Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pens Lose a disaster of a game; What is going on with this team?

Wow, when I picked last night's game out of the lineup of choices when we were splitting up the season tickets, I certainly didn't expect this. I figured that it'd be cool to see all the old ex-Pens in town coached by the Mullet Man himself. But I also pretty much knew that this Lightning team, barring Steve Stamkos turning into the next great rookie (which he hasn't at all) and Martin St. Louis reverting to the player he was a few years ago (which he hasn't at all), this Lightning squad was going to be a mess and that the Pens would take care of business against their former mates and I'd get to cheer this guy one more time before I had to start rooting against him:Well, I was half right...

In one of the most pathetic displays of hockey I have ever seen, the Penguins mustered a god-awful 15 shots, and I would say that nearly half of them were just pucks thrown at the net to try to get something going, and never had any real shot of going in. To show just how terrible the offense was, this is the first time that I can ever remember a goalie (Tampa's Mike Smith) putting together a shutout and NOT BEING ONE OF THE 3 STARS! This Pens team just looked like they hadn't finished their holiday shopping and wanted to make sure this game ended as fast as possible and as many people were driven away from the Igloo early because of the stench of their play so the postgame traffic would be minimal for them.

What's really concerning is this video from the Pensblog of Michael Therrien's postgame news conference. Guys are complaining on the bench? About what? How terrible every single person on the roster is playing? Not one guy on that team (except poor Flower that is) has the right to complain after that stinkbomb. 17,000+ fans have every right to complain and to ask for their money back. We paid good money to see a hockey game between two NHL clubs, not an AHL-caliber club play a hockey game while the Pens were apparently under the impression this was a morning skate session. You can tell from the video that Therrien is just absolutely disgusted by this team right now, and when he's been like that in the past, it often results in some serious lineup shakeups and some good old fashioned ass-whipping in practice, and I expect to see similar actions taken in the coming games.

I mean something has to be done here, right? 15 shots against THE WORST F-ING TEAM IN HOCKEY?!?!?! How does a team with the so-called "2 best players in the world" let that happen? I'll tell you how, because the two best players in the world, are not being aggressive enough right now, they're not shooting, and when they do shoot, it's involving about 1 or 2 too many passes and a few too many dekes and not nearly enough just firing a slap shot at the net at 100 mph. Do you realize the Pens have outshot their opponents just 12 times in 34 games this year, and just 3 times in their 11 December games? If you have two offensive forces of nature like Sid and Geno, you should be outshooting your opponent every single night, no excuses.

The problem I think starts with these two though. Sid has always been the unselfish one, but Geno didn't use to be this unselfish (at least not that I can remember). Last night he was skating in on Smith on a sort of breakaway and instead of taking a hard shot at a hapless goaltender like Smith, he left the puck for Sid who was skating in behind him. The only problem was, by the time Crosby got there, there were two Lightning players right in front of him, and he had no choice but to take a lousy shot. I mean what the hell kind of hockey is that? Congrats Geno, you made a no-look pass to the trailer, but passed up a good shot to give another guy a crappy one. Good job. There was a time last year, when Gonch and Whitters were healthy, and Hossa was still here, and Malone was here causing havoc in front of the net, when making an extra pass or two ended up being wildly beneficial to this team because everyone on the top two units and on the power plays could handle the puck extremely well and Bugsy was always standing on the doorstep looking for deflections and putbacks, which made the Pens shots on goal typically more valuable and effective, so it was okay to shoot a little less if they were higher percentage. But with the caliber of player on this team now, it's no longer okay for Sid and Geno to make these cross-pass ices when they have a half-decent angle at the net. I can't tell you how many times last night I witnessed a Pens player bungle a pass in his direction. It was like watching an entire team filled with Kris Beechs and Josef Melichars. And yet our two playmakers kept feeding these guys the pucks over and over again. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If that's the case, it's time to lock Sid and Geno up in Western Psych, because that fits what they are doing to a T.

Crosby is the leader of this team, so I'm holding him most responsible for what's going on right now, as should everyone. I mean yes, his numbers are very good this season, but what I saw last night and what we've all seen in the last month, is that something just isn't right with this team. Look, I know Crosby is never going to be Ovechkin-esque in shooting the puck. I've accepted that, but as the leader of this team, he needs to understand that his role has changed from what it was last year. When he has the right players with him, he is the best setup man in the business, but when you are playing with guys who can barely control the puck let alone put it in the net, it's time to throw that role aside and become selfish. Like any great leader, Sid's role needs to adapt to whatever the team needs it to be, and right now, that role is of a goal scorer. He's shown flashes of it in the past, but it's time for him to sustain this role and become the force of nature the Pens need him to be. And if he can't do it, then Geno needs to become the focal point of this offense and of this franchise. Sorry Sid, I love you and you'll always be the leader, but if Geno can turn back into the 50-goal guy I thought he could be last season, then right now he is much more important than you, and you both need to understand that.

Oh, one final tidbit: What's with the booing of Ryan Malone last night, Pittsburgh? Really, we're going to boo a native son who submitted one of the all-time tough guy performances in last year's Stanley Cup and was a key contributor on one of the best teams in franchise history because he cashed in for a truckload of money? I mean, that's ludicrous. Look at that picture above one more time. This guy should be given a standing O everytime he's seen in the Burgh. And I know, he was stirring things up early on and got called for a penalty for pushing around some Pens, BUT I DON'T CARE! DON'T YOU EVER BOO RYAN MALONE AGAIN!


Peter said...

I think you are getting a little too panicky here, bud. Yeah the Pens have looked awful too many times of late, but I think we need to slow down in calling out Sid and Geno like that. This team will come around, there's just too much chaos going on around it right now.

Ryan said...

I agree it's a little panicky, but you also prove my point in a way: the team is going through some serious tough issues right now, like you say with the chaos, and in that kind of a time Sid and Geno need to be the leaders and need to take on the roles that are in the best interests of the team, even if they are not as comfortable with it.