benches Christensen in Game 2 for taking a couple stupid penalties. Yet, yesterday, Malkin does the same thing and never misses a shift. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care if you are down 4-1 and need goals, the coach has to show that this crap (which has gone on all year with Malkin) will not be tolerated. He should have been benched, just like Christensen was. If it hurts your ability to score, so be it. Maybe heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll finally learn to quit taking lazy, stupid penalties.
HEADHUNTERS: A. At least, so says the Garage League. Three times in the last two games, Crosby has taken a stick or a punch to the head. This has resulted in exactly zero penalties. They might as well not even have striped buffoons out there, because it is obvious that, while the league is promoting Crosby, the striped buffoons are still conducting their petulant little vendetta against him. Therrien needs to scream loud and clear in every press conference about the preferential treatment being given to Ottawa. I guaran-damn-tee you, if it was, say, Orpik assaulting Heatley like that, they would call it every time. But the Ottawa defenseman are apparently gods who are incapable of committing a penalty.
STRIPED BUFFOON HUH? CALL OF THE GAME: Blind Massenhoven actually being allowed to ref. Okay, seriously, the Schubert hit on Scuderi at the end was a blatant boarding call. Scuderi was clearly in a vulnerable position and Schubert just ran him for no reason. This piece of crap only got two minutes for this dangerous hit. The Phillips punch on Crosby at the end that failed to draw a call was also a baffler, but understandable, given the bias of NHL officials.
SERGEI GONCHAR: F. I want this loser traded this summer. His play in this series has been a disgrace. I called him Ã¢â‚¬Å“gutlessÃ¢â‚¬ï¿¾ yesterday. Today, the word is lazy. I thought during the game that he should be given the Paul Coffey 1991 role of power play specialist who sees no time at even strength. But then he goes out and hands them what was basically a shorthanded goal with just total lazy, indifferent, incompetent play. He is just an embarrassment. They need to get him away from Malkin before he totally pollutes the kidÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brain.
BROOKS ORPIK: F. He has had an awful series. He has continuously been out of position and lost. He seems to be trying to force some offense, and is getting caught most times. He simply does not have the instinct for it. Yesterday, he was just terrible.
ERIK CHRISTENSEN: F. This is the type of guy they need secondary production from, and he has been totally invisible. You learn in a series like this who steps up and who becomes passengers. Erik Christensen: passenger. Buh bye, been nice knowing you.
EVGENI MALKIN: C. Kudos to him for coming out flying in the first period. Play like that, you get an A. But then he lazily coughs up the puck on the second Ottawa goal and takes two lazy penalties. But he redeemed himself a bit at the end by mugging Phillips. Too bad he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t break the punkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leg in the scrum.
TEAM TOUGHNESS: F. Once again, Schubert and Neil run around the whole game, and nobody does crap about it. The Pens just went meekly into the night, rather than trying to hurt Schubert. If Brett Hull thinks Ruutu has no place in the league, what must he think of this piece of crap? And as for Neil, he is a gutless punk who only runs people after the whistle. Yet the Pens, once the game was out of hand, failed to try to take him out. Not a good sign at all.
NOTE: There will be no grades after Game 4, as your faithful correspondent is being forced, against his will, to take a business trip that will not allow him to see Game 4.