Imagine living in a world where your team, winners of the most recent Stanley Cup, is once again in the Conference Final. Imagine being a fan of this team and still, despite everything it has gone through this year and winning the Cup last year, finding a way to have an ax to grind over certain players. Imagine being so butthurt over absolutely nothing that you want to paint arguably the best playoff performer last year, a point per game player this year (and over his career), as a bum who doesn’t care and shows a “general lack of competitiveness.” Just imagine being this delusional with a general lack of accountability.
In today’s world, that’s a resume for leading countries. But imagine this player caring so much that he gets mouthy with the 2nd best player on Earth, his linemate and playoff points leader. Imagine this player, a Stanley Cup Champion, whipping out his hangdown and dragging it across every single naysayers fucking foreheads.
That, my dear friends, is peak Phil Kessel.
Phil went from “not caring enough” to “caring way too much” in the span of about 24 hours.
Last night, Phil was Takeru Kobayashi in his absolute prime. Taking names, slamming hot dogs, and scoring goal. Much like we do not deserve dogs, we as humans on this spinning rock do not deserve Phil Kessel. By the old gods and the new, he’s a universal treasure and deserves to be treated as such.
And he’s a goddamn Stanley Cup champion.
Every team has to deal with injuries during the postseason, but the amount that this team has had to suffer through is nothing short of astonishing. Hornqvist was a late scratch in this one, with Hagelin getting reinserted into the lineup. One can only suspect Hornqvist suffered a gunshot wound to the skull during warmups because that would probably be the only way to keep him off the ice. And even then, there’s always going to be a little bit of doubt.
Speaking of warmups, Jake Guentzel had himself a time. Fortunately he’s not PK Subban and Milbury wasn’t on set last night or that mouth-breather presumably would’ve climbed through the TV to beat Jake with a shoe.
Just a minute in to this one (again), the Pens turned the puck over in the defensive zone (again) for Fleury to have to come up huge on a Hoffman one-timer (again). But after that yuge save, the Penguins started to bring it. Kunitz-Malkin-Kessel were running the show on the Senators all night and it started just under 4 minutes in with Kunitz beating Phaneuf to a puck for Phil to feed the beast all alone in front. For the second game in a row, Craig Anderson was dialed in.
Then, about a minute later, the Penguins would lose their second injury casualty on the night and first during the run of play as Phaneuf buried Rust cutting across the middle of the offensive zone with a devastating, crushing hit.
Sent Rust to the room with the head contact. Not gonna sit here on a soapbox and argue whether or not this hit was dirty. By the league’s standards, it’s probably clean. But the simple fact is that if the league stopped being so tone deaf and decided all hits that resulted in contact to the head were illegal, there wouldn’t be a goddamn debate. Rust is only useful in Game 7s, so if he’s back and healthy by then, no one talks about this hit anyway. The injury forced Sullivan to put Sheary, who was nearly a healthy scratch, back with Sid and his son.
Then, almost immediately after the Rust injury, they’d lose their 3rd victim of the night. This time, it came as Hoffman and Jultz had a coming together, with the former bumping the latter kinda from behind to send him into the boards awkwardly and to the room for the night.
A little later, one of the two dogshit Widemans in the league crosschecked Dad from behind, leading Cullen to give him a whack back to give us a little 4v4 hockey. Sens wouldn’t have even been able to clog a toilet at 4-on-4, affording the Pens a lot of open ice to play with. Once more, it was Malkin and Phil running the show. Once more, Moby denied Evergene the opening tally.
Can’t imagine Phil didn’t feel that leash shortening up around his neck because Malkin couldn’t bury either chance, to be honest.
Pens had to kill off another penalty late to take the 0-0 scoreline into the first intermission after their best period of the series.
On a powerplay just 2:34 into the period, and their sole one of the night, the Pens once again nearly made it 1-0. Karlsson was in the box for tripping over the blueline and hauling down 87. After a mostly disjointed opening to the PP, which saw Maatta and Weedle each taking turns manning the point in place of Jultz, a swift little touch pass from Dumoulin to Guentzel saw Grendel with one of the cleanest looks he may ever get in this league, but he only found iron and for the 6th time in the series, the Pens PP came up empty.
At the other end of the ice, Fleury wasn’t really tested all that much in the 2nd and 3rd periods, having to make just 13 saves over the final 40 minutes of play (more on that in a minute). But when he was called to action, he was a stud as he has been all postseason. Few saves he made on the night were better than the reaction save he made on Hingle McDzingelberry in front with 11:40 remaining.
That was about the last time the Sens really even saw the puck until late in the 3rd. Anderson was keeping them afloat, turning aside back-to-back Bonino and Cullen tips on the very next shift. Then Sheary shit all over himself all alone in front taking a Crosby pass, fanning on two separate chances, right after Phaneuf buried Guentzel on the exact same hit that level BRust.
For all the talk about Phil and Fleury, Crosby too was entering that level that no one can reach, ripping the Sens apart in the offensive zone, setting up chances left and right and getting into the shit himself. He, Guentzel, Phaneuf, and Hoffman all ended up in the box late after an Anderson save for various illegal acts against one another. And, despite spending nearly all of the last 90 seconds of the period in the Ottawa zone, the Peng couldn’t find that breakthrough.
For whatever reason, the Sens basically waited until the start of the 3rd to set up their fuckbag 1-3-1. But at that point, it was too late. The Pens were coming.
They could’ve made it 4/5/6-0 at various points early in the 3rd. Bonino had the seas part for him 3 minutes in. Weedle was robbed himself on a sick Malkin feed where Cole found the post with the rebound chance. Then Alex Burrows ran his own goalie because he wasn’t getting enough time in the offensive zone after Guentzel had a chance that somehow stayed out. The Penguins were on a mission from God and all of this was part of an 8-0 SOG run they were on in the first 13 minutes of the period. On the 8th shot, God created goals as Malkin broke through the trap to feed Phil this time around. Never any doubt. 1-0
Sens were held without a shot from 3:47 left in the 2nd until 4:54 remaining in the 3rd. Turns out trapping in the 3rd of a 0-0 game doesn’t lead to shots or goals. Trap Hockey: Is It Actually Bad? My column:
It did lead to Gene being a total dicktroll late in the game with Ottawa working with the extra attacker. Geno best.
- The goalie duel is in full swing. First time Fleury has been matched up against a real goaltender all postseason, notching his 2nd shutout in his last 3 games with his 23 save performance.
- Phil and Geno getting into it on the bench is not a negative thing. What a game from those two.
- Scott Wilson had himself a game, too. He was more of a nuisance than a 15 week old teething puppy. In fact, he may actually be a 15 week old teething puppy. In 12:15 of ice time, he had 10 hits and created a couple of chances for himself as well. The Wilson-Cullen-Rowney 4th line is becoming a troublesome threesome.
- No updates yet on Jultz or Rust. But without Jultz on the back end, Maatta stepped up again big time.
- For the first time all postseason, we saw the Penguins team we’re accustomed to seeing. They played with speed, controlled the puck, generated shots and chances. At 5v5, they took the edge 47-29 in shot attempts and 25-7 (!!!!) in scoring chances. Only Brian Dumoulin (CF% of 46.67%) was a negative possession player. On the flip side, only 3 Sens were above 50% (Turris, MacArthur, Hoffman) and, more importantly, the Pens forced Karlsson to live almost exclusively in his own end. EK65 was on the ice for just 11 attempted shots for his team and 23 against.
Game 3 in Ottawa Wednesday. More of the same, please. Go Pens.