Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lightning Crashes. Pens Win.

Really? Nobody has used this yet? For shame, Pittsburgh bloggers.

Playoff hockey is awesome. Like finding a $20 on the street awesome. We've talked so much about the Penguins without Crosby and Malkin that we forgot that we have a buttload of players with a buttload of Stanley Cup experience. That really showed tonight.

Before anyone could finish their pregame dump, Brooks Orpik tried to murder Steven Stamkos. Somehow the Lightning ended up with more hits in that game than the Pens did. I can only assume whoever came up with that stat was watching American Idol.

It was pretty much goalie central during the first two periods, but then in the third, a set of game changing events took shape.

1. James Neal put about 50,000 shots on the net.

2. Kovalev gets pasted in front of the net, then proceeds to take a nap for a while. He's old. Whatever.

3. James Neal anticipates, and finds the puck. This was a pretty pervasive theme during the game.

4. Kovalev wakes up to the sound of a beautiful slap pass at his door, and proceeds to shuffle it in.

There's some sort of cosmic injustice in that play. James Neal has a ridiculous shift, but the goal goes to Kovy, who was pouting near the crease after being hit. Sorry, but he just doesn't look like a Penguin to me. Seems to have very little fire.

Pretty much like 4 seconds after Kovalev's goal, Arron Asham apparently spots Jessica Alba standing behind Dwayne Roloson, so he blitzes down the ice, fakes a shot and buries his second attempt of a wrap-around. I'm not sure where the hell that came from, but Asham did score 7 playoff goals last year. This is one of the reasons Shero nabbed him in the offseason. As close to a life changing goal as you can get in the first game of the playoffs.

Had to post this video just because it's called "Asham Scores a Very Special Goal". What the hell? When did Sesame Street start posting Pens videos on Youtube?

Anyhow, to their credit, the Lightning buckled down and started amping up their game. Big time. You braced yourself for them to put one by Fleury, but it just never happened. St. Louis had an open net at one point, but he crapped himself and shot it over the cage.

With about three minutes left in the final frame, there was a moment that perfectly encapsulated the Pens season (at least the second half). Kunitz fights to keep the puck in the zone, corrals it and rifles a one-time opportunity over to a wide open Jordan Staal, who proceeds to completely whiff on the shot. This isn't a knock on Staal, he had a great game and was instrumental in shutting down Tampa's big three. But therein lies the Crosby difference. If he were in there and healthy, that's Crosby skating alone down the seam, and sorry, but Crosby doesn't miss that shot. The Pens go up 3-0 with a couple minutes left, and the Lightning can just phone it in from there. But that's not the way this team is going to win games. There won't be many three goal leads. They'll just be sixty minute brawls.

And you know, that's just fine with me.

Game notes:

- James Neal got absolutely robbed out of one of the three stars. I can somewhat understand Staal, but Kovy? Insane.

- Fleury continues to impress. Sooner or later, we're just going to run out of adjectives that can adequately describe the season he's having.

- Ryan Malone is going to be annoying all series long.

- The fourth line wreaked havoc. They only logged like 8 or 9 minutes of ice time, but they were incredibly productive minutes. Things like that make a huge difference in the playoffs.

And oh yeah, Craig Adams' Mohawk moves to 5-0 on the season. What a hairstyle.

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