Friday night the Penguins had the LA Kings, a team they rarely see and will not be joining post-season play. Sunday on national TV they had a game waiting against their biggest rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Fans may have looked ahead to the next game, but the players sure didn't. They came out and took care of business when they had to, defeating a team they should beat at home.
- When Hal Gill and Mark Eaton--arguably the least skilled of any player the Pens put in the lineup--are stepping up to keep pucks in the zone and looking to get shots on net, you know everyone in the lineup is confident and feeling it.
- The Pens jumped up tonight early, courtesy of their big boys. Seven minutes in, Sidney Crosby made a wonderful play, cutting off a pass to the middle and throwing a perfect backhand shot by Jonathan Quick. Quick, who looks a lot smaller than his listed 6'1" and 206, had to be in perfect position, and he wasn't.
- Then it was Evgeni Malkin's turn, with help Crosby's help. After Sergei Gonchar made a great play to get the puck settled, Crosby controlled it, and hit a perfect slap/pass to a wide-open Malkin. Geno only had to tip it into a wide open cage for the 2-0 lead.
- Tyler Kennedy would then pop one by Quick for his 13th goal of the year and then Bill Guerin would end the Pens scoring with a one-timer off a great pass from Malkin.
- Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves on 25 shots and looked good again in the net. The only goal the Pens allowed was on a 5 on 3, and even then Reliable Rob Scuderi snapped a stick. Craig Adams passed his stick on to the defenseman and then admirably blocked a couple of passes and a big shot. But when 5 on 2.5 it's really only a matter of time.
- One area the Pens can work on is staying out of the box. They took 11 penalties tonight--yielding 8 powerplays along the way. Though the PK is playing excellent, great article from Shelly Anderson on the new philosophy there, but still it'd be better not to test it.
- A very economical effort tonight by the Penguin; Malkin led all Pens forwards with 19:33 ice-time (more than three minutes less than his season average) and other than Gonchar no defenseman played more than 20:43. With Eric Godard scratched, all the forwards got at least 8:47. With it so much evened out, some of the key players weren't leaned on as much as usual: the veteran Guerin only need to play 10:17, Chris Kunitz recorded 12:50 of ice-time and even with killing those penalties Jordan Staal played only 13:44.
- That's how you keep a team fresh: particularly in this stretch they just started March 18th where the Pens only have to play four games in 14 games. All of those games are at home, mind you, so travel is no concern either.
- But more than not over-exerting is trying to get everyone on track. With a healthy lead Byslma made a concerted effort to get Petr Sykora top line power-play time in hopes the Czech sniper could join so many of his teammates on a hot streak. It didn't pay off tonight, but if Sykora keeps getting the opportunity it's only a matter of time until he starts popping them in the net.
- In another great team effort the Pens blocked 16 shots. They particularly frustrated the Kings most skilled forward in Anze Kopitar. He attempted 7 shots--five were blocked and the other two missed high/wide. If you're not a math major, that means Kopitar actually got 0 pucks on the net. By contrast, the Pens two top players got 8 pucks to the net (not counting the two primary assists and other great chances).
The Penguin train is on the tracks and rolling through whoever stands in the way right now. Another night, another win. 12-1-3 now under Dan Byslma and everyone's getting in on the act. Now it's time to bring on the Flyers for the NBC game of the week.