Yesterday the seasons seemed to change here in Pittsburgh straight from summer to winter, and this morning around Pittsburgh we saw our first snow on the ground. So with this change it also should be said that the Penguins showed a new face last night in defeating the Isles.
As I wrote yesterday, I felt that the game versus the Isles would show a different Penguins team, and I was right. It all started with warm-ups. I like to try and judge how the team will play by how they act and play during warm-ups. Last night, everyone seemed a little tense, not as many smiles from the players to fans, but still the young group showed they were having fun. Max was tossing pucks over the glass to fans as usual and MAF was tapping his stick on the glass at fans who were trying to get his attention. Then the most telling point of warm-ups that I use towards my final assessment of how the team will play. They like to have a little "forwards" vs. the goalie with about 1:20 left in the warm-up. Everyone gathers around the crease and then Mr. Gonchar will bring a puck in from the blue-line that Ryan Malone has sent to him from the corner. Then, they all try to poke it in the net via a shot, tip, rebound or anyway possible. My assessment is that when MAF or Dany can keep the puck alive and out of the net for a while or make some nice saves, then the team will have a good game. Well, MAF kept it out for a little bit and made some good stops. Then, for the first time in a long while, the team stayed on the ice until the buzzer sounded. They were hungry for a win and they got it.
Another pre-game thing, not sure if it is just me, but when I played goal, I always stayed on the ice until all of the other team had gone into the locker room. Some guys have a ritual, which I also fell into, where they try to get a puck in the opponents net during warm-ups. So I, as a very superstitious goalie, always made sure that none of the other players shot a puck in our net or else I felt that it was bad luck. Until last night, almost all of the Pens always seemed to be in the locker room towards the end of warm-ups, and inevitably, someone from the other team would shot a puck in our net, as they had to skate past it to get to their locker room. Last night, no one from the Isles did that, so my superstitious side came out again last night.
Last night MT made some significant changes to the line-up, by sitting Armstrong, Recchi, and Sydor. Did this have a direct affect on the outcome last night? Well, maybe a little by adding some "energy" from Kennedy and Letang, but last night the Pens played a full 60 minutes. That is what got them 2 points.
Letang, IMO, played a great game and as everyone has been saying, looked like he is making a mark to claim a permanent roster spot. He played solid defensively, had some nice shots, and was not afraid to take the body. Great job Kris! Welcome back to Pittsburgh, hopefully for good this time!
So not to forget anyone from last night, Crosby looked great as usual, with a serious "eye of the tiger" look. Malkin was flying, and George got on the score sheet with his first goal as a Penguin! He has been working real hard and deserved that goal! Way to go George! I also thought that Brooks had a really strong game and has been flying under the radar. He has really stepped up over the past two years and has become a great defensive asset.
Next up is the red hot Rangers on Saturday night at the Igloo. Hopefully the Pens will be able to carry the momentum from Thursday nights win and jump back into the division race. I imagine that MT will probably keep the same roster as Thursday, as he does not seem to change the line-up the way that he likes to change the line combos. If the Pens come out with the same intensity as they did against the Isles, then the Rangers are going to be in trouble. The Pens have only scored more than 3 goals in 6 or 7 of their 18 games so far, so they are due for a breakout night. And last year when they had that same kind of "breakout", Crosby took the scoring lead and the Team and Crosby never looked back. I have a feeling the same could happen on Saturday. Be prepared for a high scoring game.
Also, congrats to "Doc" Paul Coffey for your induction into the Pens HOF. As always, you were a class act with your speech, and it was great to see the highlights of some of your great goals from the 5 years you were in the "Burgh". As one sign at Mellon Arena read last night, "Lace em up Doc!", and thanks for all the great memories!