The biggest question mark right now — When will we the first "March of the Penguins" title be used by a national news outlet? If the Penguins sweep the Flyers this weekend, we're betting the farm someone uses it.
We talked about it last week. Bylsma is a career 52-12-10 in March, and all of a sudden, he has the Penguins rolling again: three straight wins, with a big home-and-home against the Flyers on the horizon this weekend.
This sweep isn't a death knell to the Capitals by any means, but it has to hurt. For Caps fans, they have to be a maddening team to watch. They aren't exactly good, but they dominated a large portion of both games against the Penguins. The biggest difference was the Penguins scored…and someone from the Penguins’ top two lines scored. What a horrible two games for Ovechkin.
And we’re gonna keep trying to stay ahead of this "the Penguins’ superstars need to show up" narrative. Because right now the only thing keeping the Pens’ engine running are the superstars.
Points in this game:
Malkin = 1
Crosby = 1
Points in March:
Malkin = 5
Crosby = 8
Since returning from the Olympic break, the Pens have scored 19 goals. The bottom six have scored 2 of those (Sutter, Engelland). Engelland isn’t even a real forward.
Another player slotted to be the scapegoat for a playoff collapse, Marc-Andre Fleury, posted the shutout in this one.
Joe Vitale out and Brian Gibbons in. That’s like moving to Nagasaki instead of Hiroshima. Bortuzzo also played in favor of Engelland.
The story of the first period? Evgeni Malkin. He was winning the opening faceoff forward, stealing pucks on the forecheck and backcheck, and even stealing pucks from Olli Maatta.
Stemp-Crosby-Kunitz were looking good again.
Gibbons-Sutter-Pyatt had a sneakily good first period. They had a good cycle ruined by some bizarre centering pass by Gibbons. He was more noticeable than he was on the first line, so that’s something.
MAF wasn’t seeing any action, but he was up to the task when the Caps started throwing stuff at him. The first period had a stretch of 13:45 without a whistle.
Late in the period, the Pens connected. Jay Caufield broke it down during the intermission.
The Caps just stood around and watched Malkin. Jokinen cruised in untouched to deflect home a Niskanen shot. 1-0.
After a bad change, the Caps got their best chance of the period when Chimera snuck in on MAF. Fleury put out the flipper to stop it.
Insane picture of the period
Caps killed off a too-many-men penalty.
Stempniak had the shift of the century. He deked through all the Caps and almost scored…
…then the play settled down, and he tried whacking in a midair rebound but hit the crossbar.
Later in the period, the Caps started to take over. Shift after shift, they buzzed the Pens’ zons. Their best chance came when MAF had to rob Kuznetsov with the right leg.
James Neal opened the third with his best chance in a while. He had a breakaway, but Halak said no.
And then the Pens’ Stanley Cup ambitions almost went up in a puff of smoke.
Here is what gave Stamkos a broken leg:
No idea how Kunitz stood up and skated away. An injury to any of the top six right now, and you would see the Grim Reaper of the 2013-2014 season walk onto the ice.
Another big penalty kill
Matt Niskanen high-sticked someone, and the Caps went on a critical power play. Similar to Monday night's game, the Penguins fought it off. Fleury did the work until Backstrom put the stick up into Maatta's face, ending the Caps' PP.
Crosby turned out the lights
After the Pens couldn't cash in on their power play, the game went back towards the Caps. But then the Captain sent the Caps packing. On a two-on-one sprung by Stempniak's board work, Crosby looked off Kunitz and buried one past Halak.
The refs gifted the Caps another power play, but their spirits had been crushed by the Crosby goal. MAF held on for the shutout.
Underrated player of the game
Simon Despres. With Martin and Letang down, Despres has gotten his chance and done really well. He only saw 14:26 this game, but he's not doing anything that makes you mad at him. The more time he gets, the better it will be in the long run.