If there is one theme of this hockey season, it is that home openers are a team’s worst nightmare.
The Pens had a strong first period offensively, controlling the puck and playing a fast paced game. For the second game in a row though, passing has been sloppy and they are making a lot of unnecessary passes.
Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t have a terrible game, as at least 2 of the Leaf’s 5 goals could be attributed to poor decisions with the puck and a lack of coverage by his teammates. One goal was attributable to a really nasty give-away by Evgeni Malkin and lack of good positioning by Eric Tangradi. Deryk Engelland mowed over Fleury, giving Clarke MacArthur a wide open net to redirect a shot at.
The intensity and passion of the last two games weren’t there. In the third period, the Pens looked sluggish and lost. The lines were very disjointed and everyone looked like that little league kid who stands in the outfield staring at butterflies and spinning in circles instead of keeping his eye on the game.
The Pens also took a lot of stupid penalties, though the penalty kill was one of their saving graces in this game not turning into a 12-2 massacre. They allowed one power play goal in the last minutes of the game in a 5-on-3 situation where the Pens had too many men on the ice and Crosby took a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Pens took three boarding penalties, although they were all questionable. It seems the standard for “boarding” has become even more loose and open to interpretation. Chris Kunitz’s last penalty looked like a pretty standard hit.
Malkin was able to capitalize on 1 of 6 power play chances and net his first goal of the season, to be followed up in the second period by Crosby’s first as well. However, into the third period, the Pens power play looked like a train wreck. Everyone was out of position. The fact that the Leafs only scored one power play goal in the final minute of the game is a small miracle.
Eric Tangradi was removed from the game with just about 4 minutes left in the 2nd period. Honestly, I didn’t even notice that he was missing. This is just as bad as the games where I don’t notice that he is even playing.
It is time for the Pens to cut their losses. The trade wasn’t a wash. They got Chris Kunitz. But Tangradi belongs in a mites league, not the NHL. He is asleep at the wheel and the new excuse the talking heads are giving is that he doesn’t know yet how to be on the same line as a superstar. He is worried about making the right play.
What was the excuse last season when he was playing a sloppy, don’t-know-where-I-belong game on the third and fourth lines? He is too slow to skate with guys like Malkin and Neal who are frankly extremely fast and skilled skaters for men of their stature.
Put Dustin Jeffrey in and see what happens. They cannot keep relying on a guy who frankly has yet to prove reliability.
I saw a lot of people saying last night that the Pens need a veteran winger. I had been hoping over the summer that the Pens would go after Mike Knuble. Great presence in front of the net and he could have been the next Billy Guerin for the team as far as a mentor and locker room leadership. Steve Sullivan- the player I am most salty about the Pens letting go- was that guy. He scored a hat trick in Phoenix last night. Sully adjusted well into the Pens system last season and had 48 points. He is the only player they didn’t replace that they didn’t bring back.
The guys go on the road again until next Tuesday. Hopefully they can find their stride again in Winnipeg on Friday. Tonight, there were just too many things that went wrong to begin to count.