There's something about the Buffalo Sabres this season when playing against the Pens. Of the Pens last 16 home games, they've gone 14-2. Those two losses were against the Sabres.
Do the Sabres have some system in space that the Pens can't crack? Maybe Ron Rolston (who is undefeated against the Pens) has a few tricks up his sleeve, but it doesn't help that the Pens were playing what was essentially a pointless game . All the Pens could have possibly added to this season was the President's Trophy, and I don't know about the rest of you, but I prefer to stay far away from that hardware.
Never fun to see effort go to waste, but I'm not surprised a game like this happened to snap the Pens winning streak at seven. At the same time, Brandon Sutter made a great point in the postgame comments:
[We've got to] stay sharp. How our last few games go is going to determine how we come out in the first two games at home.
To start off, we had a lot of good news: Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Beau Bennett, Mark Eaton, and Marc-Andre Fleury all dressed and Tyler Kennedy was a healthy scratch. Almost a full starting lineup. I mentioned in the game thread that I didn't feel too good about Malkin's return, but I stand corrected.
Malkin was locked in at puck drop and really took it to the Sabres. He was flying everywhere, circling the entire offensive zone with the puck on a string, but it was Ryan Miller's night.
And so the game went.
The Pens put up 42 shots on Miller and the top line was the most impressive. Malkin skated with Pascal Dupuis and Jarome Iginla and they were a force. That line had some impressive passing plays that you know is a sign of what's to come in the playoffs.
Pascal Dupuis was a standout for me. This is a guy who works hard, does his job on the ice, puts up personal best season numbers at the tail-end of his career, but he hardly gets mentioned. He was one of the Pens best players on the ice and was finding opportunities left and right. He didn't cash in, but I was more appreciative of how hard he works for those opportunities and finds them. The goals will come.
Iginla has a small streak going for himself: four goals in four games. Like Dupuis, he was a shooting machine, only he was able to beat Miller on the power play with a missile that grazed the post and in. Absolutely perfectly placed shot that is something to expect from Iginla now.
Unfortunately, I also have to stand corrected on another comment I made on the gamethread. My plea for no more injuries was ignored.
Brooks Orpik didn't return to the ice after sustaining a lower-body injury in the first period. With Paul Martin close to returning, I had eyes on getting those two reunited against a team's top lines for the playoffs. We can only hope this is a nagging injury that Orpik didn't want to make it worse.
Hearts stopped when Letang and Christian Ehrhoff collided in the second and Letang was sent to the dressing room. He did return later in the period. Crisis averted (so we hope).
Please, Pens, no more injuries. That's all I want these last two games.
If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, the Pens would faceoff against the Ottawa Senators, to the childish glee of many hockey fans. I'm not going to lie, I'd be for this match up. Lots of emotion that this team is hopefully ready for.
Penis ahem, Pens.