Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Collapse Averted

If you stopped watching last night's Pens-Wings game with a few minutes left in the second period, you probably would have thought the Pens would end up winning 234098-0. The Pens were dominating offensive zone time, while making Mike Babcock and other Red Wings AARP members look like third graders.

Then came the collapse. As a Pens fan, it felt like a Vietnam flashback. For the first ten minutes of the third period, I thought we were playing the Bruins. Our defense ceased to exist. Brent Johnson took a nap for a while. Mike Modano reminded us that he was still playing hockey. All of a sudden, we were thanking our lucky stars that we were walking away with a point.

And then came James Neal and his Crest Whitestrips.

By the way, this has to be my favorite picture of all-time. Pretty sure that's what I looked like after my first beer.

Anywho, Neal roofs one on Ronald MacDonald and everyone goes home happy.

Some notes:

1. Forget about Letang without Crosby and Malkin. Letang isn't anywhere close to the same without Brooks Orpik

In watching Letang over the past three weeks, this is plainly apparent. Orpik's stability and calmness with the puck allows Letang the freedom to do as he pleases with the puck. Tanger is one of the most offensively gifted defensemen in the league, but he seems burdened since Orpik has been out of the lineup. Errant passes, defensive lapses and other issues have grown exponentially without Brooks. Does this team need Crosby back? You bet. But they may need Orpik even more right now.

2. Keep Staal and Kunitz together for the foreseeable future.

Remember, in the not so distant past, in the time after Kunitz was acquired from Anaheim, he and Staal were linemates. Kunitz had a hat trick in his first game with Staal. That chemistry never left.

Frankly, Staal looked lost on the top line with Neal and Kovalev. He looked like he had trouble handling the increased ice time and dealing with the top defensive pairing of the opposition. He needed a change.

Cue the return of Chris Kunitz. Here are Kunitz and Staal's stats since Bylsma put them on the same line (March 8th-6 games)

Kunitz: 4 goals, 4 assists, +5
Staal: 3 goals, 5 assists, +7

That is chemistry that you just don't mess with.

3. Bring on Philly.

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