Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pens v Sabres (W 2-0)

Both of these teams played excellent hockey in the indoor portion of the Indoor/Outdoor series of meetings for the Sabres and the Penguins. Ryan Malone returned tonight from his absence for a leg infection. The night was paradoxical for Gary Roberts: he began the game on a high when he received an engraved piece of crystal from Ray Shero to honor his achievement of earning his 900th career point, but his night ended with a low in the second period when he broke his leg.

Ty Conklin started again for the Pens, and Ryan Miller was the net minder for the Sabres. Early in the first, Jochen Hecht had a breakaway chance, but Ryan Whitney back checked him nicely to prevent him from getting a shot on goal. In the Sabres' zone, Georges Laraque protected the puck as skillfully and powerfully as Sidney does. Laraque passed the puck to Roberts, but Miller blocked the shot. Then Evgeni Malkin fired a shot that Miller blocked, and Colby Armstrong tried to get to the rebound but couldn't connect. The Pens kept possession of the puck in the Sabres' zone for what seemed like an eternity but just couldn't get past Miller. We learned that Mark Eaton will be out for the remainder of the season because he has opted to get the surgery for his torn ACL. (← Don't worry - that site has some drawings but no graphic photos of the surgery.) The Kid collided with Paul Gaustad at neutral ice and went airborne but fortunately did not get hurt.

The Captains work against one another.

Then our Saint committed a sin. Sid deflected a Sabres shot down in front of Conklin. As a result, the puck went through Conklin's five hole. It trickled through the blue paint towards the goal line. Darryl Sydor dove from behind Conklin and swept the puck out of danger at the last second to prevent the Sabres from taking the lead. The teams took a quick break for a commercial. Sid was mic'd up for FSN Pittsburgh tonight. During the TV timeout, a very contrite Sidney accepted responsibility as he shouted to Conklin, "Sorry, Conks! Sorry, Conks, I tried to block it." Later, the Sabres turned the puck over to the Pens. It led to a 4-on-0 with Sidney taking the shot, but Miller stood his ground and kept the game scoreless. Soon after, Malone set Jordan Staal up with a nice pass, but again Miller prevented the score. The Pens and the Sabres had been playing good hockey with few stoppages in play. As FSN likely wanted to go to commercial but couldn't, Bob Errey said, "We'll just keep going here, folks. Apparently the referees have lost their whistles!" (Of the 20 minutes, there was one 7-minute and one 5-minute stretch of continuous play.) Army got a great chance, but his shot hit the goal post. The first penalty of the night came when Maxim Afinogenov was tripped up by Malone. Staal got a chance on a shorthanded breakaway, but Miller stopped his shot. Just seconds later, Staal stole the puck and got another shorthanded chance, this time it was a 2-on-1 with Adam Hall. Hall took the shot, but Miller stopped him, too. The Sabres didn't score on their power play. Near the end of the period, Conklin made a mistake when he came out to play the puck as Jason Pominville was bearing down on him. Conklin scrambled back to the net just in time to stop Pominville's shot.

The second period started with a bang. A mere 12 seconds in, Sid spotted a loose puck at the blue line. He muscled past Hecht to gain possession and barreled through the Sabres' zone. Army was trailing just behind him on Miller's left side. Sid perfectly dished the puck to Army, who put the puck into the back of the net. Pens 1, Sabres 0. Just minutes later, Sidney and Malkin worked the puck in front of Miller. Sergei Gonchar took a pass and fired it at Miller, but the puck rang off the crossbar. Later, when the Sabres took the puck the other way, Conklin just barely got his toes down to block Adam Mair from stuffing the puck into the goal. During a break in the play, Errey and Paul Steigerwald related a story that demonstrates how much Sid loves hockey. During Sidney's junior days, he used to steal his skates from his trainers so he could play 3-on-3 games later at night. The quote of the day came from Sid. In a nutshell, he said that he's excited for the opportunity to play in the Winter Classic game. Errey and Steigy then pointed out that Hall and Miller played outside in the Cold War game in Michigan. (Hall isn't the only Penguin with prior outdoor hockey experience. Both Laraque and Conklin played for the Edmonton Oilers during the Heritage Classic game.) We also learned that midway through the third period of the Winter Classic, the teams will change positions so that each team will play a period and a half on each side. This makes me extremely happy because my seats are just behind one of the goals, and I was worried it would be the goal that the Pens would shoot at only once. :)

It's almost here!!!

