-We've gotten some significant mileage out of this chart over the years of doing this blog. It's a list of every regular season sweep of three or more games by the Penguins. Prior to tonight, that number sits at 36. A win of any type tonight against the Hurricanes would increase it to 37.
-This season alone, the Penguins have swept season series (of three or more games) four times. If they pull off the trick tonight, they would match a team-best of five regular season series sweeps.
-In baseball, where the games are broken up into three- or four-game series against individual opponents, a sweep of a series tends to have a little more weight than it does in hockey. Does getting a season sweep against an opponent (and not so much the individual wins) carry any significance in hockey? Yesterday, Dan Bylsma was asked what weight a season sweep does carry:
"I'd like to place some significance on it. I don't know if I can. I know in past history, we've seen some years where you've done really good against the Flyers and that didn't have a bearing on the playoffs. I just know leaving Columbus in that game [Friday], that's 10 points. That's 10 points we have and it's 10 points we don't have. It put us at 99 [points] and them at 80. If they flipped that, it would be a completely different story. Those five games, they're a significant, significant part of our season. When you flip-flop those 10 points, we'd be right at the same number. That success if a big thing for us. Does it mean much more than that? I'm not sure it does."
Of the teams the Penguins have swept thus far - the Capitals (4-0-0-), the Blue Jackets (5-0-0-), the Sabres (3-0-0) and the Lightning (3-0-0) - only the Sabres are the only team not in playoff contention. The Penguins could meet the other three teams at some point in the postseason. If the Penguins were to face the Blue Jackets in the first round, that would-be playoff series starts 0-0. But where does the Penguins' confidence start in comparison to the Blue Jackets' confidence.
-Of more immediate significance, the Penguins can clinch the Atlantic Division tonight. The easiest rout would be a win. Some combination of an overtime loss or a shootout loss by the Penguins and a loss of any type by the Flyers tonight against the Blues would do it as well. Regardless of how they may do it, once the Penguins secure the division, they should rest players. especially on defense. Matt Niskanen, Olli Maatta and Brooks Orpik could benefit from a few games off. The Bruins have all but clinched first place overall in the Eastern Conference. Chasing that designation would not be worth the ramifications it could have on an already taxed lineup.
-Playing 82 game is a nice goal for any player to pursue, but that does little for the overall good of the team.
-The Penguins' power play enters this game on an 0 for 13 skid. The biggest reason for that would appear to be the absence of Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins have been experimenting with Jussi Jokinen and even Sidney Crosby on the point. The results clearly haven't been there.
-Some sights around the barn. A sunny day Dahntahn:
-The Zamboni drivers have a pretty detailed itinerary:
-James Neal Plymouth Whalers:
-Another No. 25, Kevin Stevens:
-A sunny Joe Mullen:
-Brooks Orpik Team USA:
-The always rare Brad Thiessen/Brian Gibbons Wilkes-Barre/Scranton combination:
-The always rare Rick Tocchet/Jean Pronovost combination:
-Here's a rare gem. Darius Kasparaitis Team Russia:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are a few Carolina fans here. Jeff Skinner:
-Former Whalers/Hurricanes/Penguins captain Ron Francis:
-Another former Penguins/Hurricanes forward Mark Recchi:
-Former Penguins/Whalers defenseman Ulf Samuelsson:
-Jordan Staal is popular in Pittsburgh form:
-And Carolina form:
-Jersey of the Night: Former Penguins/Whalers sensation, Dahntahn Robbie Brown:
-The Penguins' starters are Tanner Glass, Jussi Jokinen, Brandon Sutter, Olli Maatta, Matt Niskanen and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Simon Despres, Marcel Goc, Evgeni Malkin and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Hurricane's starters are Patrick Dwyer, Nathan Gerbe, Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk, Andrej Sekera and Anton Khudobin.
-Their scratches are Mike Komisarek, Justin Peters, Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty.
-No Jimerson. No photo.
19:48: The Pengins have a chance early on as Jokinen feeds a pass from the left circle to the slot. Sutter is in all alone but can't punch it behind Khudobin.
