Well, we enjoyed ourselves once again during our Raleigh road trip, but watching this current version of the Penguins should make no one wonder why my hair will quickly be turning from salt-and-pepper to Bob Barker-ish.
First of all, I'd like to thank the Hockey Gods for forcing me to drive 200 miles through a torrential downpour to get back to Virginia Beach this morning. I'm positive that it's just a continuance from last night's hellish performance.
Prior to the game, of course we had to get there prior to the pregame skate. The usual throng of Pens fans, as compared to previous Pens/Canes games in Raleigh, was not as huge. I'd say a couple of thousand fans. I think it'd be a pretty good bet that a bunch of others have probably jumped on Canes bandwagon after the Cup championship last year. Like a woman I met on the concourse, who'd grew up in Pittsburgh but lives in Raleigh now, she tells me "I'm a Canes fan now".
What kind of shit is that ?
The Pens took the ice for the pregame, and Roy and Cairns were feigning dropping the gloves, and giving each other hard shots to the boards. I guess I'm not describing it very well, but it was funny as hell.
Cairns spent most of the pregame jawing with Mike Commodore, skating up and down the center ice stripe. Turned out that both Cairns and Roy were scratched.
As the Pens were doing their pregame, and we were right on the rail next to the Pens locker room, Michel Therrien stood right next to us, watching his team.
Here's what I never seem to understand about NHL teams. Why don't they make more of an effort to interact just a little bit with the fans ?? I don't mean signing autographs before the games, I mean how about some high fives with the fans as they enter and leave the locker room ?? Would that be so much trouble, boys ?? I'm not talking about me, I'm past that stage, I'm referring to the kids. Don't you guys realize that you're trying to win the fans back ??
Anyway, onto the game.
The Orpik/Cole matchup was absolutely nothing to it, not a damn bit. They bumped one time, and that was about it. In fact, Orpik, in my view, was timid the majority of the night. He laid one decent check along the boards, but other than that, he was lustily booed every time he touched the puck, and it really appeared to me that he didn't want to give the refs or the Canes any reason to target him.
We had outstanding seats, five rows from the ice, three rows directly behind the Canes penalty box. However, the problem with having seats THAT close to the ice is that while you see the speed of the game up close (read: Crosby/Malkin), it's kinda hard to see as much as you do on the TV feed.
The first period was filled with more of the same for the Pens, leaving Canes forwards wide open in front of the net, plenty of penalties, and the like, resulting in a 2-0 Pens deficit. It also featured the fight between Thorburn and Commodore. Now, I understand the layman hockey fan, who sees the opponent fall down and the home guy punch him on the way down, look like he knocked the opponent on his ass. But c'mon Canes fans, is that all you were looking at ?? Thorburn got the majority of clean shots in the tilt, and he is quickly rising up in my book. His combination of scrappiness and decent offensive ability are just what the Pens need.
After the second period saw yet another Canes goal from a wide-open Brindamour, the Pens finally woke up, one goal coming on an excuse-me goal from Leclair, and the other from a nice slap shot from Recchi. I saw Recchi messing around with Ward during the pregame skate, playfully lofting pucks at him, and he gave Ward a nice friendly smirk after his goal to make it 3-2 Canes after two periods.
The third period is where the game's momentum shifted for the last time. At around the 15:30 mark or so, the Pens put one of their few offensive assaults towards Ward, an it really appeared that Nils Ekman tapped the puck over the line to tie up the game. I, to be honest, didn't get a good luck at the puck, but my buddy Pojo Risin was incensed, he basically said Ward was in the net himself and the puck was over the net. Ekman's comments, courtesy of the Trib, were "It was a goal, for sure. I will bet anything on it. The puck was turning up on an edge. The whole puck was over the line, by a lot. There's no doubt about it. I had a pretty good view. I was by that post. I can't explain it." If that weren't enough, check out the Raleigh News-Observer's own photo gallery from the game, specifically shot #16, which shows the puck crossing the red line, and BEFORE LaRose even touches it to hit it back into play. We were about 10 feet from the refs, as they were on the phone with the officials in the booth, and obviously with the NHL offices in Toronto. You could clearly see that the refs were telling Leclair, after they ruled no goal, that they couldn't get a clear shot of the puck going over the red line.
After yet another decision to go against the Pens, that was pretty much the ballgame.
Soft goal against Thibault to make it 4-2.
Couple hundred more penalties against the Pens.
Even when they got a damn power play, then pulled Thibault to get a two-man advantage, they still gave up two short handed goals, one with an empty net, another one on yet another soft goal in the last couple of minutes of the game.
I really don't like crying over spilled milk, but just what the hell is happening when the Pittsburgh Penguins take the ice nowadays ??
Are you to tell me that the Pens are THAT undisciplined, such as last night in Raleigh when they took 14 frickin' penalties ??
Are you also to tell me that every Pens opponent is THAT disciplined ??
I'm not foolish enough to suggest any type of conspiracy against the young Penguins, but it sure as hell appears that the Penguins get absolutely no benefit of the doubt when it comes to calling penalties AGAINST them, and their opponents, most often older and more experienced, seem to get away with similar actions with no penalty call.
Then you get calls like the no-goal last night. How can so many people see that puck cross the goal line, but four referees can't ??
1. Malkin - He's just as advertised when you see him in person. Big. Strong. Fast.
2. After watching the game today on TIVO, I heard yet again Paul Steigerwald talk about how the Canes are such a good "puck possession team". I'm sorry Paul, but I'm tired of hearing that. Let's call the kettle black, the Pens opponents are such good puck possession teams because the Pens are such a poor defensive team, 'nuff said.
3. Anyone else tired of hearing nightly references by Bob Errey about Peterborough ??
4. Vintage Pens jerseys spotted (other than the more recent Lemieux/Jagr/Straka); 3 Tocchet's, Ulf Samuellson, and a Nedved.
Flyers are up next on Monday night back at the Igloo, just what the doctor ordered ??