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Monday, February 16, 2009

Inexcusable Performance In Toronto

I'm going to preface this by saying, this post will not be pretty. The gloves are coming off and I won't regret one single thing I post here tonight.

I just got back from my trip to Toronto to see the Pens take on the Leafs in what should have been a very win-able game. The Leafs are behind us in the standings and haven't looked good of late, whereas we had won three out of four.

This was absolutely pathetic to watch. The lack of effort and heart is sickening and disgusting. If you don't want to be on the ice and give everything you have for every second you're on that ice, get off. There's 100 other guys out there who would give anything to be where you are. Stop being selfish and play the game. What went on in Toronto last night was nothing short of disgraceful.

Here's how it went down:

Pens came out absolutely flying to start the game. Matt Cooke scored from his knees right off the bat to put the Pens up 1-0. Minutes later Bill Thomas streaks down the nearside boards and rips one short-side on Vesa Toskala to give the Pens a 2-0 lead. The goal was shorthanded and the ACC was none too impressed with Toskala, to say the least.

Pens lead 2-0 after 1, but things seemed very different in both attitude and play style after Thomas' goal. It was almost as if a certain cockiness took over where they thought this was going to be a blowout win and they stopped caring.

The Leafs came out buzzing in the second period and Marc-Andre Fleury was up to the task for the first half of the frame. Finally the Leafs get a fortunate bounce off Nik Antropov in front and the score is now 2-1.

Here's what I saw from my seats just off to the side of the Pens bench after the goal. Depression. It was like someone told them that their mothers all died and their wives were all leaving them at the same time. It was absolutely incredible. Pens hold on to the one-goal lead after two periods.

(Picture taken from our seats.)

Before the third my buddy Cheech says, "These are the types of games we lose. Watch, we'll come out flat in the 3rd." I should mention he's a Leafs fan.

I respond, "Trust me, we're losing this game. This team lacks the killer instinct. We had the chance to put this game away in the first period and they let you up off the floor. You'll outshoot us by double digits in the third and win 4-2. I have no doubts in my mind."

The sad part in all this is that I was just about dead on. The Pens came out and gave up the equalizer 55 seconds into the period. I'd give the breakdowns of each goal, but at this point I'm too livid to fully explain each goal so I'll keep it short. I kept track of whose fault everything was and have updated the standings as you'll see at the bottom of this post. SPOLIER ALERT: There's a new leader!

Jason Blake beat Mark Eaton to the net off the draw to the right of Fleury and slams home a rebound is what happens. Enough said.

Then, just 19 seconds later Blake strikes again. Kris Letang sent a weak pass around the back of the net that barely reached Pascal Dupuis who failed to handle it cleanly. Eaton whiffs on Blake again and he buries it behind Fleury to put the Leafs up 3-2.

Video Highlights Courtesy Of

That's when I lost all respect for Michel Therrien. Thanks for getting us to the Cup Finals last season, but may you never have anything to do with this team ever again. Why was there no timeout called? Why were you not red in the face from screaming at your players to get them to wake up and start caring about what was going on? Why have you not gotten anything out of your players since November?

I want answers and at least he was finally fired today. Yes, finally.

Anyway back to the game.

Six minutes after Blake's go-ahead goal, the Leafs dump it into the corner to the right of Fleury. Letang and Fleury have a communication problem, Letang whiffs on the puck forcing Fleury to come out and attempt to play it. Two Leafs converge on him and steal it leaving John Mitchell wide open for a tap in goal. 4-2 at this point and I'm looking like a genius, but hating every second of it.

Now with 13 minutes to go in the game, we're only down 2. The Pens have utterly given up. Everyone except for Fleury who made quite possibly the save of the season on Blake going for the hat trick. Yet again, the Pens are all standing around watching the play and they allow a backdoor pass to Blake, who fires a one-timer right into the outstretched glove of Fleury. The spotlight came on, 90% of the ACC rose and started cheering only to see the ref vehemently waving it off.

I was stunned and got the feeling that this might be the spark the team needed to wake up and get going. Your goalie just made a save he wasn't supposed to. He's still trying and giving it everything he's possibly got. Draw on that, feed off that and go get those poor coverage goals back. There's still plenty of time left to do this. Again, I was horribly mistaken.

