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Sabred

It wasn’t a brutal loss. Just disappointing. It was the kind of loss that mirrored so many losses of a season ago in which the Pens set themselves up with half a dozen fantastic chances to score but lacked the finishing touch without Crosby or Malkin. The difference in these games always seems to be whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury can steal a point or two. Last night he couldn’t. That’s not to say he played a poor game. The only mistake I can recall him making was that he was ever so slightly – I mean six inches or less – off his angle on Drew Stafford’s perfectly-placed wrister 8:06 into period three that ended up being the difference. But with the offense’s lack of ability to punch in another goal or two, Flower had to be otherworldly last night. And he wasn’t.

This is the problem with the Crosby-and-Malkin-less Penguins. They lack a guy with that scoring touch. Someone who puts goalies on their stomachs on breakaways and always seems to find the corners on two-on-ones. James Neal has done a pretty terrific job trying to fill that void, but aside from him there just aren’t players on this team that have a raw scoring ability. Remember last year when Tyler Kennedy was this team’s big scoring threat down the stretch? He’s on pace for a little over 14 goals this season. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s great. I’d love 14 out of Kennedy this year. But if this team is going to rely on an undersized third-liner for primary scoring they’re in trouble.

Without their two raw scorers the Penguins need to lean on being that grinding team Dan Bylsma preaches they be. Second-chance opportunity goals  – like the one Jordan Staal scored late in the third period – have got to be part of the fabric of their game. Sabres goalie Jonas Enroth kicked out several massive rebounds and fumbled around with some pucks in his crease last night enough so that the Penguins had some chances to net some scrappy goals. To the Sabres credit they did a fantastic job of winning the battle in front of their net all night (it helps when you have a 6’8″ defenseman) and boxing the Penguins out.

It’s not worth getting down on this team. It’s stupid to get down on them, actually. They lost a close game against a team that is an absolute lock for the playoffs (some even have them as a sleeper to win the East) again without Crosby Malkin and Orpik. They have 8 points in 6 games – that’s a 112-point pace – and we have yet to see what this team looks like operating a full capacity.

NUMBERS

  • Ben Lovejoy saw 3:52 minutes of ice time in the first period, 3:34 minutes in the second, and 6:18 in the third. Deryk Engelland played 6:42 in the first, 5:43 in the second, and 4:11 in the third. Lovejoy’s egregious turnover led to the Sabres second goal of the first period, after which he was promptly benched. Both Lovejoy and Engelland were on the ice in the third period when Buffalo made it 3-1. It’s easy to pick on these guys, but that’s only because they are the two weakest defensemen on this team. When Orpik is healthy I have a feeling Lovejoy will be sent to the AHL and at some point we’ll see Brian Strait called up to get a look in place of Engelland.
  • Paul Steigerwald mentioned this toward the end of the game: The Penguins have been outscored 14-7 in five-on-five situations this season.
  • The Sabres blocked 10 shots, and the Pens missed the net 19 times.
  • The Pens allowed another third period goal.
Go Pens. Go Crosby’s brain.
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Categories: NHL, Penguins
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