Pittsburgh 7, Ottawa 4
I'm Blind, I'm Deaf, I'm a Ref.
Pittsburgh had too many members of their team on the ice the other night. No, not too many men, too many members. The refs and the linesmen were not sitting on their bench, but they may as well have, because their one-sided arbitrary arbitration style was clearly pro-Pittsburgh.
This is not to say that Ottawa was blameless in this loss. Ottawa had a lot of problems, including the fact that they seem slow on the cycle, they still pass too much, they don't put enough pucks on the net, they can't seem to get that one guy in the blue paint when they're on the attack and they're losing battles in the neutral zone like it's nobody's business.
This was further aggravated by the performance of a certain Jason Spezza, who we can add to the list of too many members for Pittsburgh, because his bad giveaways and turnovers made a lot of those goals all but too easy. I'm pretty sure that he should have picked up a couple assists on those Pittsburgh goals, particularly that one where Crosby took off like a shot for the net after a lazy move and a fall from number 19.
Bad calls will change the momentum of a game. They give scoring chances to the opposition and wear down a team that may already be trailing by making them work twice as hard in their zone. It also causes frustration and anger, particularly when your team takes a stupid penalty (too many men when an errant skate happened to linger on the ice for .05 seconds while crossing the boards), only to have the opposition do exactly the same thing minutes later with no call at all. How do you expect any team to feel after that?
I know that the guys on the Not-fan 1200 sports radio show will tell you that players must overcome bad calls and that refs are just doing their job and there's nothing to be done about it. This is a non-answer for something which is clearly an issue. You don't have to nitpick about details and individual icing calls, but just admit that you know a badly regulated game when you see one. Come on. Even angry fans deserve to have some recognition of the unfairness of the situation, particularly when it's blatantly obvious in the replays and stats.
But you don't get any of that from the so-called sports analysts. All you get is the Crosby show, a 15 minute tribute to the greatness of Sid the Kid. We all know how good he is. We're tired of hearing about him and the dynamic duo he makes with Evgeni Malkin, his Russian counterpart. We don't need to hear more of it.
The first period of this game went fairly well. The defense was playing pretty tight and that's exactly what they needed to do. Too bad it didn't last. The defense seemed to have a meltdown after a few of those errant goals went in. You really can't blame Elliot for those. He was solid enough, but he needed support from his defense and he needed his team to generate some offense for him too.
Thankfully, there were 3 goals in the second period and one of them was just a beauty from Alfie. It was good to see the Captain get involved and put one away for the team. But the joys of that were short-lived after the errors in the neutral zone pretty much cut off the team's hope of swinging the momentum back in our favour.
Don't say bad calls don't affect the game, because the defense started to look nervous in the third period, due to some bad calls from the refs on little taps. The Pens were allowed to steam roll our team in the Sunday match up and this has obviously affected the behavior on the ice. Our guys are just not willing to take big risks, knowing that every little thing that they do is going to get called one way or another, while the Pens are allowed to beat them up.
Fleury is a proven goalie, but he had a lot of defense helping him out and a big cushion of a lead provided by his team. I'm not convinced that Fleury is better than Elliot, particularly because he didn't have much to prove on the night. I'm sure that he fell asleep at some point in the game, particularly when that one shot almost trickled in behind him as he momentarily considered what he wanted for dinner in his mind. Fleury is luckier, better supported and had a lot less to do than Elliot. I don't blame Elliot for this one at all.
Other than the beautiful goal put away by Alfredsson, my favourite highlight of the night was the double flying leap hit with Fisher on the boards. You could hear the entire stadium gasp at the same time. That's something that doesn't happen very often. My other favourite highlight of the night? The fans with the body paint. I love when drunken frat boys show up to events with no shirts and body paint.
I would usually finish up a post like this with some advice for the next game. I'm not so sure that would be useful, considering that it's not different from the past 2posts. Here's the summary:
Keep it simple
Put more shots on net
Get in the ugly zones and sit on Fleury; the paint doesn't belong to him alone
Don't get Spezza to play Crosby; the Kelly-Foligno-Phillips line has done so much more for the team than Spezza's line
Cheechoo? Really? He was such a non-factor all season long and he continues to be so in the playoffs. Bring back Dono and Shannon.
I feel the end is near. I suppose it will be nice in some ways to get back to a more regular pace of life, to not watch hockey every night on the couch and to get outside and maybe see people that I will talk to. Maybe blog about world politics or other such issues or maybe delve into that Masters degree textbook on the Dead Sea Scrolls that's been sitting on my shelf at home.