Am I really sitting here writing about a five-game winning streak for the Penguins?
If the Penguins do go on to make the playoffs, they will be the best prepared team in the conference. Why? They have been playing playoff type hockey since the middle of February. They are approaching every game with a life or death mentality and it's paying off.
Tonights 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers (the 6-seed in the Eastern Conference), was huge. The Rangers also won again tonight, so now there is a three-way tie for the 6-seed.
The Penguins are now one point out of 5th and four points out of fourth thanks to the Flames beating up on the Flyers tonight.
Dan Bylsma is making a serious push to drop the "interim" off his title if you ask me. The team is now 7-1-1 since he took over. Let's also remember that the Pens have not been stellar on the road this season, and they now have won four straight on this five-game road trip. The trip concludes Sunday in Washington.
Some observations tonight:
- The top line of Bill Guerin - Sidney Crosby - Chris Kunitz will be a force. Their timing is just a hair off right now, but that's to be expected. Give them a couple games and practices and things will start to flow much better. A sign of things to come would be Crosby's goal tonight. Guerin hit him in stride and Sid does the rest by splitting the flat-footed defense.
- Some people will claim that the Pens got all the breaks in this game. I could see that to some degree. I don't have the exact number of posts the Panthers hit tonight, but needless to say if a couple of those go in, who knows how the game turns out.
Video Highlights Courtesy Of NHL.com
- Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant when he needed to be. The lone goal against was kind of flukey. More on that later.
- Tyler Kennedy needs to shoot the puck more. I was unaware that he had as big a cannon as he does. Watch the highlights provided here to see the bomb he dropped on Tomas Vokoun in the third period. His second goal on the one-timer tap-in from Evgeni Malkin was just plain pretty.
- I'm very excited to see Sergei Gonchar quarterbacking the power play with Malkin, Crosby, Petr Sykora and Guerin camping out in front of the net. Guerin might want to invest in a full cage for his helmet though. I love Gonchar's shoot at will mindset, but his accuracy isn't exactly perfect.
- The Panthers' color guy (Denis Potvin I believe) needs an education. Kris Letang got drilled from behind in the second period and Cory Stillman received a penalty for charging. Keep in mind, the hit was FROM BEHIND. Is it a charging call? Debatable, but if you look up penalties in the rule book, you'll see an infraction for "HITTING FROM BEHIND!"
Hockey Penalties: Hitting From Behind -- powered by eHow.com
He redeemed himself later by saying he hated the Penguins powder blue third jerseys. I concur. I don't support this team any less because of the ugly third jerseys, but you won't catch me wearing one.
- Hal Gill was actually effective tonight. At various points in the game he actually dropped to the ice to block a shot and succeeded. At another point the Panthers' announcer claimed Gill hit someone in the corner. I still need video proof, but I like the effort. There was a play in the third period though, where he dropped to a knee and his man spun right around him and drilled the post. To quote Meatloaf "two outta three ain't bad."
Speaking of Hal Gill, it's time to update the Hal Gill Quotient after tonight's game. It's normally a good day when I only have to break down one goal.
Goal #1 - Radek Dvorak fires puck off the bottom of the post, puck flutters into the air off Fleury and barely drops in over the line.
The Panthers dump the puck into the zone and Fleury comes out to play it and is forced to throw it to the near corner. Brooks Orpik is a coasting back into the zone and gets beat to the puck. Crosby chases his man around the net who feeds Dvorak who gets the fortunate bounce.
Points assigned - Orpik gets 0.5 for not hustling back to the puck. Letang gets 0.5 for letting Dvorak get complete body position on him and free to take the shot.
Updated Hal Gill Quotient Standings:
Hal Gill - 4.34 - 10 GP
Marc-Andre Fleury - 4.08 - 11 GP
Ryan Whitney - 3.5 - 6 GP - TRADED
Kris Letang - 3.34 - 8 GP
Sergei Gonchar - 2.75 - 9 GP
Brooks Orpik - 2.75 - 11 GP
Mark Eaton - 2.33 - 11 GP
Jordan Staal - 2.25 - 11 GP
Rob Scuderi - 1.50 - 11 GP
Matt Cooke - 1.0 - 11 GP
Ruslan Fedotenko - 1.0 11 GP
Pascal Dupuis - .83 - 11 GP
Referee Paul Devorski - 0.5 - 1 Game Reffed
Bill Thomas - .33 - 5 GP - WAIVED