Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Despite Good Play, Pens Drop "Must-Win" Game 4


I'm officially running out of negative adjectives to describe the 3 playoff losses so far. Yesterday's game felt right. The team actually played the 2nd period, but was unable to use to the momentum swing to score more than one goal. Jordan Staal buried a shot right in front of Emery, but the Pens could not find the back of the net again, falling 2-1 in what was viewed as a must-win game.

Its tough to take the loss last night, because the Pens were able to put themselves in a position to possibly win and even up the series. The Senators scored on a fluke goal just over 3 minutes into the game. The Pens battled to tie the score (See? Rebounds, a result of shots on goal, can lead to goals. Amazing!) but were not able to capitalize on having Volchenkov in the box in the 3rd, and that same Volchenkov came back to put the 30 foot winner past MAF.

Is it possible for the Pens to rattle off 3 straight wins? Most definitely. The Senators have just won two in a row, so they have put themselves in a position to win 3 straight games. The Penguins need to go back to Ottawa as a different team in game 5. Reassess game 4, focus on all the positives, and play with some desperation.

Georges Laraque was not in the lineup last night, and the same fate beset Erik Christensen. Christensen being benched was almost a given, seeing how the young forward has digressed lately, and his play has slipped. Laraque not being in the lineup, is a travesty. What was the point in picking up the guy, if he's benched for 3 of the 4 games so far in the series, and only skated for a total of 5 minutes in game 1? Sure, Gary Roberts' contributions have been impeccable, and the 40 year old (soon to be 41 year old) nut has been throwing his body at any Senator he can. However, Big Georges can bring that physical play, while giving guys like Roberts more of a chance to score rather than carrying the bruising load. As much the Roberts acquisition has been applauded by the league and anyone who watches the Pens, the acquisition and use of Laraque leaves more to be desired. Let him play, and skate him alongside Crosby on the first line to start the game. Why, you may ask? Well, its one combination the Penguins haven't tried, and at this point in the series, we need to scrap whatever we've been doing. Plus, guys like Volchenkov and Phillips are constantly on the ice with Crosby, so lets send a message early that the Pens can play physical, too. (I know this will never happen. I also know that Laraque doesn't have the speed, skill or stamina to play alongside the top line all game. I'm just making a point that Laraque needs to play, and more than just 5 minutes.)

Enough with that, time to check back in with the Buccos. Its been awhile since I mentioned the Pirates, mainly because I've been mad about the St. Louis sweep, the Torres blown saves, the Bonds homers, and the rainout of Jack Robinson day in the 'Burgh. With that being said, ADD Laroche hit a homer, and the Pirates beat the Redbirds 6-1. Gorzo got his revenge against the Cards, and lowered his ERA to 1.33. Gorzo had a chance to get the complete game, but was pulled in favor of Matt Capps, who recorded the final two outs. This win comes on the heels of a 3-2 win on Monday, in which Torres was given another chance to blow the game in the 9th, with Pujols on and the bases loaded. King Albert popped out on a well thrown sinker, as Salomon righted the closer ship. So the Bucs have a 2 game winning streak, and are now back to .500, sitting at 6-6. Tonight is an 8:05 start in Milwaukee (What? Are we the Indians or Angels?) and Paul Maholm will try to earn his first win this season. I hope Paul can follow up the two excellent starts by Ian Snell and Gorzo with a quality outing himself.


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