Malkin tried to get a garbage goal off a rebound from a shot by Kris Letang, but Miller would have none of it. Thomas Vanek got two good chances for the Sabres, but Conklin made the save on the first shot, and the second shot was just wide of the goal. And then it happened. Another Penguin fell to an injury. Joining Marc-Andre Fleury, Mark Eaton, and Maxime Talbot on the injured list now is Gary Roberts. Preliminary reports indicate that he broke his left fibula (← again, this links to a drawing not a graphic photo) after colliding at neutral ice with Tim Connolly. Connolly lost his footing and slid right into Roberts's left leg. Roberts's knee buckled, and he ended up lying facedown, motionless on the ice as FSN went to commercial. When FSN returned, it was revealed that Roberts refused to be taken off the ice on a stretcher in favor of leaving under his own power while being helped by Laraque and Sydor. WHAT A WARRIOR. As someone who has had a long standing medical problem with my right foot since an injury 9 years ago that resulted in chronic pain after a couple of subsequent surgeries, I know firsthand that an injury like this is extraordinarily painful. An injury to the any other part of the body is not comparable to an injury to the leg or foot. Not only do you have the issue of bearing weight on it, but also you must consider the fact that the leg is below the heart. The pain throbs with your heartbeat. It is awful. For him to refuse the stretcher is incredible to me.

Connolly falls and collides with Roberts...

...Roberts's leg buckles and breaks...

...Roberts (c) refuses the stretcher and is helped off by Sydor (r) and Laraque (l).

As the game continued, Malone was assessed a penalty for hooking Derek Roy. During the ensuing Sabres power play, Army flew through for a shorthanded chance, but Miller stopped his shot and froze the puck. Sidney took the brunt of a shot by Vanek when the puck hit his hand. The Sabres did not score on the advantage, and as Malone burst out of the penalty box, the Sabres had possession of the puck. Afinogenov blasted a shot from the point that Conklin absorbed into his chest pads. Sid and Vanek exchange words after Vanek pushed on Sid's head with his stick and Sid whacked at Vanek's feet in return. Staal and Hall had another rush on goal, but Miller stopped them again. Malkin and Sid rushed the goal together. Malkin passed the puck to Sid but his shot was just wide of the goal. With just over 2½ minutes left in the second period, Afinogenov got called for interfering with Army. The Penguins did not score on their power play. As Afinogenov's penalty ended and he emerged from the box, he got the puck when Sidney made a blind pass to the point with no Penguin there to take it. Fortunately, Sydor prevented Afinogenov from getting a shot by poke checking him. The second period ended with the Penguins earning the game's only goal.

Vanek pulls a douchebag move on Sid.

During the intermission, Dan Potash interviewed Sidney. Potash asked him about what the Pens should do now without Roberts. Sid replied that the remaining uninjured forwards will have to make sure they keep their shifts short and step up and play more physically.

Early in the third, Conklin robbed a goal from Pominville. Malone got a breakaway chance but shot wide of the goal. Malkin took a stick to his face after falling down following a hook from Toni Lydman. The stick to the face was an accident, but the hooking was a penalty. The Pens didn't score on the advantage. Then Whitney was penalized for holding Vanek, but on the replay it showed that Vanek held onto Whitney's stick. It didn't matter because the Sabres went on the power play. With 22 seconds left on Whitney's penalty, Rob Scuderi took a high stick in the face courtesy of Roy. Neither team scored on their respective power play chances.

FSN played another pair of sound bites from Sid. The first one had him asking the ref, "Was that me?" while the second one was not actually anything Sidney said, rather it was a clip of the sound of the mic being dragged along the surface of the ice as Sid made a diving poke check. Sid and Tyler Kennedy got a 2-on-1 chance, but Sid's shot was wide of the goal. Then Army was wide open in the Sabres' zone while Sid had the puck in the corner. Sid attempted to pass the puck to Army, but it hit something and hopped up and over the blade of Army's stick. With 4:35 left in the game, Staal got another breakaway chance. He was hooked by Roy in front of the goal, so the whistle was blown. Staal thought he should have been awarded a penalty shot, but instead the Pens got a power play chance. They did not score on the advantage.

Conks was the man!

With 1 minute remaining in the period, Miller was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. Malkin was attempting to clear the puck but accidentally turned the puck over at the blue line. Army saved the day when he stole the puck back and sent it up to Sidney, who was cheating up ice. He and Malkin were sailing down the ice towards the empty net, and Sidney unselfishly passed the puck to Malkin (maybe Sid wanted to help him to be able to make up for his earlier mistake?). Geno coolly walked it to the net. Pens 2, Sabres 0. With 6.2 seconds left in the game, Gonchar is given a delay of game penalty for flipping the puck up and over the glass. It was moot point, though, as the clocked ticked down to a Pens victory. Conklin earned his 3rd career shutout (1st with the Pens). The Pens face the Sabres again this coming Tuesday, January 1, 2008, for the WINTER CLASSIC!!!!!!!!! I will be there freezing my ass off and straining to see the action from my seat in section 223. Look for pictures and recap of my experience on January 2. :) :) :) :) :)


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