I’m not enjoying this season’s schedule – back-to-back games, then long lapses of time in between the next game – nope, I’m not liking it at all. What happened to games every other day? It just lacks consistency and it disrupts my schedule as a fan, so I can’t imagine what it’s like for the players. I realize that good teams find ways to win regardless of obstacles in their way and overcome inconsistencies, but I think that it’s sometimes just a nicely packaged statement safely expressed to the media. Players are human, too, and it has to affect them somewhat (although if they buy into the positive attitude thing, which I believe they do most times, it can only help). Looking ahead to this weekend, it doesn’t get much better. Saturday is an afternoon game and then the next is the following evening. I don’t think I recall that ever happening before and I’m just not enjoying it so much.
But before we look ahead, let’s take another look at last night’s game. It was a hard loss to swallow because we were one save / goal short of gaining two points, but at least we got a point for “our troubles” and that’s better than losing altogether, I guess. I cover things that stood out (or didn’t stand out) to me in last night’s game in Montreal.
It was average at best or else they would’ve found a way to break through the brick wall Carey Price built which isn’t typically hard to do to begin with especially when Pittsburgh dominated the series three out of the four games the teams played this season.
There’s not too much to say about it. As far as I’m concerned, if no one stands out on defense then everyone is most likely doing his job; however, the better than average grade is earned simply on Kris Letang’s veracity to go after PK Subban (all-out clothes-lined him!) when, once again, the referees allowed Subban to be the dangerous predator he is on the ice. KUDOS to Letang for stepping up for Malkin when Subban decided he was going to use him as a personal punching bag for no apparent reason.
Last night, Price was the better goalie (or maybe it would be more appropriate to say he made less mistakes) because the first is not a statement that can generally be used as Fleury is overall more elite than Price. Fleury has been consistently good in net for the Penguins, but last night a few of his bad decisions cost the team a win (most costly was the Lars Eller goal; without that, the Pens would’ve won the game and completely eliminated the need to play extra hockey in overtime and a shootout). His mental state may have played a part although he typically bounces back (and shakes off) games in which he’s less than top-notch. But not only was he pulled from last Saturday’s game early in the second period after allowing three goals, but last night’s game was the first in which Fleury failed to stop every shootout attempt (prior to the last game that led to a shootout win, he was 11 for 11 on the season). His mistake failing to stop the Eller goal is enough to earn him this grade alone.
JAMES NEAL (B)
Neal officially beat his personal best by reaching 50 points and 28 goals for the season in last night’s game; however, because he took a bad penalty towards the end of the game, he cannot obtain a perfect grade especially since it’s not the first time he’s taken a stupid penalty at an inopportune time.
EVGENI MALKIN (A+)
He played like his typical work-horse self last evening and the shootout goal alone earns him this perfect grade - throw in the PLUS (+) just for the sheer awesomeness that he scored a goal on that move!
Dan Bylsma changing-up the shootout lineup is a nice idea and I can understand the rationalization that it’ll keep the opposing goalie guessing what he’ll be facing. It’s inconsistency has yet to prove consistent and it translates to the shooters themselves – two successful attempts out of a total of six just isn’t worth it – they’ve been better with shootouts than what they’ve shown in recent games (the PLUS (+), again, comes from Malkin’s awesome moves that ultimately led to his successful shootout attempt as you cannot ignore the “pure win” of it!).
PK SUBBAN (U – Unsatisfactory)
I believe that Subban is one of, if not the, dirtiest player(s) in the league today. It’s not something new to this season; Subban has been traveling down this road since he entered the NHL as an arrogant rookie in the 2009-10 playoffs and it’s only getting worse. His arrogance continues to grow and, with it, so does his belief that what he does is appropriate to play hockey (the referees and the league also play a major part in this as well – you cannot discipline a player by fining him the “max” of $2,500 for slew-footing someone when not only does the max amount fail to hit him in the wallet, but also the punishment doesn’t fit the crime – it undercuts it greatly)!