The Penguins continued their tour of the Atlantic Division last night against the New York Islanders. The flightless bird has played it's divisional opponents so often in the past few weeks that it seems like they are in several different playoff series all at once. By watching some of the chippy play in these games, you may begin to think it actually has been the playoffs.
Sidney Crosby returned to the line-up after having missed three games with an injured groin. He got back to playing Butch Cassidy to Colby Armstrong's Sundance Kid, and the two teamed up for Armstrong's first and second goals of the season. When Armstrong scored the first goal he jumped into Crosby's arms. He looked as if he had just heard the lottery drawing and was holding the winning ticket.
Armstrong was very relived after the game. "Yeah, definitely. I have been waiting awhile for that....guys have been saying shoot the puck, shoot the puck and I have been working on some things in practice," Armstrong said. "It was good to finally have the puck bounce in front there for me."
Head coach Michel Therrien was also excited for Armstrong and voiced it as only he can, "Pretty excited to see Colby got two goals tonight, especially the first one.....Hopefully he got the monkey out of his back."
It was definitely Marc Andre Fleury's night. He played very big in net for the Penguins...he had some extra incentive, it was his birthday and his bobblehead night! The 17,082 in attendance all got to take a little bit of MA home on his day. Even though he fought with a few rebounds, he made every big save late in the game.
Fleury was in a staring contest with Rick DiPietro all night, but DiPietro was the first to blink. No disrespect, but you would think that a $15 million dollar goaltender would have learned to hug the goal post when someone is cutting behind the net. He was beaten with a shot by Chris Thorburn that deflected off of his foot and in behind him. It would go on to be the game winner.
Therrien was pleased with his team’s effort, but not completely satisfied. "To win a hockey game, sometimes you need breaks. Lately, we didn't have any breaks," Therrien said. "Tonight we got the breaks and we end up winning the hockey game. I don't think it was our best game lately."
As Coach said, the team got the breaks they needed to win this game. Both teams had plenty of scoring chances, but the Pens took full advantage of the breaks that came their way.
Sidney Crosby looked great. He did not show any signs of a lingering problem with his groin. Crosby brought energy to the team that had been missing during his absence. He picked up 2 assists to keep pace in the scoring race. He also has raised his points per game to 1.58, the highest in the league.
Crosby must have wanted to pay homage to Dennis Savard, who was just named head coach in Chicago, when he attempted Savard's famous spin-o-rama late in the game. He would have pulled it off too, if not for a great defensive play by grey beard defenseman Alexei Zhitnik.
I had the opportunity to speak with Brett Hull last night. I am not sure what he was doing in Pittsburgh, but I made sure to ask a question that has been bothering me.
At one point there was some debate about Marc Andre Fleury's pads being a bad thing for him. I believe that Petr Forsberg said that the bright yellow pads would give shooters an advantage. Well, Hull seemed to shoot this theory down. I heard him comment on the pads to the individual he was with, so I asked, "You being a sniper, do you think that they would give you an advantage in finding openings on a goalie?" Hull responded, "I never looked for openings. I tried to hit certain spots that I knew I would score." He went on to point out the five hole right along the ice, right above the leg on the either side, high glove hand close to the shoulder and if all else failed, shoot it right at the goalies stick. "You see how they hold it," Hull said. "You knock that out and he never recovers." So, I would like to make a case for Fleury saying, the color of your equipment means nothing to a true goal scorer.....it is how you cover the spots that count.
Gary Bettman was in town to meet with some city and county officials regarding the Stand Alone Slots License that is due to be awarded on December 20, 2006. He spoke with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl about plan B, but still wanted to go on record stating that the Isle of Capri plan is the best bet for keeping the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
"If the Isle of Capri doesn't get the license, we've got a lot of uncertainty to deal with, and it's best for everybody and the franchise that we're not dealing in uncharted and uncertain waters," Bettman said.
"I think I've been very clear about this: We want the Penguins to stay in Pittsburgh," Bettman said. "This is a great market, there are great fans here, and we would like nothing better for Pens to have a new arena ... and on the right economic terms, so we don't have to worry about the long-term viability of the franchise. If we have to deal with something else, a lot of factors come into play and I can't be as certain about the future."
On a lighter note, Bettman expects the Penguins sale to Jim Balsillie to be finalized within the next 2 to 3 weeks.
"Assuming the interview [with the executive board] goes well -- and we have no reason to believe that it won't -- then we'll brief the board in the meeting and then shortly thereafter we'll have what's known as a fax vote," said Bettman.
(Gary Bettman quotes from the AP, I was unable to make it to his press conference...I found out about it too late.)