We can’t find any reason to hate the Blackhawks. And if you’re spewing hatred without having a legit reason, you’re getting close to jealousy territory. They are the model franchise in the league right now. They pounded the Penguins as professionally as you can. And Jonathan Toews rose to the challenge laid out by NBC’s marketing department. Just a business win for them, and a really shitty loss for the Penguins.
Before the Olympic break, the Penguins were the best team in the Eastern Conference. Now, only two and a half weeks later, it doesn't feel like that at all. The team looks tired and stale, almost as if they are now coming back to Earth after somehow keeping it all together. Did the Olympic break affect the focus? Not sure. Is this an overreaction after two games? No, not really. Excuses are nothing but explanations after the fact, and so there’s no pointing to the horrible playing conditions in this one. Both teams played in it. Find something else.
And ignore the standings and stats for a second. There is a critical problem with this team, and it lies with the third and fourth lines. The top two lines are as good as any team in league, even if Brian Gibbons still hasn’t made a play. But then things fall off a cliff. Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke -- solid, dependable, consistent players -- were replaced with fart sounds.
We were the first people that we know of to point out the lack of production from the Pens’ bottom lines this season, way back in early December. We recall being flamed off the Internet for it, being accused of spewing negativity, and being told that we hate the Penguins. Where is your god now?
This was the bottom six against the Blackhawks
Combined, they were a -10. If you don't like plus/minus, consider this: those six players played a combined total of about 54 minutes of 5-on-5. The Hawks generated 60 shot attempts in those 54 minutes. The Pens’ bottom six generated 32.
If the Pens lose in the playoffs, as they probably will, it will probably involve Crosby/Malkin having a few cold games (or Marc-Andre Fleury blowing up). When that happens, people will say “Gee, Malkin/Crosby/Fleury were terrible.” Perhaps they should point out that Pittsburgh is trying to win with an abysmal bottom half of their team, which piles an awful lot of pressure on the other guys.
It’s a bad situation. And even worse, time is running out to fix it.
The Pens have hidden their bottom six for as long as possible, but the cracks are starting to show. Ray Shero and the brain trust have until Wednesday to fix it, whether that’s internally or with some trades. If they don't, they may go into the playoffs as an underdog, which, hey, may not be a bad thing.
The recap and some excellent pics from this one:
Well at least no one got hurt.
In some adverse weather conditions the Hawks were able to find a way, the Penguins were not.
When it was done, the Hawks won 5-1.
Again, the concern is the Penguins bottom lines. The third and fourth lines got outclassed by their counterparts from the Windy city.
Every player on the third and fourth lines was at least a -1. Taylor Pyatt was a -3, and he only played 10 minutes.
Also, holy shit was the defensive bad. Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi both a -3.
Overall, a really rough night.
Our three stars
3. Patrick Sharp.
Sharp got the Hawks started with the first goal. He was a presence all night.
2. Brandon Saad.
Saad finished as a +4, and had an assist.
1. Jonathan Toews
Toews was too good. This move on Brooks Orpik... yikes. Toews had two goals and an assist.
Pittsburgh Penguins (40-15-4) @ Chicago Blackhawks (35-12-14)
NBC - 8:00 pm/et
Soldier Field - Chicago, IL