Three wins in a row...two in the Sunshine state where we've definitely taken our lumps over the years...and one against the Hurricanes - who also give us fits...has Penguin fans feeling a lot better than a week ago.
Without exaggeration...we needed those wins badly.
I wouldn't say all of the Penguins ills have been cured...but it is safe to say that they seem to be doing a better job of getting to their game and...finally (with the exception being last night)...scoring some goals.
The good news continues in that Kris Letang is expected back any day now.
Letang is a premiere puck moving defenseman and someone the Penguins have missed...without a doubt...during his recovery form a concussion. He's the kind of player that can change the game...from the defensive end of the ice...and the Penguins have really had no one, two or even three guys to fill that void in his absence.
I don't want to overstate Letang's worth...but the way he was playing before his injury...19 points in 22 games...+5...with strong play in his own zone...just wasn't and hasn't been matched by any other Penguin defender this year.
Letang's (hopeful) return Thursday will come at a very good time. The Pens will be in New York to play the Rangers and they will need his services if they wish to solve the Rangers and King Henrik.
The other bit of good news is that Evgeni Malkin is one fire...again.
During the losing streak, Malkin and his linemates (Neal and Kunitz) seemed to be doing everything they could to score...but obviously, the pucks just weren't going in.
Over the past 3 games, Malkin, Neal and Kunitz have taken everything up a notch...and the payoff has been goals and wins.
For the Penguins to continue to be successful...as unfair as it may be to say...these three have to continue to set the pace...and hope they will start to get some help from other players along he way.
Speaking of Malkin...I need to have a little RANT here I think...
I have read a number of artciles and listened to a couple of announcer-types that think Malkin did something wrong the other night when he avoided the attempted check of Tampa Bay forward Vincent Lecavalier.
ProHockeyTalk.com even went so far as to call what Malkin did a 'low hit'...and lumped the play into what Marchand did against Salo and what Folingo did against Phaneuf (say Foligno-Phaneuf 5 times fast...I dare you...) into the same 'hit' category.
NO...WHAT THE @#$! ?
C'mon...anybody that watches the Lecavalier/Malkin video will see that Geno did everything he could to 'slide under' the attempted check...as stated by the announcer in the video that ProHockeyTalk.com posted with the original article.
With the knowledge that I am 'feeding the monster'...I will post a link to the video here:
The follow-up where Malkin's 'low hit' is lumped in with Marchand and Foligno is here"
He didn't try to make ANY contact with Vinny...he tried...in what ended up being a dive out of the way...TO AVOID ALL CONTACT with Lecavalier.
Some announcer-types would have you think Malkin should have taken the hit. Some might even try to tell you that what Malkin did could have ended up injuring Lecavalier.
Hold on...I am laughing so hard that I might soil myself.
Tell me how...in today's NHL...where player injuries along the boards are common...any player (who is carrying the puck no less) should just take a hit from an on coming player if the puck carrying player can avoid the contact...and somehow still make a pass to a teammate?
He shouldn't...he should avoid the check if he can...PERIOD.
Just because Vinny ends up off balance...after his WHIFF...doesn't make it Malkin's responsibility to take a hit so Vinny doesn't get hurt.
Vinny could have tumbled his clumsy butt right into the wall for all I care. All that did was prove he was off balance when he TRIED to catch a piece of Malkin as he eluded Vinny.
I can't believe how bad it has gotten in the hockey media...STIRRING THE POT is the main objective so much of the time.
I understand everybody stirs...but isn't there some level of ridiculousness...some line that we simply will not cross?
It's IDIOTIC to compare what Malkin did to what Marchand and Foligno did and anybody that knows the game understands why...Malkin DIDN'T HIT ANYBODY or cause any type of contact. HE DID EVERYTHING HE COULD TO AVOID IT!!!
It's irresponsible to categorize it as such...because the casual reader...or someone who is learning about the game...might actually think it's not legal...or right...for a player to AVOID A CHECK!!!
I used to love the added attention hockey was getting in the media because I thought it was good for the game. I thought it would bring more people to the sport.
Unfortunately, we might now be reaching the point of 'coverage' where even when there isn't a valid story, we try and make a story valid by creating controversy.
Maybe hockey was better off being a 'niche' sport.
Thanks for reading!