17:53: Off an offensive zone faceoff win by Jordan Staal in the left circle, Ron Hainsey slides a pass from the left point to John-Michael Liles at center point. Liles fires a one-timer which Fleury punches out.
17:36: After Hainsey fumbles a puck at the Penguins' blue line, Gibbons hustles after it in the neutral zone and creates a partial breakaway from the Carolina blue line in. Hainsey hooks him up in the Hurricane's left circle. Gibbons loses the puck but Sutter follows up on it and jabs a backhander which Khudbobin denies with his left leg. What effort by Gibbons. Officials take several moments to review the play to see if it was a goal or not. Eventually, they award Gibbons a penalty shot. He pick sup the puck at center ice, glides in, veers a bit to the left circle, levels out and lifts a forehand shot which Khudbobin knocks wide with his stick.
16:17: Off a feed by Crosby, Niskanen whacks a one-timer from the left point. Khudobin punches it away.
15:42: Off a feed by Crosby, lifts a wrister from the above the right circle. Khudobin knocks it dead and smothers it.
13:49: Off an offensive zone faceoff wing by Sutter in the right circle, Maatta slides a feed to Niskanen at the left point. Niskanen whacks a one-timer which Khudobin kicks out.
13:01: Taking a touch pass from Sutter in the neutral zone, Jayson Megna races up the right wing into the offensive zone and snaps off a little wrister from the right circle. Khudobin traps it in his gear.
12:23: Craig Adams chips a wrister from the right circle. It gets blocked.
12:12: After Glass smacks Bellemore
11:48: Neal Lifts a wrister from the high slot. Khudobin fights it off.
11:45: Neal chops a one-timer from the right circle. Khudobin kicks it out. Bennett is there for the rebound but the puck is just beyond his grasp.
10:59: The Penguin strike first. After Chris Terry fumbles a puck on Carolina's left half wall, Kunitz simply snaps off a wrister from the left circle. It glances off the stick of Hainsey and deflects by Khudodbin's left leg on the far side. Stempniak and Crosby get credited with some generous assists. Crosby's assist is his 100th point of the season. It's the fifth time he's reached that mark in his career. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1-0.
10:19: Engelland and Skinner each get slashing minors for hacking each other in the Penguins' zone. We'll have four on four play for two minutes.
9:54: Liles pumps a slapper from the right point. Fleury kicks it out.
8:59: Working with an acre of ice off the left wing, Dwyer rips a wrister low. Fleury kicks it out.
8:19: Engelland and Skinner each return to the ice.
7:29: Adams rips a wrister from the right circle but has it blocked on a backcheck by Jay Harrison.
6:33: Pushing the puck deep on the right wing, Skinner lifts a wrister which Fleury traps against his chest.
6:24: Jordan Staal centers a feed from the right ing corner for Nathan Gerbe above the blue paint. Gerbe fails to make contact with the puck.
5:21: A turnover by the Penguin deep in their zone leads to a goal for the Hurricanes. Jokinen tries to play a puck from the left wing corner to the slot. It hits off the left skate of Niskanen and delefcts to Faulk above the right circle. Faulk steps up and tees off on a one-timer which clunks under the blocker of Fleury and into the cage. The goal is unassisted. Put that one Jokinen. Hurricanes 1 Penguins 1.
4:56: Harrison appears to get away with a trip on Sutter in tight near the Carolina cage.
3:46: A wrister by Gerbe from deep on the left wing is fought off by Fleury.
3:19: Jordan Staal chops a puck loose in the right wing corner to Brett Bellemore at the right point. Bellemore rips a wrister which Fleury eats up.
1:35: Elias Lindholm lifts a wrister from the right circle. Fleury punches it away.
1:19: Crosby races the puck up the right wing and flings backhander from the right circle off the near post.
1:01: Jordan Staal shuffles a wrister on net from the right circle. Fleury steers it away.
0:00: End of period. Hurricanes 1, Penguins 1.
-That was the tale of two different parts of the periods. The Penguins dominated early while the Hurricanes controlled things late.
