Monday, May 05, 2008

Penguins Advance

I have to admit that, even when they entered the playoffs as the #2 seed, I really thought they'd have been eliminated by now. I'm glad that they haven't been and that they've been kicking the shit out of everyone in sight, but I'm definitely worried about the fact that we're playing the Flyers.

A few points, in no particular order:
  1. I sure hope Hossa keeps playing like this. He's a hell of a player and I'm glad I came to his defense before. It makes me look smart, even though I have no idea what I'm talking about.
  2. I assumed that we looked good on defense just because the Senators were playing with half an offense. As it turns out, we look good on defense because we are good on defense. Gill and Ruutu made life a living hell for Jagr yesterday. That was awesome. The Rangers had one shot in four power play attempts and were held without a shot at all for about 15 minutes in the second period. Fifteen minutes. No shots. I don't care how crappy you are on offense, you don't have that kind of a streak of futility unless the other team's playing some damn-fine defense.
  3. So, we've got Malkin, Crosby and Hossa. They're the superstars. We've got high-quality depth guys like Staal, Sykora, Malone, and Kennedy. We've got high-quality defensemen like Ruutu and Gill. Great enforcers/role players like Laroque and Roberts. Defense has stepped up, special teams has stepped up BIG TIME -- the Rangers were 3 of 25 on the power play in the series and one of those goals was the empty net goal in Game 4 -- and the offense speaks for itself. Is it possible that goaltending is our weak link? Not saying anything bad about The Flower, I'm just saying that he seems like the worst player on a great team. And, even when you're as talented as the Penguins, when your potential worst player is your goalie, that's bad. He only faced 22 shots last game and he let two of those through. I know I'm probably talking out of my ass here, but that concerns me.
  4. The other thing that concerns me is that we're playing the Flyers. The good news is that everyone that thinks we tanked intentionally at the end of the season to play the Senators can now drink a tall, frosty glass of STFU because we ended up playing Philly anyway. The bad news is that we have to play the Flyers. This is seriously like playing the hated Ravens (I actually saw an article that referred to the Flyers as "the hated Flyers" earlier today) in the AFC Championship game. Except the Flyers have had way more success against the Penguins in the post season than the hated Ravens have against the Steelers. And the Flyers are usually the more physical team. And they're a bunch of thugs. I have a feeling that they're going to put a hit out on Crosby. For the record, I am not paranoid about this. When I was in Canada, one of the locals mentioned that Philly appeared to be sending scrubs out onto the ice with intent to injure Crosby. This dude was 1) from Canada, so he's an expert, 2) a Senators fan during the Pittsburgh-Ottawa series, so he had every reason to think Crosby was getting whatever he deserved and 3) he volunteered this information -- I didn't have to prompt him with, "Do you think Philly was trying to slice off Sid's testicles in the last game of the season?" If we pulled players or looked like we were just trying to get the hell out of there with everyone healthy, well, that's really what we were trying to do. And we succeeded.
  5. Hockey is definitely the red-headed step-child of all sports as far as the media is concerned. As of yesterday at about 5 p.m., the match-ups for the Eastern Conference Finals were set. There still isn't any, "Here's what to expect in the Conference Finals," coverage almost 24 hours later. Now, before you say, "Oh, but the first game is a week away and it hasn't been that long since the game yesterday," bear in mind that the NFL playoff coverage would've been posted for the next game by now. Once the pairings were finalized, the content would've been up by noon today. At the latest. There isn't even a Flyers/Penguins page on ESPN's site and they usually have shit like that up within 15 minutes of the match-up being decided. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The content that they put up there ( is always high quality and Scott Burnside is a hell of a writer and analyst. But, if they're serious about hockey and about drawing people to their site, they need to throw out more content and they need to throw it out earlier. Sure, that makes my insights less timely and less valuable, but what's lost in the grand scheme of things? If hockey's going to come back in this country, it's not going to be because of the efforts of Steelers N At. It's going to be because TV and the major news Web sites are pushing content, making things accessible, and explaining everything to everyone so that they can understand it.
All that having been said, here's my FEARLESS prediction for the Pens/Flyers series...

I think we're way more talented, way more balanced, and The Flower is still a very good goalie. If he's our weakest link, then I like where we're at.

However, where we're at is a series against the Philadelphia Flyers. I think you throw out talent, records, how these teams got here, and you just focus on who is angrier and who wants it more. I think that's still the Penguins, but it's gonna be rough. Really, really rough.

Penguins in 6.

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