Some said this game was boring. That it was starved for offense. That the Penguins won on a dismal effort only because the Islanders played an even worse game.
Islanders 0 — Penguins 1
I hear what they’re saying. I understand why. But in a season so full of disappointment, can’t we be happy with the win? A huge two points to say the least.
I’d describe it as one of the first times I’ve seen the Pittsburgh Penguins play a full 60 minutes all season. Sure, they only managed one goal. And yes, it was against the worst team in the National Hockey League.
However, there are so many factors going in to the game that are so easily overlooked.
First off, we need to realize that this team is adjusting to a new style of play under head coach Dan Bylsma. They are forechecking harder and trying to do a better job of standing opponents up at their own blue line defensively.
Both are rather significant adjustment from, oh I don’t know, say two weeks ago.
Also, they are coming off a highly emotional weekend. Not only did they lose a disappointing game in Washington D.C., 5-2, but they were taken to the brink the day before against public enemy No. 1: The Philadelphia Flyers.
Suffice it to say, looking over the Islanders would not have been a surprise. Heck, it’s already happened this season.
So focus on the effort. Kris Letang stepped in after being scratched and played his guts out. Evgeni Malkin was double shifted down the stretch, eventually making the play that led to the game-winning goal by Petr Sykora. And Marc-Andre Fleury did the ultimate role reversal — went from getting pulled after giving up five goals in D.C. to posting a shutout on 21 saves.
The Penguins outshot the Islanders 28-21, showing that both the offensive and defensive efforts were superior than the opposition. As Pens fans, it’s always a delight to see the rare sight of winning both the shot battle AND the game.
Pittsburgh played much more physical and, other than a cheap shot from Brendan Witt on Jordan Staal, the Penguins intimidated New York throughout the game. The final hit total was 32-23 in favor of the black and gold.
And lastly, in the faceoff circle, the game was dominated. Final total: Pittsburgh 35 – New York 21.
So sure, the score was close. It took probably far too long to get the first goal.
However, it wasn’t for a lack of effort — something absent since the end of November. So, as hard as it is to say with barely over 20 games left this season, give it some time. The Penguins are now just two points out of eighth and have won 3 of their last four.
If they continue to show the kind of effort they did Wednesday night, the playoffs might be more of a reality than we all have been thinking.
Chris | PPT