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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Game Recap: Maple Leafs 7 - Penguins 3

This wasn't a good game.

This was a game where a 7-3 score actually made it look closer than it really was.

The Penguins were outworked and outplayed for nearly the entire game.

I'm not sure what it will take to motivate the Pittsburgh Penguins, but something has to.

Yes, the Penguins are at essentially the same point they were last year. Yes, they could win four in a row and everyone would forget about these losses. But it's not the losses that bother me. It's not the stupid decisions or the defensive lapses. It's the complete lack of effort.

If you watch the postgame interviews every Penguin said it. They were outworked. They didn't try.

Now that can mean two things.

It could leave you disheartened and upset that a team this young, this strong, this talented can't even be bothered to try. It could have you believe that something is seriously wrong with the Penguins.

Or it could leave you optimistic.

The Penguins are talented. They are good players. If they ever get motivated and start working hard they can dominate most teams in the NHL. That's what happened last year. Crosby and Fleury went down and the rest of the team started working hard. And they started winning.

But what will it take to get them to put some effort into their game?

I don't think it's a trade, at least not a major one. That's not what the Penguins need. They're a talented group of people. They're a very, very talented group of people. They don't have too many glaring weaknesses that can easily be solved via trade. Everyone always wants a blockbuster that will get Marian Gaborik or Ilya Kovalchuk here. And everyone always wants to trade Jordan Staal. I don't think either of those viewpoints are correct. A major trade is not needed or likely.

I've never been a fan of Michel Therrien. He only has one system. When that system works the team wins. When that system doesn't work the team struggles. Sometimes they still win, but they win because of their raw, natural talent. He can't adapt. His only coaching move is to change lines and switch goaltenders.

I think putting Dany Sabourin in for the third period wasn't the right move. If he didn't change goaltenders in the third against the Flyers, there was no reason to change goaltenders tonight. The Penguins were outshot by a huge margin in the first two period. Fleury wasn't stellar, but few goaltenders would be with their team playing that badly defensively. I know he put in Sabourin to shake up the team and try and get them focused, but it obviously didn't work. All it may have done is undermine Fleury's confidence.

I've never liked Therrien and I would likely be happy if he were fired, but I'm not sure if that would actually help the team.

The return of Ryan Whitney may help but, as Sidney Crosby said, it wasn't just one guy tonight. It was the lack of effort from the entire team that led to the loss. Something has to motivate these guys.

Hopefully they use tonight's game to realise that they actually need to work for their wins. Hopefully they decide that this is the last time they are going to be embarrassed like this. Hopefully they start to work hard.

Because they need to.

As a side note, with three goals tonight, Scott Hartnell has as many goals as Sidney Crosby.

I'm not sure what that means, but I think it's a sign of the apocalypse.

(Note, that isn't a shot at Crosby. It's just an observation.)

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