Before we get to the game, allow me to get something off my chest / set the table for the next couple weeks:
Remember the first time you were “intimate” with a young lady/lad? Afterwards, you’re fired up for like 7 seconds, then your buddies start giving you shit. Anxiety eventually creeps in as you remember all the scary diseases that bizarre health teacher lectured you about in middle school.
You start overanalyzing, looking for any sign of trouble. Before you know it, you’re still on WebMD at 2:24am fully convinced you have super gonorrhea or AIDS. So much for savoring the moment.
That’s sort of like Pens Twitter with new players on questionable contracts (D-Men especially). The collective instinct is to immediately look for a reason to freak out, rather than a reason to be pumped.
Look, I’m not here to defend the Ceci / Matheson contracts, the latter of which will almost certainly be poo by Year 3/4. But can we relax a little bit and let these guys settle in?
Matheson specifically has had a rough start. But let’s not turn him into He Who Must Not Be Named But Sounds Like Zack Zohnson just yet (we all saw his Rangers debut).
JJ was a predictable disaster due to a long history of identical results. MM is not *that*. Combine an understanding that: 1) His environment in Florida was dog shit, and 2) He possesses a skillset with some [correctable] blemishes and obvious, tangible upside…and what do you have? A big bowl of Somewhat Justified Reason for Hope Stew. Don’t take my word for it:
I know Mike Matheson is taking some heat today, but I wanted to share a short film study on a few encouraging areas I saw with regards to his presence in the offensive zone. This shift, specifically, shows a lot of the instincts that make him a value to your work in the OZ. pic.twitter.com/IYhitEoIhM
— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) January 14, 2021
Bottom Line: Yeah, these dudes may end up being AIDS, but let’s at least wait like 2 weeks for symptoms to persist before we go calling Magic Johnson.
Talk about a weird way to begin my first Pensblog Recap. Whatever, glad we got it out the way. To the Game!
The Pens came into this one hungry for a W following a rough 3rd period of an otherwise fairly encouraging performance in Game 1. Mike Yablonski at the Crafton Giant Eagle deli counter insisted it was a must win, but not quite.
The big pregame news was Cody Ceci being scratched for Chad Ruhwedel. If this is any indication of Sully holding unproductive players accountable no matter how uncomfortable it might make his relationship with the GM…well suck me sideways, it’s about goddam time.
The most exciting thing that happened in the first 5 minutes was Lafferty, Daniel smoking Laughton on a borderline hit across the middle. Oscar Lindblom came after him, but Laff followed the Golden Rule of not fighting a guy who just beat cancer. Nonetheless, the Pens were distracted and took the first of way too many penalties on the night. Too Much Man.
Nothing happened on the Flyers ensuing PP, but Ruhwedel got his stick caught in some asshole’s skate as it was about to expire and the Flyers went right back on the 5-4 after like 8 seconds of 5-3. Pain.
FLYERS GOAL: 7:27: Konecny from Thing 1 and Thing 2 (PP). 1-0 Flyers.
Not much to say here. You’d like Dumo to get a stick on the final cross-ice pass but the Flyers are allowed to make an elite passing play. Tic-Tac-Toe for the tap-in.
Following another snoozer Malkin shift, Jake and Crosby got on the ice and generated a 2-1. Bake put a slick backdoor pass right on Sid, but Hart was there to say no. Of course, it led to jailbreak the other way. You know the rest, god dammit.
FLYERS GOAL: 9:26: Konecny from Patrick and JVR. 2-0 Flyers.
Every single Penguin was facing the net, as nobody bothered to pick up Konecny (or Patrick). E-Rod lets the pass through, as Dumo and whoever was supposed to be playing center leave the net-front wide open. Couldn’t tell if Jankowski was late because of a bad change with Crosby…? Whatever.
Bob Errey did his best Bill Hillgrove impression and tried to homer himself into believing the goal wouldn’t count, but you knew better.
The Flyers waited two minutes between goals 1-2 and did the same between 2-3.
