Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flyers dethrone Penguins; Leafs win, Leafs win!

Bad penalty leads to Philadelphia game-winner
The Flyers have one of the most talented groups of forwards in the league. Coincidentally, they possess a dangerous power play. Pittsburgh played with fire one too many times.

Scott Hartnell deflected a shot from Chris Pronger for a power play goal with 10:06 remaining and that held up as the winner as Philadelphia knocked off Pittsburgh, 3-2, simultaneously ending the Penguins' 12-game winning streak and taking over first place in the NHL.

Evgeni Malkin, who scored two power play goals, proved to be the culprit. He took a needless - no, make that stupid - penalty in a tied game that opened the door for Philadelphia, which had failed on its previous five power play opportunities. Pittsburgh's penalty killing, still ranked second in the league, has given up a power play goal in every game this month, six straight.

Hartnell had two points and Claude Giroux and Nikolay Zherdev also scored for the Flyers. Brian Boucher needed to make only 21 saves.

Sidney Crosby had two assists to push his points streak to 19 games.

Edmonton: Sucky again
Here come the Maple Leafs.

Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel each had a goal and assist as Toronto earned a 4-1 win over Edmonton. The Maple Leafs have climbed out of the bottom three places in the East for the first time since the Reagan administration. (Editor's note: Not actually true. More like Ford.)

Dion Phaneuf scored his first goal of the season and Mikhail Grabovski also scored for the Maple Leafs. Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 23 saves.

For the third straight game, Edmonton had fewer than four shots in a period after getting only three in the second period. Jordan Eberle scored for the Oilers.

--Now that the Penguins have lost a game, I wonder if I'm allowed to say bad things about them. I guess I might've said some things that rubbed some people the wrong way during the winning streak, even though we saw last year and in 1993 that winning a dozen straight during the season doesn't guarantee shit. It doesn't mean a team will win 12 in a row in May. The last few weeks have been fun, don't get me wrong, but pardon me for thinking long-term.

--I'm stealing this next bit from Seth Rorabaugh over at Empty Netters, but the foot was on the other hand this time. Normally it's the Flyers who take dumb, undisciplined penalties that cost them games against the Penguins. Now Pittsburgh's the one doing it.

--Of all the games for Pittsburgh not to lose, this was the one. Despite the 12 wins in a row, the loss knocks them out of first place in the division. That says how bad they were earlier in the year and how consistently good Philadelphia's been. Plus this is now the third loss to the Flyers. At best the Penguins can hope for just a split of the season series. Last year's horrid head to head record against a division foe cost Pittsburgh the division title; now it might happen again.

--Pittsburgh's had such a good commitment to defense the last few weeks but it sure wasn't there tonight. The Penguins gave up 37 shots and perhaps most telling, they were credited with only five blocked shots.

--(Editor's note: We're entering the overly emotional, probably irrational part of the commentary that one finds after a bad loss like this one.) I'm willing to trade Malkin. That penalty tonight was just inexcusable. He's too undisciplined and he's not nearly as hard a worker as some of his teammates. He lazily plays through games too often. The Penguins could probably trade him for an entire second line. I'm telling you, Malkin to Dallas for Brad Richards and one of Loui Eriksson, James Neal or Jamie Benn. Maybe more. (Editor's note: We're now leaving this section of the commentary.)

--It's probably a good idea Ray Shero runs the Penguins and not me. Plus, I know, the Stars probably can't take on Malkin's contract, not if the reason they want to trade Richards is because of his impending free agency. I know. Allow me this moment of idiocy.

--Pittsburgh is now tied with Washington for the fourth-most times shorthanded in the league. Despite how good the penalty killing has been (though not this month), that needs to change or that will ruin the season.

--I don't really have anything to say about Edmonton or Toronto. Neither team's any good. I'm going to go watch some Stargate SG-1 DVDs now. Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what.

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