The big narrative that is slowly taking shape and will only get bigger: the Olympics.
Chris Kunitz scored another two goals, and the cheerleading for him to make the Canadian Olympic team is at an all-time high, despite the fact, you know, it is Chris Kunitz. This is following the week-long reminder from Rob Rossi that Kris Letang is worried about his powerplay time
, because he wants to impress Team Canada. Yikes.
No one wanted to say anything about it at the time (and some people still won’t), but remember the 2002 Olympics when Lemieux didn’t play much for the Pens, played for Canada in Salt Lake City, then proceeded to shut himself down for the remainder of the Pens’ season? Lemieux used the last of his healthy hip to play in those Olympics.
The Pens were shit that year, so you can’t really blame him, but it shows how big of a shadow the Olympics can cast on an NHL season.
The Penguins cruised to a 3-0 win in this one, mostly because they own the Lightning, even more so now in Stamkos’ absence. Three biggest takeaways:
1. Great turnaround for Marc-Andre Fleury after he was unjustly pulled from the Toronto game on Wednesday. The Pens won that game, so you can’t complain too much. It may have stemmed the bleeding.
Fleury responded with a shoutout. Back to Wednesday's game, why was Fleury pulled after giving up the third goal? Do Dan Bylsma and Todd Reirden watch Kris Letang play? If anyone should have been on the bench, it was Letang. It is great the Penguins are winning despite some bizarre issues and some injuries on the blue line, but it won't last. Can't hang your goalie out to dry and let defensive mistakes go unchecked. The Pens lost the giveaway battle 8-2 against the Leafs. They were tied 6-6 with the Lightning in this one.
2. Pascal Dupuis. Yikes. Dupuis signed a big-money deal, and he is nowhere to be found this season. Gotta get him going somehow. Sans Sutter’s fluky goal, this was still a 1-0 game that was anything but decided. Need some scoring.
3. Simon Despres has been awesome so far. The guy is an NHL player. As the Penguins continue to botch the development of Robert Bortuzzo, let's hope they don't screw up Despres’.
We aren’t being grumpy and we aren’t senile. It’s just impossible to ignore the little things that will slowly become bigger and bigger as the season wears on.
– Lightning were balls deep in the Pens’ zone on the very first shift. The Pens calmed down after that and began to get all the scoring chances. Pascal Dupuis still looked lost.
– The Pens got on the board first because Sidney Crosby’s cross-ice pass was all-world. Doesn’t get much better than that. Kunitz with the goal.
1-0. We will give Kunitz this: he knows how to play with Crosby. If he does make Team Canada, it’s because he’s Crosby’s boy. It won’t hurt matters if he gets red-hot here in the next handful of games.
– People bag on Fleury a lot, but how awful are some of the goalies we've seen the Pens face this season? Ben Bishop is awful. Was he just watching that Crosby pass? Jesus. Any goalie worth his salt knows where that pass is going.
– On the next shift, the fashion police busted Geno for having his jersey tucked in, and the Pens went on an heroic kill. What a dumb rule. So many other issues the NHL needs to be worried about, and uniform violations are in play now? Come on. Craig Adams had a big block, and it was killed.
– Ebbett and Conner looked like they were skating hard. You have to like the speed Ebbett and Conner bring, but you have to think long-term with some of these guys. We have all seen Chris Conner play in the playoffs; let's not pretend he is good. Tampa Bay was the scene of Conner’s biggest crime:
– Pens had their first power play later. Sutter and Ebbett were on the second PP unit, so…
– Looked like Malkin played the rest of the period with his jersey tucked in. No clue.
– Malkin went to the box again for a high stick. Killorn killed that PP later with a penalty of his own. Everything was a wash.
-The Lightning started waking up a little, getting decent chances on consecutive shifts. Kucherov had a big chance on a breakaway but couldn’t do shit.
– Joe Vitale made this big play where he had the puck along the boards and then backhanded it behind the net. Then he stayed in the same spot and waited for the puck to come back. Showing his creativity, he decided to go to the point with his pass the next time he had the puck. He has gone 30 games without a goal, while players like Megna, Conner, and Gibbons have scored and can’t even see consistent playing time. Goals win games. Stop talking yourself into Joe Vitale. He does what Bylsma asks him to do, so he stays. Any offense generated is just a bonus apparently.
– St. Louis was the entire offense for the Lightning. The Lightning got a late power play. MAF walked into the Panik room with like 2 seconds left and made a big stop. Circle that shit. Biggest save of the game.
– The Penguins were even in the giveaway department, which is nice. They still had 6. The offense is still revolving around the bizarre stretch passes and dump-ins that are basically free turnovers anyway. Tampa was trying to beat it by playing the 2-1-2 system, but they just aren't very good.
– Speaking to that point, Tampa is a mess. Look at them without Stamkos ( they lost him on November 11):
Not really a good team. Going 0-4 on a West Coast trip? That’s been known to kill some NHL seasons.
– In the last 10 years, the Ryan Malone contract might be in the top 10 of the worst contracts. He is hurt again L;OLOLO
– Much of the third was a snoozefest. There wasn't much space. The Penguins outshot the Bolts 13-6.
Power play seals the deal
Some minor-league player for the Lightning threw a puck over the glass about 5 minutes into the third. The Pens desperately needed to pad their lead, and they did. Brandon Sutter scored his first-ever goal against Tampa late on the power play. One of the flukiest goals you’ll see, but it still lit up the lamp.
This is seriously how the goal was scored. Hedman is so bad.
But the Pens will take it. 2-0.
Was Sutter going to Crosby with that pass? He didn’t even put any mustard on it. It would’ve been broken up. Damn it.
– Tampa gave up after that. Not sure if they even entered the Penguins’ zone.
– Tampa pulled Bishop. Kunitz added the empty net. 3-0.
At some point after this picture, Craig Adams got a game misconduct penalty. No clue why.
– Predicting a Pens blowout win against the Panthers tonight. Just feeling it.