FLYERS GOAL: 11:30: Provorov from JVR and Thing 2. 3-0 Flyers.
Tough angle from Jarry there – way too deep in his net. Also, even with the puck bouncing around, the weak side D should really never have that much time and space to step into a shot from that spot on 5-5. That’s Sceviour’s guy, who began the sequence by abandoning his post, then letting the pass get through, and finally, doing his best Gandalf the Grey impression by waving his wand at the shot. Jarry, to the Puck: “You Shall Pass.”
Sully correctly pulled Jarry, so it would be the DeSmith show for the balance of what looked like a beatdown.
Just when you were about to fire up Nathan for You reruns, Provorov roughed up Crosby, sending the Pens to the PP. It didn’t take long for Crosby’s wrist curls to pay off for the 2nd time in this early season.
PENGUINS GOAL: 12:59 Crosby from Guentzel and Rust (PP). 3-1 FLYERS.
Sidney Crosby's backhand cannot be stopped.
In his last 13 games against the Flyers, Crosby has 23 points (9G-14A). pic.twitter.com/BpkorbGtGZ
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 16, 2021
Sid recognizes he’s on the ice with an actual NHL caliber right winger in Rust, so he sneaks along the boards and behind the defense while 17 works the middle. Rust does the right thing like he always does and flutters a nifty backhand sauce over the Bake, who knows all he has to do is get it to the front in a hurry. Sid corrals the rebound and puts a little high left English on it. 8 Ball, side pocket off the bank for his 2nd of the year. Money.
Less than a minute later, it was TJMac’s turn. What a line name – shoutout Josh. We are indeed making this a thing.
PENGUINS GOAL: 13:31: Tanev from McCann and Jankowski. 3-2 FLYERS.
Does Brandon Tanev have magic hair?
We're not sure, but something is working! pic.twitter.com/wKNcpCQWFG
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 16, 2021
Sebastian Janikowski with an incredibly deft touch pass on the boards to spring McCann. Talk about early returns from both of those bastards. Tanev drives the net just like a Don is supposed to, and taps in the gimme. Setting the O/U for Times The Broadcast Team Reminds Us Tanev and Jankowski Were Teammates at Providence at 46.5.
After the goal, DeSmith would make a big save on Jimmy Hayes’ brother, the kind of save that makes announcers go “Remember that Save”, because it’s something we’d obviously all forget.
Side note – has anyone ever looked more like their mascot than Kevin Hayes looks like Gritty? Voracek also. Hideous.
Zucker and Marino would each draw a penalty to end the period, but the Penguins did about as much with those opportunities as Limas Sweed did with his. Looked like Zucker missed a yawning cage at one point, his first HUGE chance of the night.
Letang took too much cocaine before the game and took a hooking penalty in the O-zone to kill off the balance of the Pens’ leftover PP.
Marino, who looked a little shaky in the first 4 periods of the season, started to find his groove about midway through the second.
He flexed nuts on his own blue line to force a turnover and send L1 on a chance, which Rodrigues politely declined. Then, he sprung Zucker on a breakaway via an absolutely filthy stretch pass. You had your keys out and were ready to shotgun an IC light, but Zucker was denied yet again.
The game slowed down for about 5 minutes until Matheson tripped up Farabee on the boards and sent the Flyers to another PP.
The Pens first PK unit generated some shorthanded chances. When Philly eventually set up shop, Tanev stepped directly in front of a big Gritty Jr. slap shot and came up limp, but stayed in the game. Can’t tell me that shit isn’t worth it’s weight in gold come playoff time.
Laughton took a ticky-tack slashing penalty on Crosby, but I ain’t complaining. The Pens proceeded to give up a shorthanded chance, which pissed off McCann. He asked Sanheim if he smelled what The Rock was Cookin’, then put a People’s Elbow right into his dome.
