Tonight's magic word is energy.
As usual, Leafs fans who can't get a sniff of tickets at Air Canada Centre invaded Mellon Arena. It wasn't quite as bad as last year, when it looked like a dimensional rift somehow exchanged entire sections of the Igloo and the ACC. Tonight was on par with the usual Philly crowds, except we're not getting the usual Philly crowds this year on account of they suck.
I think the players picked up on the dueling chants of "Lets Go Pens!" and "Go Leafs Go!", because the tempo started fast and never let up. Lots of back-and-forth rushes, everybody was finishing their checks with authority, and a great fight between Ben Ondrus and Jarkko Ruutu.
What did the Leafs in was penalties. The Pens went 3-for-10 on the power play, with goals by Erik Christensen, Sergei Gonchar, and Evgeni Malkin. Mats Sundin got the Leafs only goal, collecting a rebound on an odd-man break. Jordan Staal closed the scoring with some aggressive forechecking, stealing the puck from Bryan McCabe behind the net, curling to the front, and stuffing it behind ex-Penguin Jean-Sebastien Aubin.
Unfortunately, I had to wait until I got home to see most of the replays. At some point Wednesday night, one of the jumbotrons visible from my seat died, leaving 3/4 of the screen dark. Tonight, that screen was still mostly dead, and the other screen visible from my seat slowly died before our eyes. From the start, a small patch in one corner was dark. Then, in the 2nd period, a Toronto defenseman's attempt at clearing the zone with a high flip arced so high in the air, the puck hit the jumbotron! For the rest of the game, we watched that screen degrade from an odd-colored patch around the point of impact, to something that looked like a broken LCD TV from wiihaveaproblem.com, to going 3/4 dark, just like the other screen. I'm starting to worry about these Toronto games. The Leafs were our opponent during the infamous double power failure game last season, and now this. What's going to break next? My money's on a Zamboni dumping its crankcase all over the center-ice faceoff circle.
Final Score: Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 1, "For Sale" signs stolen from ill-informed Leafs fans and torn up by a guy in my section: 2. (Don't worry, the Leafs fans were good sports!)
- Marc-Andre Fleury (30 for 31)
- Sergei Gonchar (1G, 1A)
- Sidney Crosby (3A)
Merry Christmas, Penguins! So you got a bunch of one-way tickets to Kansas City, courtesy of a bunch of old men in Harrisburg, and a few pissed-off politicians under your tree.
- Kari Lehtonen (35 of 37)
- Slava Kozlov (1G, 1A)
- Erik Christensen (1G)
A nasty round of stomach flu ripped through both locker rooms, so they called off the game. If anybody asks, I was at Max & Erma's downtown, watching the Poinsettia Bowl from the bar.
(So how'd you get the Sidney Crosby coin they were giving away?)
Dammit, did you have to bring that up? OK. There was no stomach flu, except for Manny Legace, who left after one period. The Pens decided to take the night off, allowing the lowly St. Louis Blues to break an 11-game losing streak.
But I stand by my original statement. If anybody asks, I was at Max & Erma's downtown, watching the Poinsettia Bowl from the bar.
Final score, Blues 4, Penguins 1.
- Doug Weight (1G, 1A)
- Dan Hinote (1G, 1A)
- Jay McKee (just for being there)
Blanket coverage of Major League Baseball, with multiple games per week, divisional series playoff games, and a featured Sunday night game.
Blanket coverage of the National Football League, including Monday Night Football.
Blanket coverage of the National Basketball Association, with multiple games per week, half of the first three rounds of the playoffs (split with TNT), and the finals on ABC.
Major League Soccer, including a match of the week on ESPN, and the MLS Cup on ABC.
Coming next season, NASCAR, including all ten "Chase For The Championship" races.
Coming next season, the Indy Racing League.
Coming next season, The Champ Car World Series.
And, of course, such "athletic" endeavors as Texas Hold'em, darts, Scrabble, hot dog gorging contests, and Stump The Schwab.
- The season opener on ABC (2 regional games)
- A Monday night game of the week on ESPN2
- Three of the four wild-card playoff games, with an option for the fourth, on ESPN and ESPN2
- Three of the four divisional round playoff games, with an option for the fourth, on ESPN and ESPN2
- Both conference finals, on ESPN and ESPN2
- The Arena Bowl on ABC
Meanwhile, during the USC-Notre Dame game on ABC a few weeks ago, they didn't put any NHL scores on the ticker! Instead, we got promos for a lame William Shatner-hosted game show that was canceled after two weeks.
The NHL's rights agreements with Versus and NBC are up at the end of the 07-08 season. I hope ESPN's top brass are ready to have hockey fans up their butts until then. We've been slighted by the World (Excluding Canada) Wide Leader too often before. We shouldn't have to scream bloody murder just to maintain a minimal level of respect.