-Jokinen's poor turnover noted, the Neal-Jokinen-Bennett line continued to look pretty sharp.
-Brian Gibbonas keeps creating chances with his speed. That might be his only asset but it's a considerable asset.
-Sutter looked pretty sharp early on. He had a few quality scoring chances.
-Jordan Staal really picked things up later in the period. He looked like he wanted to prove something.
-Hainsey had has better periods of hockey in his life.
-The Penguins have a 14-11 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 23-17 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal leads the game with three shots.
-Liles leads the Hurricanes with two shots.
-Faulk leads the game with 7:52 of ice time.
-Orpik lead the Penguins with 7:44.
-The Penguins have a 13-9 lead in faceoffs (59 percent).
-Adams is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Fire Jim Rutherford.
-Jordan Staal is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-Fire Ray Shero.
-Sutter graces the cover of Icetime:
19:34: Sutter is on the bench being attended to by athletic trainer Chris Stewart. A replay showed Sutter chasing after a puck in Carolina's left wing corner. His stick appeared to get jammed up in the Zamboni gate and it basically speared him in the stomach. Ouch.
18:59: On an odd-man rush up ice, Orpik has the puck in the high slot. He appears to have a clean look at the cage but forces a pass which is stolen.
18:03: Jokinen chucks a wrister on net from the right circle. Khudobin eats it up.
17:02: Niskanen golfs a loose puck at the right point on net. Khudobin snags it.
16:35: Orpik chops a slap/pass from the left point. It hits a body in the slot.
14:00: Adams races up the right wing win the puck and chops slapper from the right half wall wide to the far side.
11:28: After a few stagnant minutes, the Hurricanes get a power play. Neal is called for tripping Faulk. That's two minutes. Adams, Sutter, Rob Scuderi and Maatta take the ice.
10:45: Off a feed by Skinner from behind the cage, Lindholm chops a one-timer from the right circle. Fleury fights it off.
10:36: The Hurricanes cash in. Skinner controls a puck down low behind the cage and he is able to sneak a backhanded pass through the legs of Maatta to Elias Lindholdm in the left circle. Lindholm swipes a one-timer by Fleury on the far side. What a pass by Skinner. Skinner and Loktionov get assists. Hurricanes 2-1.
9:11: A wrister by Loktionov from the slot is blocked by Engelland.
8:48: Sekera lifts a wrister from the left circle wide of the cage.
8:44: Bellemore flings a wrister from the right point on net. Fleury snags it. Attendance is announced as 18,635. It is the team's 324th consecutive sellout.
8:04: After Fleury fumbles a dump-in by the Hurricanes, the puck slides into the blue paint between his skates. As he loses track of the puck, Drayson Bowman speeds in and chops at it. Fleury holds it out. Yeesh.
6:45: The Hurricanes are all over the Penguins. After Jordan Staal has a backhander in tight denied by Fleury, the puck bounces out to Sekera at the left point. He chucks it on net. Fleury fights it off.
6:36: The Penguins ice the puck and call timeout to get a breather and get organized.
6:02: A wrister by Neal in the left circle is blocked by Harrison.
5:09: Jokinen heads down the runway to the dressing room.
5:03: Lindholm doubles up. After Engelland badly fumbles a puck in the Penguins' left circle, Lindholm takes it off him, walks in on net and rips a wrister which blows by Fleury. What an ugly play by Engelland. Skinner gets the only assists. Engelland could make a case for one. Hurricanes 3-1.
4:36: Oprik chucks a wrister on net from the left wing. Khudobin snags it.
4:20: Crosby takes a shift with Bennett and Neal.
3:55: Jokinen returns to the ice.
3:44: Sutter chips a puck on net for the right point. Khudobin holds it out as Crosby and Sekera crash into him.
3:22: Liles chops a slapper from the righ tpoint. Gibbons blocks it.
3:14: The Penguins get a chance as Gerbe was called for slashing at the Carolina blue line. It's kind of a ticky tack call but the Penguins will take it. Neal, Kunitz, Crosby, Jokinen and Niskanen take the ice.
