OFFENSE: D. I was stunned to see they had 36 shots on goal. Most of them had to be low-percentage perimeter shots, because they sure didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to put much pressure on most of the night. They had very few shots from true scoring areas, and when they did, DiPietro stoned them. He was great in this one. The PensÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ best offensive line by far was Talbot-Roberts-Armstrong, and they ended up scoring the only goal the Pens could muster. The rest of the offense was ineffective or downright awful. It appeared as though Therrien mixed the lines somewhat, keeping one simple rule in mind. Mark Recchi and Sidney Crosby are not to be separated. But no matter what combos he threw out there, they generated squat. It was a pathetic display against a weak defensive team. This is sad to say, but their two best right wingers right now are the supposed third and fourth line guys. The top two lines essentially have black holes there.
DEFENSE: D. A pretty poor effort here, too. Both even strength goals they allowed were right in the slot (where the Pens never get shots from). Hard to blame the goalie when you let them fire at will from 20 feet right in front. Both were on transition. The first resulted when the Isles criss-crossed and the Pens were clueless how to react to it. Armstrong went every which way, leaving Gollum wide open in the slot. On the last goal, they just backed in and backed in, allowing Kozlov his nightly goal against the Pens. In fact, all three Isle goals were scored by the same guys who beat them all year. If Blake, Kozlov, and Hunter played like this against every team, the Isles would be unbeatable. The Isle announcers got my hopes up in the first period when they said Melichar had gone off. But, alas, he returned later.
POWER PLAY: F. As in woeful. Nothing says lack of effort like the power play did. They were basically just going through the motions. Gonchar at the point was absolutely pathetic, letting three pucks get by him on what should have been easy keeps. Yeah, I know the ice was bad, but you simply cannot have that happening. Anyway, at some point, the idiot behind the bench is going to remove Recchi from the top unit. Until they have somebody who is a force up front and in front, the PP will struggle. It is obvious they are calling the games differently now, and whereas Recchi could do that job when they called it tight, he simply cannot now. And Therrien has yet to see this. The solution is to replace Recchi with Roberts and Malkin with Staal. Put guys out there who are willing to work.
PENALTY KILL: D. They got scored on once, because of a bad break when StaalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stick broke. But that didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t excuse Nasreddine totally vacating his position, then not getting to the puck. This allowed Hunter the wide-open look in front. They spent much of the night running around in their own end and whiffing on clearing attempts. It was not a solid effort.
GOALTENDING: B. Fleury kept them in it in the second period, when the Pens were out for a nice skate in the park. None of the goals was really his fault, although it would have been nice if he had stopped at least one of them. He definitely played much better than in their last trip into this dump. However, he was outplayed by the guy at the other end. Of course, that is beyond his control.
OVERALL: D. For the third straight game, they were badly outplayed most of the night. Unless they rectify this in a hurry, the playoffs will be four and out. The power play is awful, the PK not much better. They are getting schooled at even strength. And the way games are being called, play at even strength will be critical. They are Ã¢â‚¬â€œ3 over the last 3 games at ES, and that will not get it done. The PP is also struggling, netting goals in only one of the last five games. If all of the above isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t enough to tell the coach the offense is broken, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what is. And this team is simply not good enough defensively to compensate for a lack of offense.
GOLLUM OF THE GAME: Brendan Witt. That crotch shot on Malkin toward the end ought to be a suspendable offense. That kind of cheap crap has no place in this game. I know the garage league wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see it that way, which is why the Pens should have taken care of it last night. They should have been doing everything in their power at the end to injure that piece of crap. I would have sent Laraque, Ruutu, and Armstrong out on the PP at the end with the sole intent of avenging that play. If the striped buffoons arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to call the penalties, then how else are you to protect your players? This loser was getting away with a penalty every shift, yet no calls were made most of the night. He is nothing but a low-life hack who canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play in the new NHL without resorting to cheap crap.
GARAGE LEAGUE: A. They came through with flying colors tonight. They should be proud of themselves. Once again, a key game at the end of the season is tarnished by bad ice. The puck was bouncing all over the place. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, what, three times in the last month the Pens have played on a sheet of ice less than 24 hours old. But I guess thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what the garage league wants. They want everybody to have pulled groins going into the playoffs so that hacks like Witt can be highlighted. Well, be proud, garage league, you are succeeding.
EVGENI MALKIN: F. Sorry, but I want this guy nowhere near anything thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s meaningful right now. As the play has gotten tougher, he is pulling a nice little Houdini, almost as good as the one that got him out of Russia. I never want to see him on a breakaway. Here, the comparison to Mario would be the 40-year-old Mario, not the young one, who was money on breakaways and penalty shots. I think Laraque would have a better chance in a shootout than Malkin, who for some reason thinks his shot is so good that he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to make any moves to beat a goalie. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look now, but he might not even win the Calder if Paul Stastny keeps coming. What you do at the end is much more important than what you did at the beginning.
SIDNEY CROSBY: F. The albatroi linemates have got to be wearing on him. Everytime he rushes the puck, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s basically one on three and he usually gives it away. It is pathetic to watch this line try to operate. They generate nothing at all. But Sid isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t helping things by trying to take everything on his shoulders. He is trying to do too much to compensate for the missing linemates, and he is looking bad as a result.
JORDAN STAAL: F. Horrible game by him last night. He was totally invisible.
MARK RECCHI: F. Just retire already. Please.
COLBY ARMSTRONG: C. Had the only goal, but was on the ice for every goal against. But he was one of the few who looked willing to play the style made necessary by the striped buffoons.
STRIPED BUFFOONS: F. If anyone can figure out the logic behind the way they called this one, let me know. They seemed to have the old random penalty generator out last night. They would let all kinds of crap go, then whistle something out of the blue. They missed the Witt kick completely. Lest you think I am complaining that they cost the Pens the game, not quite. Overall, the Pens might have gotten the advantage of their buffoonery.
MICHEL THERRIEN: F. Yes, I know itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to make chicken salad out of chicken ****, but thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s his job. His job is to somehow find a combination of wingers that works. A 2-year-old can tell the lines are not working right now, yet he has not seen fit to reconfigure them. How about putting some of the scratched guys back in? Sit guys like Recchi and Ouellet in favor of Petrovicky and Ekman. And as for the power play, well, that was dissected earlier.