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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Game Recap: Bruins 5 - Penguins 2

Marc Savard scored a goal and added two assists as the Boston Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 at the Mellon Arena. The Bruins scored two power play goals and a shorthanded goal in the victory. Petr Sykora and Pascal Dupuis scored for the Penguins who have lost two games in a row and eight of their last 12. This was the team's fourth straight loss at home.

The Boston Bruins lead the Eastern Conference in points and have now won nine straight games.

The Penguins opened the scoring in the first period when Petr Sykora banked in a rebound to give the Penguins their only lead of the night. Dustin Jeffrey recorded his first NHL point by assisting on that goal.

The Penguins managed to keep up with the Bruins for the first two periods, but in the third they fell behind and, by the mid-point of the period, they were dominated. Tim Thomas made several key saves and the Penguins allowed a backbreaking shorthanded goal that turned the tide against them for good.

The Penguins scored their first goal off a rebound. They then spent the rest of the night trying to be pretty. Their power play was ineffective, and an attempted back door play from Sidney Crosby to Ryan Whitney allowed the shorthanded goal that sealed the victory for Boston.

Much will be made of the number of marginal penalties called against the Penguins, but that is not what cost them the game. It helped the Bruins, but the Penguins would have lost that game anyway. Maybe the score would have been different but the Penguins' play in the third period and on the power play cost them a victory, not the referees.

The Penguins look like they are trying too hard to make perfect plays. They look like they are afraid to make mistakes, and this fear is causing even more mistakes. A defensive lapse late in the second period gave the Bruins the go ahead goal.

The Penguins are passing too much. This is especially true of their star players, but no one on the team is willing to sacrifice and work for goals. The team needs to go after "dirty" goals. The need to chip the puck in around the net. They need to create traffic. Their first goal was a clear example of this and yet they failed to continue this practice.

The back door play from Crosby to Whitney is well-known around the league. The Bruins scouted it and cut it off immediately. When the Crosby attempted it, despite the fact that the passing lane was blocked, the Bruins made them pay. Crosby needs to shoot more. Opposing teams are learning that he will likely pass the puck and thus they look to cut off his passing opportunities. It's working.

Malkin should no longer be on the point on the powerplay. He is too much of a defensive liability there. Whitney and Goligoski would do fine along the blue line while Crosby, Malkin and Satan/Sykora could play up front.

But then, someone needs to do the dirty work. People like Matt Cooke and Tim Wallace are creating a physical presence on the ice, but this needs to happen more, especially in front of the net. Dustin Jeffrey is willing to head to the net and chip in an "ugly" goal. More players needs to do that. Not every goal needs to be a highlight reel goal. Ryan Malone is making a ridiculous amount of money in Tampa Bay this year because he heads to the net and chips in pucks. In the NHL many goals are scored by hard work and dedication. But not on the Penguins.

Jordan Staal should be one of the players creating more of a physical presence. He is a large man and yet he rarely uses his body to his advantage. Max Talbot has been almost invisible recently. He needs to start mixing it up.

Maybe there is actually too much pure offensive talent on the power play. Perhaps adding some grit, like Matt Cooke or even Jeffrey or Wallace, would help. Something needs to change.

Of course, there are still injuries. The team is desperately missing Tyler Kennedy's physical work and energy. The team is desperately missing Mike Zigomanis' face off wins. The team is desperately missing its heart. Last year when Talbot and Crosby and Fleury and Roberts went down other players stepped up their game and filled in the holes. That is not happening this year.

The Penguins meet the Bruins again on Thursday, this time in Boston.

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