Where did THAT come from?
OFFENSE: A. Anytime you put up three even-strength goals on Ottawa, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing a good job. Two of the goals were transition goals, one off a good forecheck. And none of them was by the top line (though itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s debatable what the top line is at the moment). Once again, great work by the lower lines in the third period. They really hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t generated much up until that point. I guess they were lulling Ottawa to sleep. Then a nice steal by Christensen leads to a Roberts goal and then a pretty passing play by Staal and Laraque (bet you never thought youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d hear both those names and Ã¢â‚¬Å“pretty passing playÃ¢â‚¬ï¿¾ in the same sentence, did you?) led to the tying goal by Malone. It just came out of nowhere, as the Pens seemed totally out of this game. But once they quit taking penalties, they were able to turn the tide in their favor. Once they got one, the fragile Sens started thinking about their last two games, and the Pens pounced. And somehow pulled out a win. Amazing!
DEFENSE: C. The Sens showed a blueprint on how to abuse the Pens in the first two periods. Dump the puck in and make their worthless defensemen handle it. Then shoot from everywhere and wait for Fleury to give up rebounds, and take advantage of the worthless defensemenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inability to tie guys up in front. You will either score or draw a penalty, or so it seemed. Thankfully, the Sens quit doing it in the third. The defense was generally awful the first two periods, but really tightened up in the third. In the first two periods, they had real difficulty moving the puck out of the zone. In the first, Fleury was controlling nothing and the d-men were swarmed in front. They seemed rattled and intimidated, and were just plain awful. They did clamp down in the third, but it might have been because the Sens quit forechecking, thinking the game was won.
POWER PLAY: F. Yet another abysmal performance with the man advantage. They rarely put any pressure on the Sens. Emery was playing in a rocking chair back there. At some point, they are going to come up with an entry plan other than Sid or Malkin trying to beat five guys. That clearly isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t working, mainly because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all they seem to do. A cross ice pass to Whitney actually got through, but it took him like 5 minutes to release the shot, which Emery stopped. It is time to redesign this whole mess. Malkin off the top unit, Roberts on. Simplify. Get pucks to the net and go for rebounds. It is way too fancy right now, and it ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t working.
PENALTY KILL: B+. Tough one to grade. They gave up two PP goals, and this put them in a big hole. But the problem was more the amount of penalties they took. It was just a parade to the box for a bunch of well-deserved penalties (well, most of them). The first PP goal, Ottawa followed the KISS plan, throw it to the net and go there and good things will happen. The second one, Heatley just undressed Scuderi (I think). But the key moment in this game might have been when they killed off almost a full two minutes of 5-on-3 in the middle of the second. They let the Sens score there, and the comeback likely doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen. Great job to keep them in the game. And then, The Long Reach of Jordan Staal comes through shorthanded yet again to turn the tide in their favor. He is just amazing. The bottom line on the PK was they ended up only Ã¢â‚¬â€œ1 in 9 chances, and that is very good.
GOALTENDING: F/A. Two grades given here, one for each goalie. The F goes, of course, to Fleury, who was pitiful yet again. It sure looks like the WJC Fleury is back in full force. The whispers about his ability (or lack thereof) to play well under pressure are growing louder once again. Against the Sens, he looked like an Aubin out of water. He was flopping all over the place, allowing rebounds right out front, and whiffing on long-range bombs that had no business going in. Just a horrible, horrible effort, the kind we are getting used to lately. On the other hand, Thibault was tremendous. He allowed only the Heatley PP goal on which he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have much chance. He gave them a chance to win with very steady play (though it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always pretty and they hit a couple posts on him). But he helped keep them in it through that penalty-filled second period. He then made a couple good saves in OT to give them a chance, and allowed only one in the shootout. This is what you need your backup goalie to do. He stole them two points tonight. As for who plays Thursday, I say come back with Fleury. If you have any chance of going anywhere, it is behind him. Either he grows up and starts handling the pressure, or he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. Now, if he has yet another bad game, then you have real problems.
OVERALL: A. This was a character win, plain and simple. They did not play well most of the night, but they somehow found a way. Their two stars were once again silent, but they somehow found a way. Their starting goalie was awful, but they somehow found a way. They were three down to a hot team, but they somehow found a way. They just keep doing it.
RYAN MALONE: A. he seems to have embraced the third-line role, and it seems to suit him just fine. He had a monster game last night. He showed strong character by flopping in front of a point shot when they were three down. I just love the way heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s playing right now.
CHRIS NEIL: F. So, Chris, how does it feel to get hit from behind but have no penalty called? Ever hear of karma? Nice acting job trying to make us think you were hurt. You are a punk, plain and simple.
STRIPED BUFFOONS: C. They actually called a reasonable game. However, it was quite obvious they had it in for Crosby. He got hacked and whacked all night, no calls. But he just nudges a guy from behind and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gone. Walkom (if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still alive) really needs to step in and put an end to this vendetta some refs have against Crosby. Or was it more about making sure we protect the true stars of the game like Chris Kelly?
RYAN WHITNEY: F. Can you say Ã¢â‚¬Å“healthy scratch?Ã¢â‚¬ï¿¾ Gawd, he was pathetic. It was most certainly his worst game of the year. Why Therrien kept putting him out there was beyond me. A mighty mite would have played better in his own end than Whitney did. Simply brutal.
EVGENI MALKIN: F. Sit his *** on the bench, too. He has been terrible the last couple weeks. Are we seeing another guy who canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t handle the pressure?
SIDNEY CROSBY: D. He is trying to do everything himself and it ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t working. I thought putting him and Malkin together was supposed to help both of them? It ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t helping either right now. Suckitude is contagious. Thankfully, it hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t infected the other lines. Oh well, at least Sid is scoring in shootouts, which is more than I can say about 71,
JORDAN STAAL: A. He does it again. What more can be said? He might be their best player right now. Who wouldda thunk it. Therrien really needs to replace Malkin with him in the shootouts.
ERIK CHRISTENSEN: A. Would somebody get this guy a sports psychologist already? When heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s confident like now, he is amazing. When he isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s invisible. But boy, he and Roberts really are playing well together.
GARY ROBERTS: A. Oh, how it mustÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve irked Sens fans to have him score against them! Oh, how I love it.
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: F. Other than Jagr, is there a worse captain in the NHL? He is a choking dog, and his team follows his lead.
BRYAN MURRAY: F. Another choking dog who has never won anything. He is made for Ottawa.