Jared McCann gets two minutes for an elbow to the head of Sanheim. Sanheim appears to be OK but something to watch. pic.twitter.com/5QeCr7jns3
— NHL Safety Watch (@NHLSafetyWatch) January 16, 2021
Listen – I think McCann finding some sandpaper in his game is a HUGE reason for the 3rd line’s early success, so I ain’t gonna harp on this too much. But come on – idiotic given the situation, and obviously not clean. Moving on.
71 and 87 saw the ice together for the first time all year on the ensuing 4-4 but didn’t get anything going. Sully has got to find more ways to do this, especially with Malkin struggling. The Pens shut the balance of the Flyers PP down.
Are you losing track of all the penalties yet? Me too.
The period ended with a pair of golden 2-1 chances for the Pens. Rodrigues vomited all over himself trying to pass with no lane on the first one, then Jankoswki fed a nice pass to Tanev but he couldn’t pull the trigger.
The Pens were mostly controlling play as evidenced by the 24-13 shot advantage, but this a Wendy’s, not a Morton’s, so I won’t get too fancy.
Tanev got interviewed between periods, whose hair and deep voice make him seem like he should be doing backup vocals for Korn.
The 3rd started with Errey talking about how McCann “got his elbow up a little bit…unfortunately…” and later acting like he just witnessed the Red Wedding when Aube-Kubel interfered (albeit dangerously) with Matheson. God I love homers.
The Penguins best chance of the period came on the Aube-Kubel penalty, where they had the puck in the zone for basically the entire 2 minutes. Have to find a way to cash in there.
- A quick positive – Reirden’s PP is noticeably different. Much more movement. Every player on the first unit occupied a different portion of the ice at some point. The results were a chaotic and tired defense, with some 10-bell chances. Let’s hope this yields more goals as the season goes on.
The game ended fittingly – with the Pens on the PK and a botched 3-2 shorthanded chance, which went the other way and ended up in the back of the net.
FLYERS GOAL: 12:53: Konecny from Thing 1 and Hayes. 4-2 Flyers.
Tanev puts a brutal pass on Letang, but 58 has to at least get a stick/skate on it – you’re still on the PK. The rebound springs the Flyers and you knew it was coming. Pettersson can’t decide whether to go with Konecny or Giroux, so he does neither. Help doesn’t arrive in time and that’s ballgame.
Konecny becomes the first shitbag to score a Hatty while only touching the puck with his stick one time (don’t fact check me).
The Flyers would add an empty netter. 5-2 FLYERS.
- DeSmith incredibly solid in relief. I’m giving Jarry 5 games before I panic.
- Chad Ruhwedel is Billy Zane. Bald, constantly overlooked, nothing flashy, but always brings it when called upon. He should probably be playing over Ceci consistently. He even generated a couple scoring chances tonight, and looked generally comfortable with the puck.
- Malkin is struggling. Not only on the scoresheet, but careless with the puck. Gotta get him going somehow – maybe give him Jake and let Zucker ride w/ Crosby? Fuck if I know.
- Coots hurt in the 1st. Bad news for Flyers fans.
- The lack of depth on the Top 6 is apparent. E-Rod obviously does not belong. KK can’t get here soon enough.
- TJMacs, again, is officially a thing. Tanev’s game is effective, Jankowski is a major pleasant surprise, but the most striking development is McCann. He is playing a much harder-nosed game, generating chances from the wall and behind the net.
- Flyers are an elite team, probably 2nd best in the East/South behind Tampa Bay (yes, better than Boston). Their roster is mostly the same while the Pens had massive turnover. I’m not gonna get too worked up just yet.
- Fancy Feast: Pens led the possession battle at 61.4% and had an expected goals share at 62.49%. This matches the eye test – Pens controlling the game, not capitalizing on opportunities, while their opponent waits for a fuck up. (Stats per @NatStatTrick)
- Caps on Sunday at The Paint Can. Get back on the horse. Go Pens, enjoy Phoenix.
- This is my first of (hopefully many) Recaps before Geoff realizes he made a huge mistake. Tell me I suck on Twitter @GooeyHockey