RECAP 50: Rode The Lightning

Pens looked like dogmeat against the hapless Devils the two days ago, so playing the far-and-away best team in the league was sure to be an adventure. On the other bench, Tampa was coming back from their bye (by? buy? How did this become a thing?) week so were bound to be a little rusty.

The biggest news of the day was that Brassard was scratched injured and that Teddy Blueger was going to get his first taste of the NHL. Sully even slotted him in at Center. Can we all just admit that Sheahan is really just a winger now?

One other cool note – Kendall Coyne, from the US Women’s National Team, joined the broadcast as an analyst. She just did a 14 second lap at the All Star game a couple days ago in a demonstration that, while ickly sexist, was also a good way to get the good word about women’s hockey out there to a broader audience. Kudos to NBC for doing this. Now if only Pierre could keep his stupid face shut and let her talk…

Full disclosure: Your fearless writer was NOT watching the first couple periods of the game. He was busy freezing his ass off in literally the coldest place on the gawdammed planet yesterday. No, this isn’t Rad writing from self-imposed exile in Antarctica – he was actually warmer down there at a balmy -7. Shit, the top of Mt. Everest was warmer than my nuts last night in downtown Chicago. And you people wonder why I drink…

Anyway, the Pens did come out flying. Sully likely laid dahn the fire and brimstone and the boys were also putting forth their most valiant effort for their scratched injured bestest buddy of a teammate, Frenchy Brazzers.

Three and a half minutes in, winger Sheahan cleaned up what was a nice play by winger Wilson:

Shehan (7) from Wilson (4), Letang (30)

Balanced scoring is the hallmark of a good team, and when the Penguins are ‘on’, they get it from all four lines. Really encouraging to see the 4th line be the ones to light the lamp first. Analysis from Coyne: “All four Lightning players were facing the wrong way, rebound pops out, goal.” Pierre: “Sheahan played pee-wee in Moose Nuts, Canada.” Edzo: “Great coverage by Tampa, just an unlucky bounce.” Guess which two ‘analysts’ actually get paid?

About four minutes later, the second line reminded us that they’re pretty good too.

Kessel (21) from Rust (12), Malkin (40)

Does Rust do anything other than drive the net? The dude is just fearless. And great awareness by Kessel to follow that one home.

The goal song was barely fading from the speakers when it was the first line’s turn…

Crosby (22) from Simon (14)

Everything about this play was great. Guentzel did his best Sid impression, hounding Point down low into making a hasty decision with the puck. He didn’t get an assist for this one, but might as well have. And then Simon makes a great read to step into the path of the poor pass caused by Guentzel’s pressure. All Sid had to do was recognize what was going on, which, if you’re just joining us here on www.pens.hockey, is something he is fairly good at. All the Tampon players had to do was not fuck up so completely, but that was obviously pretty unlikely at this point.

I didn’t see the first and most of the second, but I WAS eating the best cheeseburger in Chicago with chattering teeth, so there’s that. But I read that the Pens really weren’t dominating the game, not even a little. They went 16:41 without a shot at one point and failed miserably on a 5 on 3. Yet they were 3 for 5 on SHOTS in the period. That’s even more bananas the Pens of the Lemieux era. Quality stuff. Stats after one:

In between periods, NBC made Kendall Coyne do a video report with Dumo. “Awwwww…. that’s just adorable,” cooed the entirely not-sessist NBC broadcasting team. Glad I missed that one…

Second period was apparently more of the same. At this point, I was firmly ensconced in the hotel bar that I likely won’t be escaping this week because it’s STILL FUCKING -20 DEGREES IN HOTHCAGO, and had NO CLUE the game was on NBC. Don’t you judge me – I was COLD, dammit. Thankfully the Pens kept on playing, and Mr. In The Norris Conversation decided it was time to make some history of his own:

Letang (12) from Kessel (34), Malkin (41)

From the highlights, Letang was dangerous all game, with some stellar opportunities in the first and earlier in the second, so it was just a matter of time. What a great release on his 108th goal, tying him with Paul Coffey for most by a Penguins defenseman. Also has three more goals than last year (shooting at a stellar 8.2%), and his most since his 16 goal campaign in Cup winning 15-16. When he finished 4th in Norris voting. To say that Letang is having a fantastic season would be an understatement. Fun note: as of this writing, he’s a career +58, which doesn’t mean a damn thing but is still fun so shut your pie hole.

More stuff happened while I sat BS-ing with my buddy. But quick shout-out here to Mrs. Ung who kept me going with stellar updates like ‘They r out for blood. Letang has taken two bad hits already’ and ‘They really want to hurt us. Killorn sucks.’ Atta girl! Stats after two:

At the end of the 2nd period, my brain kicked in and I asked Josh at the bar to put the game on one of the TVs, but not until after he made me their signature Old Fashioned formulated with 100 proof Old Forrester bourbon that had been twice infused with orange peel, real vanilla bean and a host of other wonderful spices and holy shit was it good. The first one was great… the fourth was also great, if maybe not a great idea…

So the Bolts of Tampon Bay had their jimmies officially rustled. So much so that Pfffffftheven Pfffffthamkos goaded Geno into a ‘fight’. Which was pretty funny, because once he realized he had literally poked the Russian Bear, he went down faster than a prom dress. Other idiots did other stupid things, generally trying to extract their pound of flesh for the Pens daring to stand up to ‘the best team in the league’. Nothing really came from it aside from me hootin’ and hollerin’ with Josh and my buddy and then talking about how stupid fighting is. Shut up, Bren.

Bummer was that the Pens couldn’t keep the shutout going for Murray, as TJ Hooker potted one (on a really wicked shot, tbh) and Pffffffteven got a power play marker in garbage time. But it was all over by the crying and the Pens got the…

DEUCE

Thoughts:

  • WTF is up with this team? 1-7-1 against garbage teams, and… too tired to look it up, but REALLY GOOD against the best teams. Certainly encouraging for the playoffs, but has to make Sully NUTS
  • Malkin is starting to look like the Russian Bear we know and love. Look out, last 32 games…
  • Letang is a god right now
  • The Phil! just quietly, continuously, dominating
  • What a cringe-fest with the broadcast team and Kendall Coyne – they really need to keep women away from Pierre

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