Shortly after the save, the Pens go on the powerplay. They get a couple decent chances, but fail to turn on the red light. Might as well have called the game right then and there. Not one skater on the team showed any life after this. Fleury looked as if he'd been exiled to the land of misfit goaltenders like Partick Roy in Montreal before demanding a trade.

Soon after the powerplay ends, Sergei Gonchar tries to create something. Did I mention this was his first game back after missing the entire season? No? Well it was and he looked pretty good.

Gonchar slides into the slot looking for a pass from the corner from Sidney Crosby. Sid attempts the pass, but it gets picked off and the Leafs come down on Fleury on a 3-on-2 with Gonchar trapped deep. After some tic tac toe passing, Alexei Ponikarovsky ends up with the puck on the backdoor (Yes, again on the backdoor. Noticing a theme here?) and jams home his own rebound on a pretty nice initial save by Fleury. 5-2 Leafs.

Just over two minutes later, the Leafs come back into the zone. Matt Stajan winds up from the top of the circles and uncorks a laser off Fleury, off the pipe and in. Fleury had no chance on this at all. Why? Ryan Whitney moved over to try and block the shot and set up a screen that Hal Gill would be envious of. Not taking anything away from Stajan as the shot was an absolute missile, but come on Whitney. Give your goalie a chance to make a save for crying out loud.

After the goal, I saw Fleury do something I've never seen him do before. Normally whenever he gives up a goal he just skates to the corner cursing under his breath. This time, he was legitimately pissed off. He hammered the goal post and skated off to the corner. I would be willing to bet he spoke up in the locker-room after the game and if he did, good for him. Someone has to.

I'm actually hoarse today from yelling at the team to skate. There was one point during a television timeout that Whitney skated right in front of us. I unloaded on him from 16 rows up. Half of the section I was in turned around looking at my and my tomato red face hammering away on him. One Pens fan in the next section over looked over at me and gave me an approving head nod after my tirade.

All five goals in the third had no business being in the net. The Leafs didn't win this game. The Pens stopped playing and essentially let the Leafs win.

The performance was nothing shy of garbage with the exception of Fleury. It was probably the best performance I've seen out of a goalie who gave up six goals. He was locked in from the opening draw and his team failed him in every aspect of the game.

The forwards collapsed down low after seeing the defense give up backdoor passes with a consistency only seen in video games. As a result, the point-men were wide open to shoot at will. All five Pens stood around and watched the Leafs move the puck without a care in the world.

Even on the lone powerplay in the third period, the Pens moved the puck well, but their feet were firmly planted making it an easy kill for the Leafs.

The Pens showed up for 15 minutes last night and looked great in those 15 minutes. Then they just sat back and let the Leafs catch them and hand them their lunch.

Back in the hotel room we watched the replay of the game just so I could take better notes and have a better perspective to write this.

Here's two quotes from Jim Hughson during the broadcast in the third period.

"The Penguins have stopped moving."

"An awful loss for Pittsburgh."

I was saying these things during the game and then to hear the announcers saying it was vindication, only not in a good way.

The highlight of the evening was when a Leafs fan stood up in our section to yell at a young kid who kept screaming "Leafs suck" incessantly, even when clearly the Pens were the team hogging all the suck.

It was either that or when my soon-to-be Missus received a rose from the Leafs mascot Carlton. Fun times.

Thank God the city of Toronto is beautiful and a wonderful place to visit, so the trip wasn't a total loss. All in all it was a good trip, but as far as the Penguins go, they cannot be losing to teams like this in this fashion. If you show up and try and still lose, that I can live with. It's still frustrating, but at least the effort was there and effort gets rewarded in the end.

This was absolutely garbage and Therrien got what was coming to him. Goodbye and good riddance.

Updated Hal Gill Quotient

Ryan Whitney - 2.0
Hal Gill - 1.34
Kris Letang - 1.34
Mark Eaton - 1.33
Sergei Gonchar - 1.0
Marc-Andre Fleury - .83
Jordan Staal - .5
Bill Thomas - .33
Pascal Dupuis - .33

1 comment:

rmurph04 said...

Yikes! Tough loss after early 2-0 lead.