Goaltenders get the same feeling seeing a man in a Penguins sweater.
I've added some of them there "motion pictures" of these jaw-dropping goals I've been talking about. That YouTube/NHL deal was a (rare) masterstroke by Gary Bettman and the NHL top brass.
You can go back to the corresponding blog entries, or you can skip my questionable writing skills and click right through to the video collection.
See what happens when you put the right lines together?
4th line: Jarko Ruutu – Chris Thorburn – Maxime Talbot: All three are great penalty killers and absolute maniacs on the ice. You expect that from a 4th line, but we're getting points and scoring chances from them now, too. Max had a shorthanded goal last night, just 27 seconds after another Penguins goal. Ronald Petrovicky is an interchangeable part with any of these three.
3rd line: Dominic Moore – Jordan Staal – Michele Ouellet: Staal had the goal just before Talbot, directly off a face-off win by Moore in the circle to the right of a frustrated Rick DiPietro. Right now, this line is doing its best work as a puck-possession line. Moore and Staal are also excellent penalty killers.
2nd line: Nils Ekman – Evgeni Malkin – Colby Armstrong: And here's where the Pens are in a quandry. This line was better Wednesday night with Erik Christiansen at left wing. With Ekman back from the flu, Christiansen was a healthy scratch. No goals tonight, but all three had assists on special-teams goals. Over the long haul, we'll need more production from these guys than we're getting but, as you'll see, we have people picking up the slack.
1st line: Ryan Malone – Sidney Crosby – Mark Recchi: Damn, are these guys scary good together. Let's break down the scoring by this line last night:
- The Pens get a 3-on-2 break. Recchi carries up the middle, then passes to Crosby, who gains the blue line along the right wing boards. Sid glides to the top of the circle, then throws a perfect cross-ice pass to Malone in the far circle. Malone lines up his shot, and burns DiPietro with a high wrister.
- The Pens are cycling in the Islanders' zone. Whitney to Recchi, who drops one back to Crosby and heads for the net. Crosby eludes his defender and fires a wrist shot through traffic to beat DiPietro.
- The Pens get a 3-on-2 break. Recchi carries up the middle, then passes to Crosby, who gains the blue line along the right wing boards. Sid glides to the top of the circle, then throws a perfect cross-ice pass to Malone in the far circle. Malone lines up his shot, and burns Mike Dunham with a high wrister. (Yes, I just cut-and-pasted that first goal. The play developed pretty much the same way. Dunham started the 3rd for DiPietro.)
- Crosby puts on a puck-handling show worthy of the Harlem Globetrotters in the right corner, gets space from his defender, and sweeps behind the net. Malone camps just off the left post and buries the one-timer from Sid.
Sid gets another 4 points, giving him 10 in 2 games. Ryan Malone gets his first NHL hat trick. Mark Recchi gets his 800th career assist on Malone's second goal. Jocelyn Thibault holds off a late New York charge for his first win of the season.
17,028 screaming fans get treated to one of the most entertaining shows in sports today.
Final Score: Penguins 7, Islanders 4, defensemen faked out of their skates: 5.
- Ryan Malone (3G, first NHL hat trick)
- Mark Recchi (1G, 3A, 800th NHL assist)
- Sidney Crosby (1G, 3A)
Quote of the night, courtesy of Darmok:
There's no "I" in "team", but there's three "U"s in "Ruutu"!
First, the bad news:
- Nils Ekman missed another game with a stomach virus.
- Evgeni Malkin was a -2, with only 1 shot on goal.
- Marc-Andre Fleury let a few soft ones in.
Now, the good news:
- We were playing the Flyers.
OK, I'll make with the details:
- Sidney Crosby had a goal and 5 assists. This is the first time he's scored more than 4 points in a game. With this 6-point night, he has taken the lead in scoring in the NHL. And, believe it or not, 1+5 is not enough to adequately describe just how dominant Sid was tonight. He was skating circles around everything in white and orange. If anybody wants video evidence of how slow the Flyers' defense is, show them this game.
- Ryan Malone had a goal and 3 assists. I think this is his first 4-point night in the NHL. This was also his first goal of an injury-shortened season.
- Sergei Gonchar had 2 goals and 3 assists.
- Michel Ouellet got off of his personal schnied with a goal.
- Jarko Ruutu has a point in consecutive games for the first time this season, assisting on a goal by Chris Thorburn. That's the second goal in as many nights for a third line that's been flying lately. Max Talbot must have been bummed, though. Normally, he owns Antero Niittymaki, and he was held pointless tonight.
- Jordan Staal added to the Pens' highlight reel parade with a short-handed goal with seven seconds left in the game. Another day, another defenseman and goaltender faked out of their shorts by a teenager in black and gold. Ho hum. That's Staal's 4th shorty of the year, which is a record for Penguins rookies.
