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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Penguins Stun Sharks, Me 2-1 In Shootout

All I can say is, wow. I'm speechless. If you were not a hockey fan before tonight's Penguins/Sharks game, you should be one now.

The Sharks outshot the Penguins (shocker) 37-36 for the game, but both goaltenders were stellar between the pipes.

Personally, I'm shocked at two things about this game.

First, we put up 36 shots against arguably the best team in the league. Why? The Pens rank dead last in the league in shots on goal per game at 27.3. By comparison, the Sharks are 2nd with 34.5.

I'm not surprised we gave up 37 shots one bit, that's old news. The Pens rank 23rd in the league in shots allowed per game with 30.8.

Here's the shocking part about the Pens getting 36 shots tonight. The Sharks are tops in the league in shots allowed with 27.1 per game.

Now for how stagnant the Penguins offense has been, this was a major improvement and accomplishment.

Secondly.....WE WON!

I can't emphasize enough how ecstatic I am about knocking off the Sharks. Yes it was only a 2-1 victory in a shootout, but the Pens did the little things tonight and were rewarded in the end.

Bill Thomas was flying around the ice and got his first goal as a Penguin in the second period on a weird bounce.

Miroslav Satan chipped the puck up the far-side boards where Thomas picked it up in full stride. Thomas skated down below the right faceoff circle and appeared to attempt a pass to Jordan Staal on the back-post, but the puck deflected off Rob Blake and behind Brian Boucher much to the delight of the fans at the Igloo.

Something else struck me as different after the goal too. The reaction on the Penguins' bench was not the typical "everyone stands and high-fives in a business only fashion." This was like they each found out they were dating Giselle Bundchen. Everyone up and hoping around pounding the boards and such. Perhaps the boys are having fun again?

The Pens took the 1-0 lead to the 3rd period only to see it erased about halfway through the frame.

Let's break it down shall we?

Dan Boyle skates around the back of the net to the near side with Hal "Pylon" Gill in lukewarm pursuit. Boyle throws it out in front to the crowd of five players (three Sharks, two Pens.) The two Pens? Rob Scuderi and Evgeni Malkin.

After a couple whacks the puck squirts loose to Joe Pavelski who slammed the puck into the empty cage behind Marc-Andre Fleury to tie it up at 1-1.

Now, the question you should be asking is where was Gill? To answer that you need to watch the video to actually believe it.

Video Highlights Courtesy Of

Gill follows Boyle (a defenseman) out to the blue-line and seems shocked that Boyle got rid of the puck.

Petr Sykora is caught in a tough spot and slides down to mark Pavelski, who Gill should have had, but by the time Sykora processes Gill's gaffe, the red light is on.

Now what should have happened in this situation is this:

Gill is correct in forcing his man behind the net and wide, but he should have broken pursuit at the faceoff dot and let Sykora come down for support since it would be his man anyway to cover. Gill goes to the net and evens up the battle in front and maybe the puck doesn't find it's way in, but this is how goals are scored and hindsight is 20/20.

I will be keeping a running total of how many goals are caused by each player starting with the last game against Detroit. Half points will be assigned in the case of multiple player's breakdowns leading to a goal. More on the full rules to come tomorrow as I tweak the system.

Anyway, Fleury (8-5-1 with a .916 save percentage since Jan. 6.) saved the game, and potentially the season, when he stoned Mike Grier on a shorthanded breakaway with just under three minutes to play. Grier tried to put the puck through Fleury's pads, but the attempt was no match for the agile Fleury. As a result, Pens fans got treated to some free bonus hockey.

Sidney Crosby had a couple of glorious chances for legendary announcer Mike Lange to scream "Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis...has...just...left...the building," but Boucher was up to the task and sent the game to a shootout where it came down to the final round.

Sid the Kid moved in and snapped off a wrister to the 5-hole of Boucher giving the Pens a 1-0 lead in the shootout. The game then rested on the broad shoulders of Fleury who needed to stop Boyle to secure the victory.

Boyle started out near the nearside boards, dangled his way to the slot, went to the backhand on a pretty nice move. He had Fleury beat, but out of nowhere Fleury throws out the right pad and just gets a toe on the shot sending the Igloo into a frenzied state.

The Penguins bench erupts like they just won the Stanley Cup and Fleury pops up pumping his glove in victory. The reaction of the team is nothing I have seen since last season's playoff run. Everyone is up and jumping and hugging. This can only be a good sign.

Up next for the Pens are the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at the ACC. I'll be in attendance and am hoping that Sergei Gonchar suits up for the first time this season. The sooner he comes back the better and I wouldn't be surprised at all if that gives GM Ray Shero the greenlight to start pulling the trigger on trades.

All in all today was a good day to be a Penguins fan.

Penguins Notes 2/11

According to a report in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, defenseman Sergei Gonchar has been cleared to play by team doctors.

Gonchar will not be in the lineup tonight against the San Jose Sharks, but this is very good news.

With Gonchar back in the lineup, the Penguins' powerplay will get back its quarterback and not a moment too soon. Currently the Pens are 15th in the league with the man advantage, clicking at 19.3%.

Now, anyone who's seen Gonchar tee it up knows he can bring it. However, endboards around the league should be shuddering as his attempt to pick corners with that howitzer tend to go wide.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that he just lets it fly from the point. I'm just hoping this surgery might have straightened out his mechanics a little.

As for tonight's game against the Sharks, I'm not expecting much. Maybe the news of Gonchar being cleared to play will spark the team. Maybe it won't. Time will tell, but I would not be surprised to see the Sharks grab an early lead and hold onto it.

Last night's comeback win in Boston should have the Sharks buzzing, so be ready Marc-Andre Fleury.

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