After a brief hiatus due to vacation, your favorite column is back.
The overriding theme in this one was Penguin fatigue.
OFFENSE: D. Only one even-strength goal and very few quality chances. Lundqvist could have played this one in a rocking chair. The fatigue played a role, as the Pens played a very conservative, non-skating game. They had beaten the Devils that way last week, but didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have enough gas in the tank to get to the finish line in this one. There was little forecheck most of the night due to the conservative style. The two albatroi (thanks, Jerez) are just killing Crosby on the top line. He had several beautiful setup plays where the albatroi were unable to finish. Recchi in particular needs to be separated from all good players immediately. He looks like he might have scored his last goal as a Penguin, as nothing is even coming close to going in. On the PensÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ lone goal, what a beauty of a pass from Malkin to Christensen, then a nice finish by Ouellet. Unfortunately, it was the only positive of the evening.
DEFENSE: F. The defensive play was brutal, harking back to days of yore (like the last two seasons). The Rangers basically had their way in the PensÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ end. Again, when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re playing your fifth game in seven nights, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s understandable, though. It was only appropriate that Scuderi put the last one by Thibault, as the d-men were getting abused all night long. They also had extreme difficulty clearing the puck at times. On many occasions, they had what looked to be an easy clear and muffed it, allowing the Rangers to keep the pressure on. I guess the more fatigued you are, the more your suckitude shines through. I am not excluding the forwards from this mess, either. Sid blew his coverage on the first goal by letting Betts skate untouched toward the net.
POWER PLAY: C-. They had the one tremendous PP where they kept it ion the entire two minutes and did everything but score. But the rest of the power plays were totally unmemorable. I noticed they tried Roberts on the top unit for a bit, but that didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to help anything. For the most part, they again just didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the jump to get to loose pucks, meaning the Rangers got them and cleared most of the time.
PENATLY KILL: A. They killed all five chances, and kept the Rangers at bay most of the time. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t recall that they gave up too many great chances while down a man, and those they did, Thibault stopped.
GOALTENDING: A. Thibault was 34 seconds and one Scuderi own shot away from stealing a point that the other 19 guys had done nothing to earn. He was spectacular. It was one of the best Penguin goaltending performances of the year. He was just making great save after great save, as his mates kept abandoning him. He gave them a chance in this one, and his mates not only failed to take advantage, but even shot the puck past him for the winning Ranger goal. On a night when the team was tired, he gave them everything you could ask for and then some. For him to not have been the number one star is a travesty, as he was clearly the best player on the ice for either team. Since his poor performance in Carolina, he has really turned things around. For the first time since he came to the Pens, I now feel at least somewhat confident with him in net. Those first impressions he made last year were hard to erase, but he has done that.
OVERALL: C. Considering the fatigue, I thought they gave it all they had. But they had very little. I had thought going into this brutal stretch of 5 in 7, all against playoff or contending teams, that if they got 5 points IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be happy. They got 8. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m ecstatic. Could have been 9 but for a fluky lucky Ranger goal, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the way it goes. They didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really deserve the point, so it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hurt that much to lose it.
GOLLUM OF THE GAME: Sean Avery. The leagueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biggest piece of crap strikes again. He just freight-trained Thibault, then kept punching him while on top of him. And he only got two minutes. I sincerely hope the last game between these teams means nothing to the Pens, because they need to take a run at Lundqvist to even the score. And do it with the same intent to injure as Avery had. Or, as a second option, they need to spear him Avery an, um, sensitive area such that Elisha will want nothing to do with him. It does occur to me that Sean Avery is probably related to this guy
. They are equally low-life members of society.
GOLLUM OF THE GAME II: Ryan Hollweg. No, not because he did anything heinous, but just because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s even uglier than Gollum.
DON BLIND MASSENHOVEN: F. Can someone please explain to me what the heck he was doing on that winning goal? He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t point that it was in. He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wave it off. He looked at the goal judge. Then he skates out front looking totally clueless. He apparently did not blow the whistle despite the fact he had obviously lost sight of the puck. It was buffoonery at its finest. Now, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not arguing the call. It was obviously a goal. But I just had no idea what he was doing.
MARK RECCHI: F. Get him away from Sid already, please. The guy couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t put the puck in the ocean from the beach. He either fires it 20 feet wide or right into the goalie. Can you imagine how many points Sid would have if he had actual NHL-caliber linemates?
GARY ROBERTS: A. He always gets an A just because I love this guy. I guess I am the official Gary Robert apologist now. He can take an elbowing call every game and I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get upset. He can do no wrong in my eyes (oh, wait, he did have that one horrible clearing pass that got stolen; even I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ignore that).
COLD MEDICATION: F. I took it after the game and my memory is a bit foggy this morning, so please forgive any inaccuracies in this writeup.