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Monday, March 2, 2009

Pens Whip Stars, Win 3rd Straight

BallHype: hype it up!

Just typing the headline on this post makes me smile. The Penguins appear to have new life under interim head coach Dan Bylsma. Since he took over for Michel Therrin, the Pens are 5-1-1 and now have a three-game winning streak.

I haven't been able to use the words "win" and "streak" in the same sentence in a positive light in a long time.

This is the first time since the Penguins had a six-game win streak snapped in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Wild way back on Nov. 18, 2008. That's a long time to go without making a statement if you ask me.

This was a game the Pens absolutely should have dominated and they did. The Stars were without Steve Ott, Brenden Morrow, Brad Richards and they gave Marty Turco the day off after starting 32 consecutive games.

The Pens wasted no time in getting on the board as Jordan Staal pounded home a rebound on a shot by Evgeni Malkin at 4:08 of the first period. These two need to play together more often. This goal was created off the rush during a line change, but it worked.

Keep that in mind Bylsma for when Sidney Crosby comes back from his groin injury.

With just over three minutes to play in the opening frame, Malkin led the rush into the Stars' end and found Kris Letang streaking all alone on the nearside. Letang walked in clean and deked right around Tobias Stephan to put the Pens up 2-0.

How Letang was left that wide open and why Malkin had three defenders pull toward him is beyond me. Maybe Josh here at BTTP can give some further explanation in the form of a Trevor Daley Quotient.

Video Highlights Courtesy Of

The Pens outshot the Stars 9-5 in the first, but completely controlled the play and pace. This new aggressive system seems to be working wonders and the players appear to be having fun playing in it.

The second period was a little different, but still yielded two Penguin goals by Miroslav Satan and Malkin on only four shots as a team

Satan picked off an outlet pass and walked around Stephan to put the road team up 3-0 at 8:18 of the period.

Just over four minutes later, Malkin was the recipient of a fortunate bounce off the boards on an attempted Dallas clearing attempt on the penalty kill. Malkin moved into the slot and buried it for his 29th goal of the season and third point of the game.

The three-point night gives Malkin 92 on the season and a ten point lead over Alex Ovechkin. Crosby is third with 79.

One of the big difference with this game as opposed to other games in recent history, is that the Pens didn't blow a multi-goal lead. Against Chicago on Friday they blew a two-goal lead not once, but twice. More on that later in this post.

Their gap control was much better in this game too. They didn't allow the Stars much time or space to get set up once they gained the zone. This was very much a dominant performance.

In the third period, the one and only Hal Gill took a brutal interference penalty when the puck was not even close to him. Marc-Andre Fleury can thank him for killing his shutout, because Chris Connor fed Loui Eriksson in the slot from behind the net and he made no mistake to cut the lead to 4-1.

Rob Scuderi forced Connor behind the net and Mark Eaton moved over to attempt to block the pass, but left Ericksson wide open as a result. I normally don't assign points to people who take penalties, but in this case I will be because it was a stupid penalty that directly led to a goal. Gill gets .75 and Eaton gets .25 for not blocking the pass and allowing his man to score.

Now, as for the game Friday against Chicago that the Pens won 5-4 in OT thanks to a Malkin bomb on the powerplay. Here's the four goals against:

Goal #1 - Jonathan Toews tips it past Fleury on a blast by Cam Barker.

Hawks win the draw clean back to Barker who unloads. Sergei Gonchar was parked in front of Fleury and allowed Toews to get body position and tip it past Fleury.

Points assigned: Staal .5 for losing the draw clean, .5 for Gonchar for letting his man get body position for the tip.

Video Highlights From

Goal #2 - Toews banks it in off Fleury's skate on the powerplay

Pretty simple one to analyze here. Patrick Kane takes the puck along the half boards and fires it down low to Toews who attempts a pass across the crease to the wide-open man on the back door. However, Toews gets a little lucky in that he fanned on the pass and the puck goes off Fleury's skate and in. Fleury takes the fall on this goal, but his movement was correct in trying to get over to the other post.

Points assigned - Gill and Scuderi were both in the vicinity of the puck and were unable to knock it away from Toews. Both receive .25. Fleury gets the other .5 for having it go in off him in that manner.

Goal #3 - Toews Hat Trick Goal

Fleury makes a solid save and the rebound is collected by the Hawks. The puck works its way back to the point where Barker tees up. Max Talbot is a little far from Barker, but still in the shooting lane. This forces Barker to make a slap pass to the back post to Toews who gets his hat trick goal. This was really his fourth goal of the game, but he had one called back in the second period for deflecting it with a high stick.

Points assigned - Gill 1.0 for two reasons. One, the man he was covering should have been Scuderi's man and would have been had Gill not parked himself two feet from Fleury. The man he was trying to cover had clear body position on him rendering Gill useless.

Reason number two, Toews goes unchecked with a clear shot to the empty net behind Fleury. Gill didn't even know Toews was there judging by his lack of reaction to the pass.

Goal #4 - Dave Bolland tips in a pass from Andrew Ladd on the back post

Again on the powerplay, but this time off the rush. Ladd throws the puck toward the net and somehow finds Bolland streaking to the cage with an empty net staring him in the face. Ruslan Fedotenko was coasting into the zone and realized his error in not heading to the open man (Bolland) way too late.

Points assigned - Fedotenko 1.0 for not hustling back on the 3-on-2 against to even up the rush and prevent his man from shooting the puck.

Updated Hal Gill Quotient Standings:

Hal Gill - 4.34 - 8 GP
Marc-Andre Fleury - 4.08 - 9 GP
Ryan Whitney - 3.5 - 6 GP - TRADED
Kris Letang - 2.84 - 6 Games Played
Mark Eaton - 2.33 - 9 GP
Sergei Gonchar - 2.25 - 8 GP
Jordan Staal - 2.25 - 9 GP
Brooks Orpik - 1.75 - 9 GP
Rob Scuderi - 1.50 - 9 GP
Matt Cooke - 1.0 - 9 GP
Ruslan Fedotenko - 1.0 9GP
Pascal Dupuis - .83 - 9 GP
Referee Paul Devorski - 0.5 - 1 Game Reffed
Bill Thomas - .33 - 5 GP

Up next for the Pens on this road trip are the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Pens stormed back from 3-0 down against the Lightning the last time these two met. Let's hope the Pens don't need another furious third period to knock off one of the worst teams in the league.

It will also be the last game before the trade deadline on Wednesday. Rest assured, I'll be watching to see who's not in the lineup and try to find out why.

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