Is this really happening? The Penguins really are on a seven-game winning streak after a 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers tonight?
This isn't a joke?
Part of me feels like I'm in a coma and the abnormal delusional part of my brain is creating a false reality, in which the Penguins mysteriously show their true colors as a dominant team in the NHL, after treading along for most of the season in utter mediocrity.
If this really is true, where was this team all season?!
Granted the Pens didn't have the help that Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin have provided since coming over, but come on. The addition of those two guys is the sole reason this team woke up?
The dramatic change in play tells me that Michel Therrien lost this team months ago and that Ray Shero wasted too much time in replacing him.
The Penguins are now 9-1-1 since Dan Bylsma took over. Yeah, 9-1-1. Pretty nuts isn't it? It's like when the Pens called up a kid by the name of Patrick Lalime to lead them down the stretch and then into the playoffs. Hopefully history doesn't repeat itself with Bylsma compared to Lalime, who became about as useful as an orange pylon in the cage.
The Penguins absolutely dominated the majority of this game and were rewarded for their efforts. They outshot the Panthers 50-21 for the game. Tomas Vokoun played a phenomenal game between the pipes, but was no match for Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin in the shootout. Seriously, look at the move Geno pulled on Vokoun to win the game. Vokoun had no idea what hit him.
Video Highlights Courtesy Of NHL.com - Watch to see Hal Gill actually hit someone!
The game wasn't a cakewalk though. The Pens had a 1-0 lead after the first period and were dictating the pace of the game. Matt Cooke and Brooks Orpik were hitting anything that moved like this was a playoff game.
The second period saw the Panthers take back some control and thanks to some fortunate bounces and breaks, a 3-1 lead heading into the final frame.
The Therrien Pens would have packed it in and gotten down on themselves and lost this game by five. Thankfully, those days are long gone. The Bylsma Penguins are starting to believe in themselves once again and showed it again tonight.
They scored two goals in just over 3:30 of play to tie the game at 3-3 with over 14 minutes to play thanks to Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby. This quick rally put the Panthers on their heels and the Pens were just unable to bury another one in regulation or overtime.
Vokoun flat out robbed Staal shortly after Crosby tied the game. Staal was moving toward the backpost in the slot and fired a one-timer off a rebound to the gaping net, but Vokoun dove over out of nowhere to smother the puck and preserve his team's chances.
Quick note about Crosby's goal. Guerin notched career assist #400 on the play. This makes two career milestones since coming to Pittsburgh. Welcome home Bill!
Malkin scored his 30th goal of the season on a nasty backhanded from just outside the crease with his back to Vokoun and a defenseman draped all over him. Rather than trying to make a move, Geno just rips the puck behind him without even looking. Vokoun looked around after the puck got by him searching for answers about how Malkin got that puck by him.
As for the Panthers, let's break down the three goals:
Goal #1 - Nick Boynton Wrister From The Point
Malkin tried chipping a puck up the boards from the corner, but got nothing on it. Keith Ballard held it in and passed it to the slot to David Booth who immediately passed it back to Boynton at the near side point.
Boynton let a wrist shot go through a screen masterfully set up by Brooks Orpik. Marc-Andre Fleury never saw the puck go over his right shoulder.
Points assigned: Malkin gets 0.5 for a bad pass up the boards, Orpik gets 0.5 for stepping in front of Fleury and not blocking the shot.
Goal #2 - Kamil Kreps Bangs Home Rebound
Boynton fires a low shot on Fleury and Kreps was in the right place at the right time with no one on him to hammer home the rebound past Fleury.
Points assigned: Mark Eaton takes the full 1.0 for being entirely out of position. Letang forced his man around the net, at which point Eaton should have slid over to cover Letang's position. Instead, Eaton followed his man out past the hash marks and never realized he blew the coverage until the red light was on.
Goal #3 - Ballard Deflects Home Rebound In Mid-Air Behind Fleury
The coverage in the defensive zone was pretty good except that no one picked up Ballard streaking to the backpost. Ville Peltonen threw a shot on net from a bad angle, but the resulting rebound went right to Ballard. Fleury made the right move in trying to deflect the puck to the boards, but just got unlucky with it.
Points assigned: Tyler Kennedy takes the full 1.0. Ballard was his man and he didn't do anything to prevent him from getting to the net.
Updated Hal Gill Quotient Standings:
Kris Letang - 4.84 - 10 GP
Hal Gill - 4.34 - 12 GP
Marc-Andre Fleury - 4.08 - 13 GP
Mark Eaton - 3.83 - 13 GP
Ryan Whitney - 3.5 - 6 GP - TRADED
Sergei Gonchar - 3.25 - 11 GP
Brooks Orpik - 3.25 - 13 GP
Jordan Staal - 2.25 - 13 GP
Rob Scuderi - 1.50 - 13 GP
Matt Cooke - 1.0 - 13 GP
Ruslan Fedotenko - 1.0 13 GP
Tyler Kennedy - 1.0 - 13 GP
Pascal Dupuis - .83 - 13 GP
Max Talbot - 0.5 - 13 GP
Evgeni Malkin - 0.5 - 13 GP
Referee Paul Devorski - 0.5 - 1 Game Reffed
Bill Thomas - .33 - 5 GP - WAIVED