Greetings happy Penguins fans,
= Well, the injury to C Evgeni Malkin certain does temper the enthusiasm from the Penguins’ fifth straight win. There is no word on the severity of Malkin’s injury, but it didn’t look pretty. Malkin fell awkwardly early in the second period and his right knee appeared to buckle inward. The good news is that Malkin skated off the ice under his own power. The bad news is that he looked ginger walking off the ice and it took the Penguins only a matter of minutes to announce that he was done for the night.
C Sidney Crosby is out indefinitely and, although the Penguins have been magnificent without their big guns, it was assumed that Malkin was going to have to carry the offense with Crosby out for the Penguins to outlast Philadelphia for the division title.
Can the Penguins catch the Flyers if Malkin and Crosby each miss, say, another two or three weeks? I doubt it.
= Injuries aside, let’s take a minute to give this team serious credit. The Penguins are now 8-3-1 without Crosby. Wow. For those of you old enough to remember, when Mario Lemieux would miss long stretches of time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Penguins wouldn’t necessarily fall apart, but they certainly didn’t go on 8-3-1 stretches. This is not to diminish Crosby’s greatness, but rather to point out how brilliantly the Penguins have played in his absence. If ever this team could get healthy, it would be the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. But will it get healthy? This is a fair question and one that has no answer.
= Kudos to three guys who were really good tonight and who have played well since the all-star break. D Paul Martin was a beast for a second straight game, blocking shots and playing good positional hockey all game. RW Tyler Kennedy is suddenly hot and has picked up his game with Crosby and Malkin out of the lineup. Also, give credit to C Max Talbot. He is still in a bit of an offensive funk, but he is producing quality chances every game and was terrific again in the faceoff circle tonight.
= At the risk of sounding like a broken record, G Marc-Andre Fleury is simply unbelievable right now. Is there currently a better goalie in hockey? Fleury is a dominant goaltender right now. His days of giving up the occasional bad goal seem a thing of the past.
= I will check back in from our nation’s capital Sunday afternoon. If anyone reads the blog in the hours before the Super Bowl, well, you’re a true hockey fan. Oh, and for the record … Steelers 24, Packers 20.
You stay classy, Pittsburgh.