Well done March. You produced a fine tournament of hoops so far and in the meantime have us ready for playoff hoops and hockey in April. If yesterday’s Michigan/UK game was to prepare me for the playoffs then I fully expect a fantastic few series that ends in heartbreak.
After the Michigan loss I took in the Pens/Hawks game fully expecting a Pens loss but they actually played quite well to start the game grabbing a 2-0 lead. Halfway through the 2nd period with the lead cut in half Brooks Orpik leveled Jonathan Toews…
Toews would leave the game and not return and this of course fired up many in the hockey community to say that someone needed to fight Orpik for “payback” for the hit. Here is the thing though the hit was a clean hit. Sure it was heavy and had it ben Ben Smith that got hit no one would have been mad but because its Toews many got up in arms.
Of course I know the hit was clean for the simple fact the Hawks didn’t do anything stupid to retaliate. They just went out and dominated for the next 20 plus minutes of the game. Luckily for the Pens MAF and Sid (more on that in a bit) won them the game but the Hawks responded as pros should, they elevated their game and didn’t make it a sideshow. There is a reason the Hawks are looked to as one of the best organizations and teams in the NHL. (Also their own kind thought it was a clean hit.)
This also led Mike Milbury to make comments about Orpik not fighting and the code and blah blah blah. I am not linking his comments for the same reason I don’t talk about when Skip Bayless or any other shock jock says something. All I know is the guy traded Zdeno Chara and Roberto Luongo and gave Rick Dipietro at 15 year deal. That is all I need to know about Mike Milbury and his hockey knowledge.
Good news is it sounds like Toews is fine, at least in terms of the playoffs. The Hawks are hitting a bit of the injury bug themselves and it is clearly not the time to do so. They have a looming series with the Avalanche in the first round and if they win that are all but certain to face the St Louis Blues in the 2nd round. The West is an absolute bear and I am glad the Pens aren’t out there else certain doom would be ahead.
Either way April is now upon us and now everyone must elevate their game.
1. MAF, it always comes back to MAF: Fleury was great last night and also on Friday in the win over Columbus. As usual the Pens playoff hopes will come down to how he performs on the big stage. Excuse me while I pour myself a drink.
2. Beau Bennett back: He came back on Friday and got the game winning goal and was a difference maker. When Malkin comes back I assume Bennett will move down to the third line and actually give the bottom six some skill. If he can keep it up the Pens may not be a horrendous possession team when the third line is out there.
3. Letang’s call to come back: Two plus months after a stroke and Letang has been back on the ice practicing and is cleared by the doctors to play. I assume we will see him out there soon. Big thing is Letang was having an up and down season prior to the stroke. If he gives them any type of consistency then the Pens will be fine from the blue line. Malkin and Martin should be back by the playoffs too. It is important to be as healthy as you can. Obviously.
4. Don’t over think it, Sid is MVP: Leads the league by 18 points on a team with 400 plus man games lost to injury. No need to stress the brain with this decision.
5. A potential Wings/Pens 1st round matchup looms: I think I need another drink
6. Pens clinched a playoff spot and need 2 points to clinch the division: This will be the 8th straight year with the Pens in the playoffs.
7. This week: Home against the Canes before a mini road trip out West. Clinch the division and then get ready for the playoffs.
1. The Leafs are a tire fire right now: The stat heads have been calling for this for over a year now but the consistently outshot Leafs have lost eight straight and their playoff chances are all but gone. I assume some heads will roll.
2. Wild Card Chase: The top six in each conference is about set and now we just get to find out who are the last few teams to make it in. Basically which teams get to lose to Boston and St Louis in the first round.
3. Does finishing strong matter?: I guess. Also here is a good breakdown of the Cup contenders.
4. Gustav Nyquist is a super star
Yep, I need another drink
5. Tatar and Helm party hard: Keep partying
Games of the week
Monday Wild at LAK 10pm NBCSN
Tuesday Flyers at Blues 8pm NBCSN
Wednesday Bruins at Red Wings 8pm NBCSN
Thursday Kings at Sharks 1030pm NBCSN
Friday Caps at Devils 7pm NBCSN
Saturday Red Wings at Canadiens 7pm NHLN
Sunday Blues at Blackhawks 1230pm NBCSN