Beware Black Friday
Is it the perfect storm?
Are the Sens about to get stuffed on Black Friday?
Well, tonights game certainly has the makings of a very difficult affair for the young Senators;
The Sens are well rested, but no doubt rusty, after 4 days off. Practices or not, you just can’t be sharp after a four day hiatus.
The Penguins are the best team in the league, hands down, and have only gotten (significantly) better with the addition of Crosby.
The Sens should be beaten in this game, c’mon, the Pens are the best team in the league, playing at home, with last change and a deep, deep roster. There will be no shame in losing this game, but there will be no moral victory in getting their collective @sses handed to them.
The game plan has to be to win this game by keeping the Penguins away from the puck, and most importantly, away from the front of the net. If the Pens are allowed to own the puck, and gain control of the slot, poor Andy will be peppered with rubber, if he’s lucky to have any of it actually touch him, not just the twine.
If the Sens can control the puck, and force the Penguins from making plays in the slot, and instead firing shots from outside, maybe, just maybe, the Sens can steal a point, or two, or at least avoid a beat-down.
This will be an early defining moment for 3 players on this team, 2 looking to solidify their presence on the roster, and one looking to prove his stellar play to date is no fluke.
DaCosta, who has been an absolute fail in the face off circle, will no doubt be targeted by the Pens coach every time he hits the ice, likely facing Malkin for most of his shifts. This will either show DaCosta deserves to remain in the NHL, even if not on the second line, or if he needs to go down to the A upon the return of Regin, or promotion of O’Brien.
Brian Lee, too, will no doubt be targeted as a player able to be exploited by Pittsburgh’s superior offensive weapons. If Brian wants to earn a trade, or, less likely, regular roster spot, with the immanent return of Carkner, tonight will offer him his best opportunity to prove himself a legitimate NHL’er. Expect him to face either Malkin or Crosby on the vast majority of his shifts, and as much as The Stash will want to get Phillips and Gonch out on Crosby, he will not be able to shield Lee all night. If Lee can come out of this game even, or better, he will get some notice/respect from those teams in search of a reliable NHL calibre defenseman (and, trust me, Lee is getting some long looks already).
Last, but not least, in stature or play, is Jared Cowen, a player who has quietly (if you only look at the scoresheet) gone about his business as an NHL defender. Cowen will be challenged with taking command of the slot, owning the front of the net and forcing any Penguin wanting to play the puck in the danger zone to pay a physical price for their efforts. Jared has earned significant ice time, against quality opponents in his nascent NHL career and tonight may represent his biggest test to date. He will be judged on his willingness to engage physically, and his ability to remain calm, and effective, under significant pressure. He isn’t expected to shut down the Pens, just show he has the future potential to do so.
At the end of the day this is still a young roster, with many of these players facing Crosby for the first time in their careers. Their will be some “shock & awe”, there will be some goals against, but if this roster can keep the game competitive, it will be a win…a win, will be a coup!
ps – here’s hoping the turkey was tasty, the stuffing was heavy, and the wine was flowing yesterday for those Penguins celebrating American Thanksgiving!