Sports Magazine

Blog : Soldier On: Penguins Roll Sabres

By Kipper @pghsportsforum

The Penguins cruised to a 5-1 victory last night against the Buffalo Sabres. Although, one should not be fooled to think that this game was completely dominated by the Penguins wire-to-wire. The first half of the 1st period saw the Sabres taking the game to the Penguins from all aspects. However, Marc-Andre Fleury continued his stellar goaltending, keeping the Sabres at bay and the Penguins within striking distance. 6:00 into the 1st period, Fleury turned the puck over on a bad puck handling attempt and Sabres forward Tyler Ennis picked up the puck and nearly stuffed home a wrap-around attempt. Unfortunately Ennis' teammate Drew Stafford was lingering around the crease and pitchforked the fumblng puck by Fleury to give the Sabres the early 1-0 lead. This marked the 5th time in the last 7 games that the Penguins have allowed the first goal of the game. Fortunately for the Penguins, the Sabres were only 5-7-5 when scoring 1st. It wasn't until the mid-point of the 1st period that the Penguins finally found their game legs and began to reverse the tempo. At the 15:00 mark, after what looked like an icing call, the Penguins' Sidney Crosby won a puck battle on the boards along the right wing goal line, and passed to teammate Craig Adams who found Harry Zolnierczyk open in front of Sabres goalie, Ryan Miller, and beat him high blocker side to tie the game at 1-1. This goal came just minutes after Penguins defensemen heroically fought Sabres' goonman John Scott after some chippy hitting on Zolnierczyk and Crosby. That fight ignited the Penguins and it showed, getting the goal.

As the 2nd period started, the Penguins began to seize more control of the game. After a Sabres' penalty 2:00 into the period, the Sabres generated a shorthanded opportunity that was thwarted by Fleury. On the rush Crosby took a great feed from Matt Niskanen and blew by the Sabres' defense and fired the puck past Miller to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead. As Crosby skated down the left wing, I am sure the only thing going through Miller's mind was the flashback of Crosby's Olympic winning goal. And much like the Olympics, Crosby made it look effortless, once again beating Miller. This was probably the defining moment, as that goal seemed to break the collective will of not only Miller, but the rest of the Sabres. As the ice continued to tilt, the Penguins mounted more and more pressure. With 3:00 left in the 2nd period, and after a Sabres' rush, Evgeni Malkin scored to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead. This goal was just as pretty if not more than Crosby's goal. Geno picked up the puck just shy of the centerline along the left wing boards. He was met with resistance by two Sabres' who feebly attempted to interfere and impede Malkin's progress. By Geno would have no of it, as he pushed the puck past both defenders then out-muscled them to the puck to skate in on a breakaway and deke backhand then forehand and tuck the biscuit behind Miller. In a similar fashion, Malkin's move on Miller was fluid and effortless. The Penguins ratcheting down showed as the only gave up 9 shots in the 2nd, (they gave up 11 in the 1st).

That defensive trend continued into the 3rd period as the near lifeless Sabres were now catatonic. They managed just 5 shots on goal in the 3rd, none of them of any real substance as the Penguins cemented the victory by adding 2 more tallies. The first goal came at the 5:22 mark and was a wonderful goal by Brian Gibbons, his 2nd goal in as many games. After center Brandon Sutter won a clean faceoff draw to the left off Miller, Gibbons picked the puck up skated in and fired a shot through traffic that beat Miller. I am pretty sure that Miller never really saw the shot, but none-the-less it gave the Penguins a commanding 4-1 lead. Then at the 12:00 mark, when James Neal sniped a shot low blocker side by Miller, who at this point was merely a cardboard cutout of his usual self. The Penguins entered the Sabres' end led by a pass from Brooks Orpik to Evgeni Malkin who passed to teammate James Neal. Neal hovered allowing traffic to mount and crisscross in front of Miller. It was at that point Neal did his business and sniped the shot home, giving the Penguins a 5-1 lead. Nothing of any real significance occurred after that and the Penguins skated to a final score and victory of 5-1.

10 by 5 hard spilts.jpgThe Penguins continued their streak of winning 2 out 3 games. This is the 4th time in a row dating back to their OTL to the Oilers back on the 10th of January that they have accomplished this feat. In that time (12 Game) the Penguins are 8-4, with 36 Goals Scored (3.00 GPG) to 27 Goals Against (2.25 GAA) and .923 Team SV%. Their PP has hit on 8 of 36 attempts for a 22.2% rate (their season average is 25.0%). Their PK had killed 31 of 37 penalties for an 83.78% rate (thier season average is 87.72%). All in all, not a bad stretch. Thosee stats reflect what they are averaging every 10 or so games. Reference the chart to the left for the 5, 10 game hard splits for the Penguins. The Penguins also won again without defenseman Kris Letang (3-1 in this latest stretch without him), and you can continue to draw your own conclusions about that. The Penguins' bottom linemen and AHL'ers have continued to step up their collective play. As I mentioned before, Gibbons has scored twice in as many games, Zolnierczyk got another goal, Adams had an assist, and Glass continues to play with fervor and aggression. Players like this will need to continue this effort as the Penguins head into the Olympic Break and down the final stretch of games headed into the playoffs. Furthermore, many of these players may be auditioning for new teams as the trade deadline looms just days after the Olympics.

The Penguins have one more game remaining on their schedule before they split and head to Sochi or a much needed break. It will be interesting to see how focused the Penguins are as they play this game against the buzz saw that is the New York Rangers. No doubt the Rangers will be looking to use this game as a measuring stick as they are 9-3 in their last 12 games, one mark better than the Penguins in that same 12 game stretch. As 7, or maybe 8 if Neal gets added, players will be playing in Sochi, this could easily be a "let down" for the Penguins, although I speak for all Penguins' fans and hope that it is the exact opposite. The Penguins have had a penchant of late, to playing very sloppily and uncharacteristic coming off long 3+ day breaks. They should feel as if they need to win this game to further distance themselves from the Rangers (currently 17 games) and the rest of the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference in general.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Paperblog Hot Topics