Kovacevic: Furious, frustrated … but just fine
TribLIVE Sports Videos
There's been an inordinate amount of angst following each of the Penguins' handful of losses in these Stanley Cup playoffs, and I'll be stunned if even a small exception is made for that air-sucking 3-0 shutout Saturday night to the Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final.
Well, let it go.
No, go ahead and take a deep breath all the way down, expunge all your negative energy – yeah, even the invectives for Mike Milbury – then hold and release.
OK, here, I'll try something else by typing this sentence: Almost everything about Game 1 was good for the home team except the outcome.
Totally serious here, and I'll try my best to make the case quickly, counting down a handful of tidy points:
5. They're fired up.
Evgeni Malkin fighting Patrice Bergeron?
Sidney Crosby challenging Tuukka Rask, then using that damaged jaw to yap upward at Zdeno Chara, then pile-driving Brad Marchand?
No one outside the immediate Boston family wants either of those two in the box, but the best players in the world showed a burning fire, and that's seldom a bad thing.
“We don't want to see that all the time,” Matt Niskanen said, “but good for Geno for standing up.”
4. They're flying.
The Penguins registered 29 official shots, which is no big deal, but they clanged four others off posts and missed a jarring 12 more in trying to abide by a scouting report that Rask can be beaten high.
Throw the book out, aim right around the hub on Rask's chest, and this game changes dramatically.
I saw this team looking more comfortable and cohesive offensively in this game than in any of their first 11 in these playoffs, especially on the long-problematic breakouts. They were tight, fast and creative.
“We didn't finish,” Jarome Iginla said. “In the third, we let it get away from us, but we had plenty of scoring chances and chances to get momentum swings going.”
Rask won't be able to fend that off any more than Evgeni Nabokov or Craig Anderson did.
3. The goaltending was OK.
The most kneejerk of reactions is to look at the goaltender, but that's out here, too. Tomas Vokoun wasn't spectacular, but David Krejci's first goal skipped off a sliding Paul Martin, and his second popped weirdly into the air before landing conveniently on the blade.
Worst thing that could have come of this game is a goaltending controversy, and there still isn't one.
2. The refs were a farce.
I don't often rip officials but, sorry, Chris Rooney and Brad Watson were just embarrassing, clearly in over their heads in matters large and small. The latter included a glaring inability to make even routine calls that kept pace with the play.
“They were letting a lot go out there,” Crosby said.
Sure were, but two they did make will be talking points.
Matt Cooke was deserving of a minor for hitting Adam McQuaid from behind. No doubt about it. He saw both numbers and didn't let up. But the major he was assessed was absurd based on voluminous precedent. Cooke took one half of a sideways stride, McQuaid turned at the last moment – even Boston coach Claude Julien conceded McQuaid “put himself in a vulnerable position” – and Cooke followed through.
The NHL hasn't had a clue all season how to make these calls, and more proof came minutes later when Marchand skated all the way from the Palumbo Center to blindside James Neal into the boards and got only a minor.
“I don't see the difference,” Crosby said.
I do: Marchand didn't have “COOKE” stitched to the back of his sweater.
The calls didn't define the outcome, but they contributed.
Craig Adams got it right: “Nobody knows from one call to the other what's coming next.”
1. Malkin was flying.
When is the last time you saw that version of him?
Late in his MVP season?
All the way back to 2009?
I'm not so sure it wasn't the latter, and that might wind up meaning more than anything from this evening. The Bruins might have had an answer for Crosby – Bergeron was brilliant – but they have none for Malkin.
Look, this isn't to give Boston its due: Rask might have had a few hit him, but there also were a few sharp saves among his 29. Krejci, one of the NHL's most underappreciated forwards, added two goals to his team-best 19 points in these playoffs. Their centers, led by Bergeron, dominated by taking two-thirds of the draws. And the team as a whole, as Julien described, “kind of settled into our system after the first period.”
But let's not be blinded by the scoreboard here, either. I picked the Penguins in six, and I'm actually more confident in that now than before Game 1.
Still not exhaling, huh?
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Fastball command issues hurt Cole against Cubs
- Rossi: Cole is simply not good enough for Pirates
- High school notebook: WPIAL title games could stay at The Pete, Heinz Field
- Feds tapped top Pa. Treasury official’s phone during McCord probe
- New-look Steelers secondary is gaining some cohesion
- Environmental watchdog sues world’s largest steelmaker over Pennsylvania pollution
- Unity supervisors propose joint public meeting with Greater Latrobe school board
- Fed insight gives stocks room to run; S&P 500 regains 2,000 mark
- Fishing report: Steelhead scarce, but other fishing good
- FBI, other authorities serve search warrant on methadone clinic near Uniontown
- Penguins recall Maatta in time for season opener in Dallas