Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fine Wine

That's what this is, people. I can't do every day recaps or I might dilute the quality of what goes on here...o.k., not really, just in the middle of another 70 hour week, but last night was a short and painful hockey night, so i figured I'd humor you all with a recap...
It was indeed a slow night, with only two games played, and a whopping six goals scored in those games. Our mighty Pens played again tonight, and were understandably sluggish, playing their fifth game in seven days. I cringed every time they made the reference, but this game for the Pens really was a lot like watching a Rocky movie, just hoping they could hold out against the Rangers' barrage of shots, knowing that if they could, they would be able to pull one more rabbit out of their hat.
Things started out rather slowly, with neither team registering a goal, or even taking a penalty throughout 18 shots worth of first period action. The second period was much busier, and the Rangers had their chances, including three power plays for their 5th ranked unit, but were still unable to capitalize against an obviously overmatched Penguins team. The Rangers outshot Pittsburgh 19-5 in the period, but also had two separate instances where they drew a penalty, then took a penalty before the ref blew the whistle to stop play and cancelled out a prospective power play.
It seemed as though the Pens had weathered the worst the Rangers could muster, but just 47 seconds into the third period, the Rangers nabbed a garbage goal and got the first lead of the game, 1-0. Their necessary desperate attitude had finally paid off, and the Pens were done. Or were they? The Rangers got a little lazy on the backcheck, and before you knew it, pucks wound up in unusual places:

Lundquist briefly forgets where he left the puck, leading to a tie game

After that, you could tell New York was in a huff. They had worked their butts off, outshooting the Pens 40-19 at that point, had skated circles around them for large chunks of the game, and had nothing to show for it but a 1-1 tie. It was certainly looking like the Pens would manage to sneak out of New York with a point that they may or may not have earned, when suddenly Jagr used the only move he has left, and by dumb luck discovered Rob Scuderi's skate in front of the net, for Scuderi's 6th Own Goal of the season. Final tally: Rangers 2, Pens 1.

"Wow, man, we didn't blow a game against the Pens! Someday we'll be a real team..."

I had several thoughts after this game. On the downside, it would have been nice to keep the newest streak going, and it was rough to see that streak ended by Jagr doing the same damn move he had been doing all night, with the only difference being that Scuderi, for whatever reason, wasn't in a position to receive the puck on his stick and clear the zone. Plus, having it happen when we were 34 seconds away from getting at least one point (and perhaps two, considering the timeout we would have gotten before OT) was extra frustrating. On the plus side, though, I can't be too mad, because the Pens are still 8-2-1 in March, only two points behind New Jersey with nine games left for both teams, and check out how they stack up against the rest of the league since January 12th - a rather arbitrary, yet useful date:

Pittsburgh 23 - 5 - 3
Ottawa 17 - 4 - 6
Jersey 18 - 7 - 4
Tampa Bay 17 - 9 - 2
Buffalo 15 - 9 - 4
Rangers 14 - 9 - 5
Islanders 13 - 8 - 7
Florida 14 - 8 - 4
Toronto 14 - 9 - 4
Atlanta 15 - 12 - 2
Boston 14 - 15 - 1
Carolina 12 - 11 - 4
Philadelphia 9 - 12 - 7
Montreal 11 - 17 - 1
Washington 7 - 16 - 6

Vancouver 20-4-5
Minnesota 20-5-4
Detroit 18-6-4
Nashville 18-9-3
Colorado 18-10-3
Dallas 17-6-4
San Jose 15-10-4
Calgary 14-10-6
Anaheim 13-9-5
St. Louis 15-8-5
Los Angeles 9-11-8
Columbus 12-15-2
Chicago 10-14-4
Edmonton 9-18-3
Phoenix 8-19-2

The Pens are the best team in the league over the last nine weeks, and one of only four teams in the Eastern Conference to win more than half their games over that span (the others being the other top four seeds). Suffice it to say, this team is way ahead of schedule on the growth and rebuilding plan. Can't wait for that 2011 All-Star game!

One other game, where the best team in the West right now, Vancouver, got yet another stellar performance from Roberto Luongo (and people actually doubted that trade) for a 2-1 win over Edmonton, extending Edmonton's streak to 0-10-1 and officially, officially eliminating them from playoff contention.

Another important and busy night tonight: Boston and FLorida head to Montreal and Philly, trying to keep climbing back into the hunt for the 8th seed; the Islanders and Devils head to Tampa and Toronto trying to keep their playoff trains from derailing; andOttawa takes a field trip to St. Louis, trying to find a team that won't make Emery look like a fool.

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