Monday, February 19, 2007

Isles End Pens' Streak

I didn't see much of it but according to what I was told Marc-Andre Fleury was terrible. The streaky netminder gave up an awful goal to Mike Sillinger with 26 ticks remaining at a soldout Nassau Coliseum to hand the desperate Islanders a 6-5 win. Sillinger has been perhaps the Isles' best pickup last summer. Didn't Neil Smith sign him? Didn't he sign all their key players except for Viktor Kozlov? If they make the playoffs, it will be because of Smith's moves.

What made the Sillinger goal so stunning was how close Sidney Crosby was to winning the game by himself. The Isles couldn't take him off the puck behind the net and even with Trent Hunter draped all over him, he nearly setup the winner. But Rick DiPietro got a pad on it and then the chaos ensued right after. A quick counter led to a basic two-on-two. Awfully played by the Pens as they backed up like most bad defensive teams do, they allowed Andy Hilbert to gain the zone and then feed Sillinger. Sillinger then used a Pen as a screen and fired a routine wrister which eluded Fleury's glove into the back of the net touching off a huge celebration.

With time to spare, it wasn't enough for Crosby to lead a miracle comeback. And so the Pens' 16-game unbeaten streak in which they went 14-0-2 has finally come to an end. During it, they went from the playoff bubble to the top five and sliced a huge Devil lead into single digits, putting themselves back in the division race. Still five points out, this defeat will sting. But with three head-to-head match-ups left against the Devils, there's still time for them to steal the division and vault Crosby over Martin Brodeur for the Hart. It says here that whoever wins the division, their star player will win league MVP. It's really that simple.

For the Isles, the huge two points lifted them into a three-way tie for eighth place with Montreal and Toronto. They all have 66, three better than the Rangers' 63. The Blueshirts will be in action tomorrow night when they visit CAA for the final time this season. They'll probably be without Brendan Shanahan, who was released from St. Vincent's Hospital yesterday after that horrible collision with Mike Knuble Saturday. Fortunately for the 600 goal member, nothing was wrong. Now it's just a matter of recovering from the incident which actually finished Knuble's season. It was the ex-Ranger who was able to limp off the ice on his own power while Shanahan lay motionless for 10 minutes. But Knuble broke an orbital bone and won't return this season.

Speaking of Shanny, to show how much a team guy he is, he visited the Rangers before yesterday's crucial tilt against Chicago. It had to be inspiring. The club posted a 2-1 victory. They'll look to draw more inspiration tomorrow night against their nemesis in the first of a home and home which will decide the season series. The teams have split the points thus far with each sharing a shootout victory while prevailing once in the other's building.

Regarding the Bruins-Flyers contest on Versus, I'm going to disagree with my partner because if you looked at the standings, Boston suddenly is up to 58 points and has games at hand on the teams in front of them. While it's hard to imagine the Bruins making a run to get in, they do have something to play for and are coming off a huge shootout victory over the Sabres in which Tim Thomas was outstanding. The Flyers are also playing better hockey. They might be done but you'd never know it by how John Stevens' club competes. They're going to be a royal pain in the ass to play the rest of the season. And as you might attest, in more ways than one. The Broadstreet Bullies are back.

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