2:52: A one-timer by Niskanen from above the left point is blocked by Sekera. Jordan Staal chips it down ice for a clear.
2:12: Short-handed, Jordan Staal backhands a pass from the left circle to Bowman in the right. Bowman chips backhander on net. Fleury kicks it out.
1:45: Boos cascade down as the Hurricanes chip a puck down ice once again.
1:11: As Gerbe returns to play, Bennett whisp a wrister from the right circle wide to the far side.
0:00: End of period. A smattering of boos can be heard as the Penguins depart the ice. Hurricanes 3, Penguins 1.
-That period was the equivalent of 10 miles of bad road. It was ugly.
-It was a lot uglier for the Penguins than it was the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes controlled play and the puck for the bulk of the second.
-The power play continues to hurt the Penguins. The Penguins looked pretty weak on their power play that period. In contrast, the Hurricanes kept things simple and cashed in.
-Even under the best of circumstances for Engelland, we don't understand why he would ever be in the lineup instead of Simon Despres.
-The Hurricanes have a 23-20 lead in shots on net.
-In the second period alone, they outshot they Penguins, 12-6.
-The Penguins have a 38-36 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal leads the game with four shots.
-Bowman and Lindholm each lead the Hurricanes with three shots.
-Faulk leads the game with 16:08 of ice time.
-Orpik leads the Penguins with 15:23.
-The Penguins lead in faceoffs, 21-18 (54 percent).
-Adams is 6 for 7 (86 percent).
-Fire Jim Rutherford.
-Manny Malhotra is 7 for 12 (58 percent).
-Sekera leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Maatta and Gibbons each lead the Penguins with two blocked shots.
18:10: Sutter races up the left wing and chips a backhander on net. Khudobin fights it off.
17:37: Off a feed by Pyatt, Gibbons rips a wrister from the left wing. Khudobin battles it away.
16:59: Bennett releases a spinning wrister from the right circle. Khudobin smothers it.
16:52: Off a feed from Orpik, Kunitz rips a wrister from above the right circle. Khuboin says no.
16:38: Robert Bortuzzo slams Dwyer to the ice in the Penguins' right wing corner with a solid hit.
15:01: Sutter rips a wrister from the left half wall. Khudobin kicks it out.
13:45: Jokinen lifts a wrister from the left circle over the cage.
10:57: Following a few stagnant minutes, Bortuzzo fumbles the puck behind his goal line. Gerbe tries to tuck int in with a forehand shot from the right of the cage but Fleury holds it out.
8:46: Gibbons trie to jame in a forehand shot form the right of the cab but has it blocked.
8:36: Off a neutral zone turnover Scuderi, Skinner races up the left wing and chucks a wrister on net. Fleury snags it.
8:13: Game. Set. Match. Engelland's rough night continues. He turns a puck over from his own left wing corner. Andrei Loktionov corrals it at the left half wall and chucks it on net. Eric Staal is just to the right of the cage. The puck deflects off his body and into the cage. What an ugly play all around for the Penguins. Loktionov gets the only assists. Hurricanes 4-1.
6:57: Off a cycle by Kunitz, Gibbons whips a wrister on net. Khudobin eats it up.
6:50: Maatta chops a slap/pass from the left point. Crosby is to the right of hte cage and taps it wide.
6:11: Kunitz cranks a slapper from the left point on net. It deflects out of play.
5:22: Bortuzzo chops a slapper from the right point wide of the cage. It appeared to get deflected.
4:46: Niskanen is skating with Orpik.
3:56: Maatta is in deep on the right wing and swings a wrister wide of the cage.
3:44: A wrister in deep by Neal is fought off by Khudobin.
3:37: Maatta cranks a slapper from the right point wide of the cage.
3:29: Kunitz rips a wrister from above the right circle which is blocked.
2:47: Frustration boils over as Crosby and Harrison mix it up in the Hurricanes' right wing corner. A scrum develops. Both players get roughing minors. Crosby pretty much choke slammed Harrison to the ice. Play will be four on four.
1:51: Jordan Staal coasts in off the left wing and attacks the net. His forehand shot is denied by Fleury.
