The few weeks heading into the All-Star break there were some big games and some emotional moments. Tonight they were playing their toughest competition and they were able to come out with two points, albeit in a shootout, and extend the winning streak to seven games.
The Pens played some pretty good hockey early on and built up a two goal lead on scores from James Neal (non All-Star) and Steve Sullivan and things looked pretty good. The Blues battled back like champs though and really got better as the game went on. They tied the score with a pair of Patrik Berglund goals, one of which was on a penalty shot five minutes into the third period to tie the score.
If you remember the earlier game this season between these two teams really had a physical battle and tonight was no different. The Penguins and Blues exchanged blows during the game and really were playing on that clean/dirty line the whole night and it really led to a physical battle that was entertaining to watch. Officially the Blues outhit the Penguins 32-27 but most of you know how I feel about the hits statistic but this was a really gritty game which luckily comes on the brink of a week off.
Maybe the best part of this game was the overtime period. If there was ever a time you wanted to see the NHL go to a 10 minute overtime instead of five it was this game. If you weren’t on the edge of your seat then you weren’t watching the Pens/Blues game. Each team was back and forth getting scoring chance after scoring chance. If not for Marc Andre Fleury this game would have been over in favor of the Blues.
Speaking of Fleury he was outstanding. I mean he has been great the past two weeks but tonight he was on another world. He finished as the number one star of the game and it really wasn’t even close if he should have been named it. He made 32 saves and at least 6-8 of those were jaw droppers including three in overtime that should all be tied for the top play on SportsCenter tomorrow morning. I actually saw some people bashing on Fleury during the game to Seth from Empty Netters and while I thought those people were kidding I came to find out they weren’t. I have no idea what games those people watch of MAF but he is the team MVP as of right now. As good as Evgeni Malkin and James Neal has been MAF has been that good and maybe better. Just a treat to watch him right now. One of the best in the league.
While Malkin might not have scored a goal and had his six game goal scoring streak snapped he did get a goal in the shootout. It was pretty sick. He is pretty much doing whatever he wants right now and it is working.
James Neal continues to make even more of a mockery of the NHL All-Star game than it already is. He now has 27 goals on the season and isn’t in the mid-winter classic (yea, I made that up). He was stopped in the shootout but he was outstanding all game and was tied with Malkin with a team-high six shots on goal. Pretty funny to think back when we were thinking it would be great if Neal would score 30 goals. He has 27 at the break. Man.
Paul Martin gets ridiculed a good bit for his play which is a direct result of his $5M salary he is getting played but on the Neal goal he really made it happen. He fought the puck off a Blues defender and got it to Neal from behind the net for him to get a great scoring chance. Overall though Martin didn’t play very well as he was beaten a few times off the puck but luckily MAF was there to pick him up. Not sure what is up with Martin lately but he has been pretty up and down as of recent. I think he will be good going forward but it is just frustrating sometimes.
Matt Cooke might be making some news, but not in the right way. It was near the end of the game and he was going into the corner and semi shoved Barret Jackman into the boards. Here is the video:
In my opinion (and only seeing one replay) it didn’t look as bad as it did in real time. Jackman sort of turned his back at the last second and sort of threw himself into the boards. Sure, Cooke did extend his arms but he did not leave his feet or even come close to hitting Jackman in the head and while it was called boarding I just don’t see how it was a terrible hit. It might get looked at because of Cooke’s past and I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if he got some supplemental discipline but what do we really know?
The Blues are a pretty good hockey club. While they toe the line in their physical game they have a ton of talent and I think this really showed where the Penguins were as a team after the six game losing stream and the following winning streak (now at seven). They have strong goaltending and some really talented forwards who can move the puck and skate pretty well. It was an entertaining hockey game and one in which I wouldn’t mind seeing more often.
Hopefully the Penguins can enjoy some time off and get their legs back under them because they have a home-and-home with the Leafs next Tueseday/Wednesday. All-Star game is this weekend, I guess. Actually I have no idea when it is. All-Star games are dumb.