Like day and night, the change in the Pens performance against the Avs last night was good and bad. But it seems again that a few small lapses led to the wheels falling off the bus. Hold steady Pens fans! The ship is rocking, but we have the players who can steady it and get it going in the right direction.
It was nice to see the Pens come out and play well in a very hostile environment at the Pepsi Center last night in the first period, but that was quickly changed after some costly penalties and the Avs turning up the heat. It was also nice to see that MT stuck with the same lines for most of the game, but the Pens ultimately got muscled out of 2 points by the Avs. The Pens will need to lick their wounds quickly as they face the Islanders on Saturday night in Long Island, for their first of eight match-ups this season.
Last season the Islanders and Pens split the season series 4-4 and the Pens had only one victory in Long Island, in overtime. The Pens are currently one point ahead of the Isles in the standings. It will be a very emotional night as A.A. returns behind the Isles bench to coach his 1,500th game. (Kudos to Ted Nolan and the Islanders Front Office for making this happen! It is a great tribute to an often overlooked part of the Islanders and NHL history.) I'm sure that the usual Penguins followers in Long Island will be present, but the Isles crowd will really be into this game on Saturday. It will be a huge challenge for the Pens after a tough loss in Colorado.
I think the Pens need to continue to mix-up the looks on the P.P. like they did in Colorado and Minnesota, with someone flashing to the high slot to get good quality shots on net. I also think that the Pens need to move away from the puck cycling on the outside, and get a big "tree" in front of the net like Malone, Roberts or even Ruutu with his good hands, and take some shots and crash the net. I just wish they would come up with a good break-out play, on a routine basis, that helps them to enter the offensive zone with more ease and less turn-overs.
The next 9 games are all against Atlantic Division teams. With 18 possible points on the table, I firmly believe that the next 2 1/2 weeks are one of the most important stetches this season. Besides the final 11 games of the season, 10 of which are also against Atlantic Division teams. If the Pens can manage to get at least 12 of these 18 points from Atlantic Division tems, and stay healthy, they will be in good shape. Otherwise, their path for this season may be a bit off track, and some big changes will be needed to get back on course.
I hope that Flower will be back in net on Saturday, as he has had enough time to get his thoughts together, and it is time for him to "step-up" and get the job done. Hopefully Whitney will be back within a few games and the injury is not too bad. The PP looked a little lost without him last night.
Time to circle the wagons boys, it's going to be a rough ride!