New York Islanders (26-44-9, Tavares) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (43-28-9, 6h/E)
7:30 p.m. EDT | Igloo o' melons | MSG+
Blog we're hoping gets past the 1st round: Pensburgh
Almost nothing on the line tonight, as thanks to the Devils and Rangers' respective swoons and Pittsburgh finally cooling off, the Penguins look very likely to finish in the 6th seed and face the Devils in Round 1. [Edit: WebBard points out in comments that this is a tad simplistic view, as the 4-6 seeds are still up in the air, of course.]
Greg Logan reports that Mike Iggulden will be Blake Comeau's replacement after Comeau broke his wrist in the Carolina Massacre. Logan also has a nice bit with Bill Guerin -- whose compensation is now a 4th-rounder since the Pens clinched a playoff birth -- facing the team he captained for the first time since things went south:
"I was just on edge a lot the last couple months there with the Islanders and just really struggling with the fact that we weren't winning. For a guy my age with just a few years left, I want to win now.
"Being [in Pittsburgh] has just been a lot of fun. I feel more like myself again and more at ease with everything that's going on. I was disappointed to have to leave the Islanders because I liked it there when I first got there. I thought I was done with switching teams, but I respect the direction they've gone. It's just that I'm a short-timer, and my time is now."
Thank you for your service. I'm sorry you were on edge. Now please get the Penguins past the first round and make sure you play in half the games, so we can get our stinking 3rd-round pick.
With nothing else much to say for tonight's low-stakes encounter, I thought I'd review how the Penguins looked before each meeting this season, as my impressions fluctuated laughably.
(There's a reason I don't gamble, and it has nothing to do with morality and everything to do with the growing pile of personal evidence that predicting the uncertain future is a fool's game, and paying for the privilege just compounds the folly.)
Observing the Atlantic foe Pens' ups and downs this season has been a lesson in I-don't-know-squat. If my "wisdom" about their fortunes were encapsulated in a diary, here is how the chapter headings would read:
- Act I: They're not the Cup finalists anymore, but they'll still be dangerous once Gonchar returns.
- Act II: My god these guys are going to run away with the Atlantic title!
- Act III: My god these guys stink. Why haven't they fired Therrien?! They're running out of time. Stick a fork in...
- Act IV: Wow, what a tear under Bylsma! They aren't last year's Pens, but they could be dangerous in the spring.
Here's what I thought in November, back when they were 7-4-2:
They've started slow -- by conference champ' standards -- but they're showing me enough to make me believe they're a good bet to be a serious threat come spring, particularly once Gonchar and Whitney are back.
Not totally off base, eh? All things considered, that statement still could apply (aside from Whitney -- although what he fetched via trade is a key to their "threat").
When these teams met again in December, both were, heh, "hot." At the time I sincerely thought Pittsburgh was going to run away with the division as the Rangers continued to fall. At the time, Miro Satan was their third-highest scorer. At the time, Brooks Orpik noticed a "confidence" in the 9-10-2 Islanders' game.
By December, Islanders-level injuries continued to bug the Pens, and I thought they were ripe for the taking amid a three-game losing streak. They beat the Isles 9-2.
By February, though, something was clearly rotten in the state of Penguin. At 27-25-5, they were 10th in the East and finally fired Therrien, for whom the team just wasn't performing. Brilliant me thought it was already too late to save the season:
Are the Penguins a bad team, or are they just untapped potential -- like the Blackhawks were when they fired Denis Savard four games into this season?
To me they've been flawed, too flawed, all season long to be able to turn this season around now. They began five steps behind by having blueline cog Sergei Gonchar out until this past weekend, and now their hole looks too daunting to overcome.
Yeah, well, like I said, there's a reason I don't gamble.