Some random thoughts on the Penguins-Boston Eastern Conference final:
*Sidney Crosby had four goals and two assists in five games vs. Ottawa. Evgeni Malkin had two goals and three assists. The Penguins are averaging a league-high 4.27 goals in the playoffs, over a goal better than second-best Boston (3.17). But it still feels like Crosby and Malkin are about to find another gear.
*Kris Letang was the Penguins’ No. 1 star in the second round, racking up a goal and nine assists while controlling play to an absurd degree. Letang makes the odd mistake. Live with it. That’s part and parcel of his style. Risk equals reward.
*The Bruins’ physicality won’t matter that much. A) The Penguins are no shrinking violets. B) To make physicality count, you can’t lose races to the puck. Can the Bruins match the Penguins’ speed? Milan Lucic (6-3, 228) will be a handful in front of the net, though. The net doesn’t move.
*The Bruins have been helped by injuries to some of their older defensemen. Yes, I said “helped.” Stand-ins Torey Krug and Mt. Lebanon native Matt Bartkowski have upgraded the Bruins’ blue-line corps. Captain Zdeno Chara, 36, is Boston’s stalwart on defense. But he looks exhausted and immobile.
*Patrice Bergeron is Boston’s best player. Crosby speaks glowingly of Bergeron’s skills. But Tyler Seguin is the Bruins’ top clutch performer.
*Jaromir Jagr has no goals in these playoffs. But Jagr has a way of rising to the occasion. It’s Pittsburgh’s Jagr drama vs. Boston’s Jarome Iginla drama.
*Boston’s Tuukka Rask is a mediocre goaltender. No better. He’s certainly no Tim Thomas. Then again, neither is Tomas Vokoun.
*When General Manager Ray Shero made his flurry of deals near the trade deadline, he did so with one primary goal: BEAT BOSTON. Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray made the Penguins bigger, deeper, grittier and tougher. Much more difficult to play against.
*When Murray (6-3, 240) and Lucic battle, it will be the hockey equivalent of two planets colliding. Coach Dan Bylsma might match Murray against Lucic. But can Murray keep up with Lucic’s linemates, David Krejci and Nathan Horton?
*Boston’s fourth line is getting lots of media. But one thing will greatly impede Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille in this series: They won’t ever have the puck. The Penguins possess the puck. The New York Rangers didn’t.
*The Penguins beat Boston three times during the regular season, winning each game by one. This series will be similar: The scores will be close, but Pens in 5.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images.
The Penguins may or may not win the Stanley Cup.
But if they do, they may reinvent playoff hockey en route.
Last night’s Chicago-Detroit and Los Angeles-San Jose games were excruciating to watch. (Boston-New York Rangers was a comedy of errors.) Block shots, grind, throw pucks at the blue paint, hope to get lucky.
You can try to fabricate reasons that made those games exciting. They weren’t. They were close, but that’s not the same thing.
Now, consider Wednesday night’s Penguins-Ottawa game.
Mistakes were made. Some things were not done strictly according to system. But the Penguins scored SEVEN GOALS, and each seemed better than the last. Jarome Iginla and James Neal were blasting the puck. Chris Kunitz was off to the races. Sidney Crosby dangled Chris Phillips to death. Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis hooked up for a Grade-A shortie.
Two goals in 40 seconds. Then, three goals in 105 seconds.
That’s the kind of hockey I want to watch.
Jonathan Toews, everyone’s fearless leader, took three penalties in Chicago’s loss to Detroit. He bitched about each of them. He made his team shorthanded, then rattled them in the aftermath.
Here’s how hockey’s totem pole shakes down: There’s Sidney Crosby, and then there’s a bunch of other guys. They only made one.
For the final 40 minutes last night, the Ottawa Senators had no say in what happened. They were the Washington Generals. Pawns. Props in something bigger.
For the final 40 minutes last night, the Penguins’ talent took over.
The Penguins scored two goals in 40 seconds. Then three goals in 105 seconds.
Craig Anderson was powerless. He might as well have been some jobroni from the ECHL. When Sidney Crosby corkscrewed Chris Phillips into the ice en route to – YES! YES! YES! – a third-period goal, I thought Phillips might strike oil. I thought he might retire then and there. It got UGLY.
It won’t get any better. Even Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson says the series is over. I believe him.
*James Neal and Jarome Iginla each got two goals. I still hate Dan Bylsma’s line combinations, but the Penguins are averaging 4.1 goals per game. When the wrong decision works, it becomes the right decision.
*Kris Letang had a rough start, but controlled the puck and the game for the last two periods. Nice post-game interview, too. Good English, Tanger.
*Matt Cooke setting up Pascal Dupuis for the game-clinching shortie summed up both players: Cooke and Dupuis are playing as well as each possibly can.
*Beau Bennett played well in his return to the lineup, his duty expanding after Chris Kunitz got hurt. Bennett’s calm in big situations continues to impress.
*Crosby had a goal and assist. Malkin had no points. But each was dominant beyond stats, the 1-2 punch at center that only the Penguins have.
*The Penguins need to do better in front of their own net. But when you’re en route to scoring seven goals, that probably just seems like too much trouble.
*Sergei Gonchar: -4. Yikes.
The Penguins have too much talent for Ottawa. They might have too much talent for anybody.
Here’s the latest flaw that’s been invented for Sidney Crosby: He’s played his last 22 playoff games without scoring in the third period.
Thing is, in those 22 games, Crosby put together 10 goals and 15 assists. In Game 2 of the current series vs. Ottawa, he netted three times over the first 40 minutes, thereby minimizing the need for a third-period goal.
People love to invent a weak spot for a superstar, then pick at it like it’s a scab. Lies, damned lies and statistics.
In the interest of full disclosure, however, Crosby has just three third-period assists (and one overtime helper) over that 22-game span. Perhaps a breakout third period is in order.
Crosby has always been one to rise to a challenge. No denying Crosby gives maximum effort for 60 minutes and, when necessary, beyond.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Check out the shirt this guy is wearing while being interviewed by CNN in the middle of the devastation in Oklahoma. CLASSIC.
God bless the tornado victims. Pittsburgh is so lucky: Some occasional flooding, and we have to put up with Franco Harris. THAT'S IT, THAT'S THE LIST.