Senators Blog: Silver Seven
A new face on defense for the Penguins was no cause for concern tonight as the Pens steamrolled the Senators 5-1. The Pens developed some strong momentum in the first behind a goal from Tyler Kennedy, but it was the three-goal second period that really put them over the top in securing another two points in the standings.
Corey Potter made his Penguins debut tonight in place of Matt Niskanen, who is still battling some flu symptoms. Nothing he did was necessarily worthy of incessant praise or anything, but he did finish with a plus-one and at least showed he's not a defensive liability out there for the team. I'd say that if the Pens are in a defensive pinch heading into the postseason (if/when Brooks Orpik returns that is), I'd feel all right with him being the seventh d-man through the playoffs. Maybe I need another game or two to really put my confidence in that statement. We'll see.
But more importantly, let's talk about the defense that the Pens have carried throughout the season, mainly Ben Lovejoy and Zbynek Michalek.
No one ever said Lovejoy had a rocket from the point, but against the Senators he found a way to laser one past Craig Anderson for his second of the year. Looks like Lovejoy and Orpik will have the annual contest to not be the defenseman on the team with the least goals. You can rule out Michalek for now, because his notch in the third period was his third of the season and second in two games. Mind you, this is a guy who didn't have a single goal on the year five games ago. That's three goals in four games as he comes within six of his career-high of nine with the Coyotoes in 2006. With just 11 games remaining, it might be unrealistic to think he'll surpass that, but please, by all means Z, keep trying.
While on the topic of defensemen, what's up with Kris Letang? We all saw the hit he took the other night and questioned whether he was hurt or not, but Dan Bylsma seemed confident enough to say Tanger was fine and obviously he was good enough to go tonight. However, if you look at his stat line it's not all that flattering. Since his one-assist performance on Feb. 16 against the Avalanche, he has just one point in the last 12 games, including a current pointless streak of seven games. Articles surfaced at the time of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin's injuries, suggesting Letang might be the one to suffer the most statistically in their absence. Looks like the writers were write in that prediction.
Outside of two d-men scoring for the Pens, Kennedy, Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke eached picked up one, although some may even argue that Cooke kicked up one instead during that three-goal third. After watching it a few times, it still is hard to determine whether Cooke got a piece of it with his foot or not, but even still it didn't appear to be a deliberate kicking motion. More of an off-balance one which could very well be perceived as a kick. But if we're going to give the tie to the runner, so to speak, then goal for Cooke (or assist to Ottawa's Andre Benoit).
Tuesday's win gives the Pens 90 points on the season, more or less locking up at least the No. 8 seed in the East. The win also moves them within two points of the Capitals, who themselves are just one point off the No. 1 slot.
This is when it gets exciting folks. The playoff race is always a close one in the east.
A few days off now until Pittsburgh takes on the Rangers Sunday at 12:30.