0:47: Crosby and Harrison return to the ice.
0:00: End of game. Hurricanes 4, Penguins 1.
-First things first, with the Penguins losing in regulation and the Flyers losing to the Blues in a shootout, the Penguins' magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division is now one point.
-Out side of a strong surge in the first 10 minutes, the Penguins' puck management was terrible tonight. We don't know (or trust) what the official numbers were, but the Penguins turned the puck over at a alarming rate tonight. There really isn't any need to dissect this game too much. Puck management was the biggest difference.
-Deryk Engelland had a mess of game. He had two turnovers which led to goals. To make matters worse, he fumbled a puck at the Carolina blue line and allowed it to exit the offensive zone. Once he pulled it back over the blue line, that drew an offsides call and nullified a solid offensive chance.
-We like Engelland as a seventh defenseman or even as a fourth-line forward. We don't like him as a choice over Simon Despres.
-The scary thing is, if the Penguins didn't get a fortunate hop off the stick of Ron Hainey, Anton Khudobin would have recorded a shutout.
-Despite the Hurricanes not really getting very many matchups throughout the game, the Penguins' first line was a non factor throughout most of the game. Sidney Crosby seemed bottled up most of the game and eventually got pretty frustrated.
-Said Jordan Staal:
"I remember from playing there in the neutral zone in Pittsburgh, they like to get some speed. It thought we did a good job of stuffing their centermen from gaining speed and taking that away from them. We did a good job of taking away their time and space."
-Given that inability to get the puck through the neutral zone, this was a game where Paul Martin or Kris Letang could have made a difference.
-Officials didn't award many power plays - a total of two all night - but special teams failed the Penguins. They looked completely overwhelmed on their lone power play and even had trouble getting out of their zone, again an area where Martin or Letang could help. The power play was shredded pretty quickly by Carolina's power play on it's lone chance.
-The Penguins are now 0 for their past 14 on the power play.
-Fleury was not sharp. He looked kind of fuzzy-headed on a few dump-ins with the puck. . He could have stolen a goal. The Penguins needed a bit more from him but he was not the problem tonight.
-Like the rest of the team, the second line of Beau Bennett, Jussi Jokinen and James Neal looked okay. like the rest of the team, the second line was mostly inert. It didn't make an impact - aside from a turnover by Niskanen which led to Carolina's first goal - most of the night.
-Give the Hurricanes credit. They came in with a pretty set plan of attack to this game and stuck with it. They shook off a low-scoring loss to the Senators last night as well as a few injuries and dominated the Penguins at times. Eric Staal said:
"Last night was a little different. Ottawa was a 1-4 [trap] really sitting back. Tonight, against a team that skates well, sometimes you get a little more open ice. Tonight, we were able to get on our forecheck a little better and turn pucks over. Create more offensive chances down there. More shots, more looks. Fortunately tonight, they went in."
-What's kind of disheartening about the Penguin right now is that it's been a long time since they dominated an opponent for most of a game. They played a pretty even game against the Blue Jackets Friday and were dominated most of the game against the Blackhawks Sunday. The only difference tonight was that the goaltender didn't let in in any soft goals.
-Khudobin was very sharp tonight. He saw a lot of quality shots early in the game and gave his team a chance to stay in this. He didn't get tested much beyond that 10 minutes, but when he was, he was up to task.
-Oddly, we liked Brandon Sutter's game. he created some chances and put more than a few pucks on net.
-The Penguins had a 31-28 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 58-40.
-Neal led the game with six shots.
-Elias Lindholm led the Hurricanes with five shots.
-Justin Faulk led the game with 24:59 of ice time.
-Brooks Orpik led the Penguins with 21:33.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 34-25.
-Crosby was 11 for 17 (65 percent).
-Manny Malhotra was 12 for 19 (63 percent).
-John-Michael Liles led the game with four blocked shots.
-Olli Maatta, Brian Gibbons and Sutter each led the Penguins with two blocked shots.
-Crosby reached the 100-point mark for the fifth time in his career. Only Mario Lemieux (10) did that more often for the franchise.