- If the Flyers have played a more undisciplined period of hockey this season, I can't imagine how bad it could have been compared to the 2nd tonight. Todd Fedoruk took 8 consecutive minutes in penalties between the 1st and 2nd periods. After a call in the middle of the first, he tried to start something with
Ryan WhitneySidney Crosby (!) as the teams were leaving the ice after the 1st ended. He started the 2nd serving a double minor. 1:28 after those minors expired, he was back in the box for another minor. So thank you, Todd Fedoruk, for 2 power play goals! Oh, and thank Mike Knuble while you're at it. The extra unsportsmanlike conduct minor he got tagged with on a holding penalty led to Ouellet's goal. (Update: My seat is at the end of a row, so the rush of people headed to the concourse blocked my view of the ice at the end of the 1st. I didn't see how that fracas started, and thought it was just Fedoruk and Whitney. It wasn't until I read the morning paper that I got the full story. Fedoruk shoved Crosby as he skated to center ice for an interview with TSN. Whitney got involved to defend Crosby. So Fedoruk was even dumber than I originally thought!)
Oh, and did I mention the goaltender substitution weirdness?
- First, at the start of the 2nd, while each team's captain was debating those end-of-the-1st penalties with Kerry Frazier, Fleury suddenly skated off the ice, with the equipment manager in hot pursuit. Jocelyn Thibault played the first 6 minutes or so of the second, stopping the only shot he faced.
- Later in the 2nd, after Gonchar's second goal, Niittymaki skated to the bench with an equipment problem of his own. This gave Martin Houle his first appearance in the NHL. He stopped the two shots he faced, then returned to the runway as Niittymaki jumped over the boards. Not so fast! That stoppage was for icing. No substitutions, not even the goalie. Houle goes back in, and promptly gives up his first NHL goal to Mark Recchi.
Final score: Penguins 8, Flyers 4, Martin Houle's ice time: 2:12
- Sidney Crosby (1G, 5A)
- Sergei Gonchar (2G, 3A)
- Ryan Malone (1G, 3A)
It didn't take long to outgrow my first-generation G4 mini. The internal hard drive is a 4200 RPM 2.5" model that's nowhere near fast enough, so I switched everything over to a proper 7200 RPM 3.5" drive in an external Firewire enclosure. It solves the speed problem, but I can't put the Mac into sleep mode without leaving the enclosure on, thus defeating much of the purpose. I also got one of the models with the wonky DVI-D output, so it never quite worked right with my monitor. About once a day, it would go blank for 2 seconds. (Good thing I didn't use the mini for games.) I could have gone on living with such irritations, but this was the last straw: I've outgrown iPhoto, and the mini won't run Aperture.
Yep, I've already hit the point where the apps I want to run are only available for the new hotness. Under normal circumstances, a Mac's useful lifespan would be longer. But I got caught on the wrong side of a Major Architectural Change, and the G4 mini was already one step behind the G5 desktops of the day.
Thus, after only 1 1/2 years or so with the mini, I'm moving on to the hard stuff. The 24" model, with 2.16 GHz of Core 2 Duo goodness, 2 GB RAM, and the graphics upgrade. I may even pick up Parallels, although I don't need another XP machine.
Although, now that I think of it, I found my OS/2 Warp 4 CDs as I unpacked the office…
Not for lack of effort tonight.
Maddeningly inconsistent quality of play, but the Pens were always working hard. This was one of those games where the winner would be the team that didn't make the last mistake. That last mistake was a Dominic Moore penalty, leading to an Olli Jokinen power play goal with about 5:00 left in the third. Moore must have done something to aggravate the refs, because he couldn't give a Panther a dirty look without drawing a call tonight.
I had a bad feeling about tonight during the Pens' introductions. Around Thanksgiving, they switched from having the PA announcer make the introductions to prerecorded video clips of the players introducing themselves and their hometowns. Kinda like Sunday Night Football, only without anybody saying "the Ohio State University". Apparently, they didn't have one for Jocelyn Thibault, who was starting in relief of Marc-Andre Fleury. Instead of having John Barbaro announce his name, they just skipped Thibault entirely! Damn, how much bad karma can you call down seconds before the opening face-off?
But we were treated to a little oneupsmanship between Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Remember Malkin's "I'll split the defense, skate in too deep, turn to the backhand, and pants Martin Brodeur" goal? Crosby said "I'll see that, and raise you 'lost an edge after splitting the D, and wristed it around Alex Auld from my ass.'" That goal tied the game at 2-2, and sparked one of many Penguin rallies that failed to generate a goal. Like I said, not for lack of effort. Auld should have been one of the three stars.
Final score: Panthers 3, Penguins 2, In goal: Number 41, Jocelyn Thiiiiiiiii-bauuuuuuuuult!
- Olli Jokinen (GWG, 1A)
- Sidney Crosby (1G, 1A)
- Gary Roberts (1G, 1A)