Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pens Win, Panthers Lose

"I say we go 1-1 tonight; Don't ask me for any further prediction that that."
Those were my words about 6 hours ago (4:45 PM tonight if you stumble upon this later) after a friend asked for my prediction for tonight's Pitt and Pens games as we impatiently waited for our interminable class to finally come to an end.

Turns out I was right after all, and yet I'm still quite disappointed by the result.

The number 3 ranked Panthers were plagued by foul trouble and poor shooting all night long against the always scrappy Villanova Wildcats. Sam Young led the team with 14 points, but struggled with his shot going just 6/15 from the field and missing 3 treys. And he was one of the more successful shooters. Tyrell Biggs put up the old goose egg and DeJuan Blair had just 7 points. They both spent a lot of time in foul trouble. Levance Fields was 4/11 shooting and a miserable 1/5 on treys.

The lone bright offensive spot for was Brad Wanamaker's 13 points on 6/7 shooting. His work as a super-sub continues to impress at times. The Pitt D also did a solid job of keeping Villanova at least somewhat in check, enough to keep the Panthers in the game despite a pathetic night offensively. Don't let the 10 point deficit throw you, this was a very, very close ball game almost all night long.

The Pens managed to salvage the evening with an excellent 6-2 win over the division-leading New York Rangers. This was a big way to start off the second half of the season. The Pens know that they can't afford any more prolonged slumps and coming out of the gate firing could be the boost this team needs to develop into the squad we all know they can be.

The Flower was tremendous in net. He survived a heavy barrage of shots in the early going and kept the Pens in it long enough for the offense to come to life in a lively third period.

Kris Letang had a monster night. Coming into the game he had just 1 goal in the entire first half of the season. After the game? He now has 3. 2 goals for a stud young D-man. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come for Letang, who is a tremendous talent but has had some inconsistencies in both the offensive and defensive portions of his game.

Petr Sykora chipped in a pair of goals himself. His consistent scoring touch has been important to the Pens all season and if he can step his game up a tad more the rest of the way it'd be another big shift for the Pens O.

Sid the Kid also had a big old night after some serious uncertainty arose this morning about whether or not he'd even be in lineup: 1 Goal and 2 Assists and he was making a number of plays up and down the ice all night. These is the playmaking skills we NEED to see out of the Kid if we're going to make this second-half charge.

Speaking of a second half charge, the Pens, for now anyway, are tied with the Panthers for the 8th and final playoff spot with 52 points. Unfortunately we've played two more games than the Panthers so they have the edge. For now. We did leapfrog the Canes though, who have played 49 games, same as us.

Lastly I thought I'd try to gauge what the Pens figure to need to get into the postseason. Since the end of the lockout and the end of ties, its taken at least 92 points to get into the East Playoffs each year, and it took 94 one year. In looking at the standings now, that number is more like 90 or 91. We are at 52 and at that pace would finish with 87. So while our pace isn't what we want it to be, 39 or 40 points in 33 games is more than doable given this lineup, especially if we keep playing like this.

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