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07 April 2009

Win, Playoffs, MVP

A big win tonight, despite some last minute heroics by Tampa Bay, finally clinched a playoff birth for the Pens. With a final score of 6-4, some of the players finally got a monkey or two off their backs. It was also a night to add to Evgeni Malkin's resume for MVP this season. There is only two more games left in the season, one home and one away, and we can still clinch 4th in the conference for home ice advantage in the first round.

I will start off with a quick wrap up of the game, and considering I don't like giving you what is already out there and easily accessible, I won't go too far. We were up 4-0 at one point and then in a blink of an eye, we were only up 4-3. It was kinda ridiculous. We didn't let that stop us from clinching our third playoff ticket in a row. We got important goals tonight. What I mean by this is that certain players need to get back on the horse and start scoring before the playoffs start. One of them was Petr Sykora, he scored his 299th it seems like a year ago, but tonight he finally flung in his 300th career goal. Two other goal scorers are players that have, as of late, been scoring goals consistently. They are Ruslan Fedotenko and Matt Cooke. Our power play got rolling by the hands of Sidney Crosby who, finally, scored two of them in the second with helpers from Geno and Chris Kunitz. The final score ended up being 6-4, but it wasn't as close as it seemed.

We are currently relaxing in sixth place in the East and will more than likely end up playing New Jersey in the first round. The is a chance, however, that we can move up to fourth place as long as we win the last two games, home against the Islanders and in Montreal, while Philadelphia and Carolina both loses the remainder of their games. Actually, Philadelphia only has to lose two of their last three for us to overtake them. I look forward to seeing what ends up happening.
One quick note I really wanted you to realize is that we have 12 players in double digits in goals, 6 of those with 20+, and 2 are sitting at 30+. That is unprecedented depth for our team. Last year we had 11 with 10+, 5 with 20+, and one with 30+. So, basically, what I am saying is that we can roll all four lines and have one or two players on each line that has scored 10+ this season. That gives us a big advantage.

Just looking at the scoring standings between Malkin, Crosby, and Alex Ovechkin, it is getting down to the wire. Malkin is sitting at 110, Ovechkin at 108, and Crosby at 101. Unless there is some craziness occurring in the last couple games, this is how it will probably end up, just add a couple for each player. Now, it sounds funny, but the bigger thing..MVP. The very definition of the award is, "player adjudged most valuable to his team". So, you look where the Penguins would be without Malkin, or where the Capitals would be without Ovechkin. I think the Capitals would be lower in the standings, but still in the playoffs. I do not think that the Penguins make the playoffs this year without Malkin. I see a few in the rear view mirror like Pavel Datsyuk or Zach Parise. I say sure, but like the Capitals, both the Red Wings and the Devils would have made the playoffs without their star. I think there is more of an argument for Datsyuk than Ovechkin, to be completely honest. He should be the close second to Malkin. Ovechkin will get the Rocket Richard award for most goals, but he doesn't deserve any more than that. The only thing he brings to his team other than goals is hits. Datsyuk and Malkin play a more pivotal role on their respective teams. They are both centers, which requires a whole extra set of responsibilities as well as their takeaway skills and blocked shots put them heads and shoulders above everyone else. Malkin should get it though, based on his scoring lead as well as the need for him on his respective team.

Dan Bylsma has brought this team out of the depths of the draft lottery and put up right in the middle of the heap for the playoffs. If they would have replaced Michel Therrien when I asked for it in December or early January, we may have clinched the division a week ago and a playoff spot two weeks ago. Every team should be very afraid to battle us in the playoffs, they will be afraid.

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