The playoff push has the Pittsburgh Penguins’ players, staff, and fans on edge.
This year, the Eastern conference is divided into two tiers, the first including the top five seeds and the second including the rest of the pack. The top five seeds are currently the New Jersey Devils, the Ottawa Senators, the [[Carolina Hurricanes[[, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Montreal Canadiens. These five teams are pulling away from the rest (except for Carolina who is only in third because it leads it's division) and it looks as if there will be a battle for home ice. The Penguins rest in fourth right now because Carolina is a division leader. Because the NHL is unlike the NBA in that the Penguins would actually be in third, the Penguins are faced with a first round Match-up with Montreal, who is by far the best team that is not a division leader, other than the Penguins. Knowing all of these facts about their possible playoff position, the Penguins came into this weekend looking to stand alone atop the Eastern conference. Could they get four points? No.
Saturday’s brawl with the Senators was an absolute disgrace. The Pens went up 3-0 until the midway point of the second period, when Ottawa scored their first goal. This goal lifted the Senators, who had been playing Flyer hockey for the entire game thus far, allowing them to score two more goals by the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. In the OT period the Pens had several prime scoring chances, including a Ryan Malone shot that rung off the crossbar and the post before exiting the goal area. With about 10 seconds left to play the Senators made one final rush and scored with little more than 3 seconds to play. I can say that that goal was not the most demoralizing thing I have ever seen, for I actually witnessed the only other time in the Penguins’ franchise history where they lost with less time left in overtime: a 2-1 loss to the Rangers on November 25, 2006 where Martin Straka (Former Pen) scored with only 2.2 seconds left in the game to win it for the Rangers. I literally felt like jumping down on the ice to persuade the refs to disallow the goal so I could see a shootout, but I didn’t.
Unfortunately for the Penguins, Saturday’s troubles wouldn’t find a panacea on Sunday when the San Jose Sharks came to town. I have great sympathy for any Penguin fan that had to sit through Sunday’s game, and even more for any fan that was at the igloo on Saturday as well. Sunday’s game was one of the most boring hockey games you might ever see. I even thought Pittsburgh legend Mike Lange was bored calling the game on 105.9 (the X). Despite the piece of garbage that you could hardly even call a hockey game, fans at Mellon Arena were treated to a once in a lifetime spectacle in the pre-game ice sweep. While cleaning the ice, one of the Zambonis exploded, yes, no joke, exploded. From what video I saw that had captured the aftermath of the explosion, it appeared as if the Zamboni was bleeding some sort of oil that looked just like blood. The Zednik incident was the first thing that flashed in my mind, but the sheer amount of liquid that was streamed across the ice could not have come from a human body. The game was delayed 25 minutes due to the incident.
The game itself was so dull that I feel no need to recap. I can sum it all up in a few short sentences. No scoring in the first or second periods. Sharks score first in the third. Pens answer. The game goes to the shootout. Pens score twice. Sharks score all three times. Pens lose. Beyond all the haze, that was that game, Jarkko Ruutu scored a pretty nifty goal to keep the Pens alive in the shootout. You should definitely take a look at it when it gets on You Tube.
While the Pens did lose twice over the weekend, it really isn’t so bad. If the Pens had won one of the games and lost the other in regulation, they would still be in the same boat they’re in now; although it would have been nice to not give those two points to Ottawa. To add to this weekend’s misery, Malkin is now tied with Ovechkin for the scoring title. Ovechkin picked up four points over the weekend while Malkin laid two big fat goose eggs on the score card. The Pens will hope to rebound against their division foe, the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The Islanders had won six straight games prior to a loss on Saturday to the New Jersey Devils; of all the teams to lose to.