This game was phenomenal.
Ducks 1 — Penguins 3
It might be the most improbable win, 3-1, of the season considering the circumstances. With eight starters out of the lineup, who really thought the Pens would win this game? I sure didn’t, but this team banded together and played like it was the playoffs.
Going in to the game, this was the situation: Sergei Gonchar, Mike Zigomanis, Pascal Dupuis, Ruslan Fedotenko, Sidney Crosby, Max Talbot, Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang … all out due to injury. In addition to that, Brooks Orpik left early in the game with what appeared to be a knee injury.
So without nine starters, and seemingly half of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins roster on the ice, the Pens (22-20-4, 48 pts.) played as hard as they have all season. Instead of being so close and losing, which has been the trend lately, Pittsburgh pulled out the win and gave itself a huge confidence boost.
What this game should have told all Pens fans is that this team will be alright. Players will return from injury, confidence will grow and the wins will come. They may not have home ice advantage in the playoffs like they did last year, but what they will have is a confident, peaking group.
When Pittsburgh had chances it threw pucks to the net. The Penguins obviously realized the situation they were in with so many players out and stuck to playing smart, basic hockey. They stuck to the system and it paid off.
Matt Cooke scored the first two goals of the game by just throwing the puck on net and hoping for, as Bob Errey has deemed it, “puck luck.” That was exactly the case and the Penguins got a two goal lead and made things much easier of their depleted defensive corps and shaky goaltender.
Then, after surviving quite a surge from Anaheim and some unlucky calls, Hal Gill followed Cooke’s plan. He threw the puck on net after a faceoff win and just like that the Penguins got the insurance goal they needed.
Marc-Andre Fleury was in position and made some key stops. He was aided by some quality execution of the 1-2-2 forecheck.
If you haven’t noticed yet … these are all qualities that most successful hockey teams are used to. Nobody wins games when they are picky about the way they play. Teams that win are those that put it all out there on the ice and do what they are told to do. Most importantly, they do it as one cohesive unit.
This game should make the entire team and its fans very confident.
As players start to return to the ice we can only hope they watched this game and picked up on everything their teammates did. If that’s the case, we are in for quite a ride.
38 games left … strap in.
Chris | PPT