Is this team really getting so good, so fast that they can play a lousy game and still win? Last nightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s answer was certainly yes. Almost across the board, they werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t very good the first two periods, but really improved in the third.
OFFENSE: C-. Not a real good effort. At one point I said to Jerez, Ã¢â‚¬Å“It would be nice if they could get some shots. This is Dan FrigginÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Cloutier in net. They never really challenged him too much. When they did, they scored. They just seemed kind of out of sync all night long. Passes were just missing. Shots were going wide or not getting though. It just wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t clicking.
DEFENSE: B. If I was grading after the first two periods, it would have been a C- or so, but they really clamped down in the third period. I thought they were very scrambly the first two periods, trying to run and gun with the Kings. But in the third, they settled down and really gave the Kings nothing at all. This might have had something to do withÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
GOALTENDING: D. Probably FleuryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worst game of the year. The goal at the start of the first was equally on him and the D, but that goal to start the second was brutal. He looked jittery all night. Rebounds were flying every which way. He did make one key save very early, right after the Kings had opened the scoring, but, other than that, really didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t show much at all. Very subpar outing for him.
POWER PLAY: C. Well, they did generate the winning goal in OT, otherwise this would have been much lower. It looked terrible all night until that. Not many good chances at all in five PPs. They had a real hard time getting set up because, again, the passes were not working. This might have had something to do with the personnel (more on that later). But in OT, great shot by Gonchar and an emphatic put-back by Malkin. The equivalent of a game-winning slam dunk.
PENALTY KILLING: C. The first one was very good. The second one, not so much. When a defenseman falls on a goalie, nothing good can come out of it. On the first kill, it was one of the bets they had all year, as the Kings got not even a whiff of the net. But on the second, they lose a faceoff, and, boom, the puck is in the net. Just a very ugly play, from losing the draw to giving Visnovsky a wide open shot, to tackling your own goalie.
OVERALL: B- I give this one about as low a grade you can for a win. They just didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have it last night. Luckily, this was the Kings they were playing, and they arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t very good right now. Cloutier stinks, and they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a lot of offensive weapons. If they play this way the rest of the trip, it will be ugly. But hey, this is already a successful trip for them, so even if they lose to the Sharks and Ducks, they are in good shape..
Now some others:
MY PENGUIN PROGNOSTICATING ABILITY: F. In this thread
, I predicted a record of 2-5-3 for the first 10 games. In my defense, that was under the assumption that Malkin missed all of them. But it is a putrid prediction nonetheless. I predicted 7 points. They had twice that many. Ugh.
MARK EATON. F. The best thing about Eaton on most nights is that he is simply not noticeable. Before you get upset, I mean that as an extreme compliment. He just does all the little things, all the right things. Except for last night, that is. He was just horrible last night. He fell on Fleury on the PP goal. He was nowhere to be found on the first goal. He was on for the other goal, but that wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t his fault. He missed two glorious scoring chances with Cloutier down and out (okay, no jokes about what the difference between that and Cloutier actually being in the net). He also took a point shot into the guyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shins that the Kings turned into an odd-man break. A Normal night for most Penguin defensemen, but I have come to expect more from him.
MARK RECCHI ON THE POINT: F. Can someone please explain to me WTF this is all about? The PP was perfectly fine with Whitney back there. Fine, Letang is gone. So use Welch there. He has some offensive talent. But the PP was bad all night, and I blame much of this on -41 being back there. He had several giveaways bringing the puck up, and generally seems to have no clue how to play the point. A point guy cannot treat the puck like a hand grenade, and he does. Get him off there, and NOW!
EVGENI MALKIN: A+++++. What more can you say? For a heralded rookie to actually exceed his press clippings is amazing. He is making SidÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s start last year look pedestrian. Of course, Sid didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have any real linemates (donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get me started on Palffy).
ARMSTRONG DEMOTION: D. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get it. He totally set up that first goal with a crunching forecheck. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what he does. With Sid and Malkin together, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need another scorer there, you need somebody to do exactly what Colby does. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand this at all.