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June 27, 2019
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
The Pittsburgh Penguins could easily be winless through their first four games if not for some clutch scoring from two fearsome scorers. And I am of course referring to Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis.
Like Kennedy before him, Dupuis provided the Penguins with a thrilling overtime winner, taking a Brooks Orpik pass and blasting a slap shot off left wing over Antero Niittymaki’s glove to beat the filthy Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2.
Squint and you would have sworn it was Guy Lafleur. Okay, well, squint really, really hard. But it was a beautiful shot. The slap shot off the wing is probably my favorite goal. You just don’t see them much these days.
You know what else you don’t see much of these days? Kid Crosby scoring.
Yes, LCS Hockey’s beloved Sid the Kid was held off the scoresheet again, making him pointless for North America. He’s still looking for his first goal, and the lofty shot totals from Sweden have dwindled, making him once again more Adam Oates than Brett Hull.
In the two-game set in Stockholm, Sid fired 11 pucks on net. Since returning stateside, Kid Crosby has just three shots.
It certainly isn’t for lack of effort. Kid Crosby is playing great hockey, but it’s time he starts putting something in the net. And I’ve been harping on it for years, but curve your stick already.
It gets wicked frustrating watching Sid humiliate defenders and then push a puck into the goalie’s pads. Ya know, there’s a reason why Stan Mikita broke out the blowtorch. If Sid won’t do it on his own, it’s time Mario steps in and does it for him. Enough’s enough.
Anyway, Geno Malkin isn’t exactly lighting it up, either, with just one goal and two assists in his first four. Needless to say, the Pens are very fortunate to be 2-1-1.
The only superstar carrying his own weight is Marc-Andre Fleury. The Flower has been spectacular, posting a .929 save percentage in the early going. And he’s making it look easy.
After a lackluster first period against the Flyers, the Pens ramped up the intensity in the second, generating all sorts of scoring chances and whatnot. Only Niittymaki’s strong play and a few fortunate posts kept the Flyers in it.
Pittsburgh finally broke through on the power play at 14:42 of the second when Orpik wristed a shot from the left point through a Kennedy screen and over Niittymaki’s glove. Gonchar who?
Forty-two seconds later, the always dangerous Mike Zigomanis – yes, that Mike Zigomanis – bagged his first in a Penguin uniform. Eric Godard created the chance with a devastating forecheck, freeing the puck to Matt Cooke behind the Philly net. Cooke quickly centered to Zigomanis in front. And before Niittymaki could say “Who in the blue hell is Mike Zigomanis?” it was 2-0.
It looked like it was going to be a laugher. But the last minute of the period wasn’t real funny. Jeff Carter got Philly on the board, centering a pass off Hal Gill’s stick and behind Fleury at 19:16. It was the second time in two games Gill has had a puck go off him in the net. Hey, that’s two more goals than Kid Crosby.
Simon Gagne knotted things at 19:37. Daniel Briere beat Crosby on a draw in the left circle. Braydon Coburn then set the table for Kimmo Timonen, who belted a one-timer from center point. Gagne batted the bullet between Fleury’s pads for the equalizer. Sadly, the celebration was cut short when Alexander Ovechkin jumped out of the crowd and ran an unsuspecting Briere from behind into the boards. Keep your head on a swivel, Danny.
That set the stage for Dupuis’ heroics in OT…
The other highlight was a first-period slugfest between Godard and Riley Cote. They were throwing bombs. This was hide-the-women-and-children kind of stuff. Godard dealing rights, and Cote tossing lefts. The Discovery channel filmed it for later use. The Geico caveman even thought it was a bit too much.
But what gives with Pittsburgh’s offense? The Birds have nine goals in four games. And why hasn’t Michel “Quick Trigger” Therrien mixed up the lines yet? Well, he did move Dupuis up with Crosby, shifting Ruslan Fedotenko to the third line with Kennedy and Max Talbot. That’s a good start. Fedotenko is a third-liner. He has no business playing with Sid. Neither does Dupuis, but at least he’s fast.
The other change I’d make would be swapping Miroslav Satan with Jordan Staal. I’ve always liked the Staal-Crosby combo. And I think Satan appears to have more chemistry with Malkin. It’s a Russian thing. So I’d go Staal-Crosby-Dupuis and Satan-Malkin-Sykora. Done and done. Championship.
Jarome Iginla was the story. With the game tied 3-3 in the third, Iggy potted his first goal and point of the season, piping a shot over Peter Budaj’s glove from the left circle on the power play. Enjoy…
Less than four minutes later, Iggy flew through center and ripped a low drive off Budaj’s right pad to create a rebound for Todd Bertuzzi, who fired home his second of the night and third on the season. The top line of Iginla, Bertuzzi, and Daymond Langkow combined for three goals, three assists, and 12 shots. Bertuzzi looked strong. And he made it through the entire game without breaking someone’s neck.
Iginla also got in his second fight in as many games, mixing it up with Cody McCormick at the end of the first period. While it’s always great seeing Jarome fight, and he’s one of the baddest men on the planet, two points need to be made.
First, Cody McCormick? Who canceled? Should Iggy really be wasting his time with fourth-liners?
And second, Iggy left his helmet and visor on. What the (sunshine)? I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was so enraged, he forgot he was wearing his hat. But c’mon, Iggy. Lose the windshield. Who do you think you are, Kirk Maltby?
Miikka Kiprusoff had another rough night. Kipper has a 4.90 goals-against average and a .826 save percentage through three games. And Ben Guite’s goal in the third was a kick to the Charlie Browns. Guite’s innocent wrister towards the cage bounced in the slot and skipped high short-side. Hard to get happy after that one.
Budaj wasn’t any better in the Colorado cage. Aside from a few strong stops in the second, Budaj was awful yet again, allowing five softies on 35 shots in dropping his third straight one-goal decision. Either Tony Granato has unshakable confidence in Budaj and is willing to ride out this rough patch, or Andrew Raycroft is still Andrew Raycroft.
On the bright side. Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk were swell. Hejduk made some dynamite defensive plays. And Stastny was magical, orchestrating some brilliant scoring chances, registering a pair of helpers. And now that I’ve discovered this whole embedding of NHL highlights thing, let’s keep the good times rolling with Stastny working his magic to set up Ryan Smyth.
But the headline is Jarome Iginla. He rose up and seized the game by the throat. Iggy is the truth. Let us go forth in peace, to love and to serve the Iggy.