Penguins-Flames: You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

WoooooSenior Writer IMarch 25, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MAY 31: Hal Gill #2 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Detroit Red Wings during game four of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Mellon Arena on May 31, 2008 in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania. The Red Wings defeated the Penguins 2-1 to set the series at 3-1 Red Wings. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The aptly-named "USS" Hal Gill has had a bit of an up and down career as a Pittsburgh Penguin.

There have been times that Gill has looked like nothing more than a seventh or eighth defenseman on the Pens' depth chart.

There have been other times when he has used his size, strength, and long stick to his advantage, and performed as a solid shutdown defenseman in the National Hockey League.

Tonight, the latter case was true. In fact, it was very true.

Barring the 2007-08 playoffs, you'd be hard pressed to find another point in Gill's career in which he was playing better hockey than he has been over the past two weeks for the Pens.

It all culminated tonight, with a one goal, three hit, one blocked shot effort against one of the Western Conference's top five teams.

Gill was essential to the Penguins' penalty killing efforts, a department in which they were a perfect five for five.

Gill also showed flashes of a much bigger, much more lanky Gordie Howe, as he joined the rush with Evgeni Malkin and took advantage of Geno's drop pass to roof a puck past Kipprujoke for his second goal of the season and all but seal the victory for the Pens.

Both teams came out flying at the start of the game. Bodies were flying, Jarome Iginla was pretending to be an elite NHL talent, Malkin was dominating on both ends of the ice—you know, all the usuals.

After the Pens killed off the first of five Flames' power plays, Kris Letang put the boys in black and gold on the board at 8:20 of the first period.

On the power play, Geno fed a sick pass across the crease to Crosby, who directed the puck toward Chris Kunitz at the front of the cage.

Kunitz grazed the puck with his stick just enough to allow the biscuit to slip behind Kipprujoke. Letang was on the backside, and the turkey was on the table.

Tanger buried the loose puck to give the Pens the early advantage.
Enter: Marc-Andre Fleury. Exit: Calgary's chances of winning this game.

For the next 48 minutes, the Flower robbed the Flames of any and all scoring opportunities.

He turned aside Mr. Sloppy Second's point shots, a barage of frozen rubber from some guy named David Moss that no one outside of Calgary has ever heard of before, and he even denied Mike Cammalleri, who supposedly has potted 36 goals this season.
The fact that Mike Cammalleri scores 40 goals in the National Hockey League should tell you that the Western Conference is a joke.
If Mike was playing against Fleury, Lundqvist, Brodeur, Vokoun, Thomas, Ward, or Miller on a nightly basis, he might be lucky to break the 25=goal mark. Instead, he feasts on the likes of Roloson, Budaj, Huet, Turco, Quick, and Bryzgalov out west.

You have to believe that if Fleury did not miss somewhere in the ballpark of 10 to 12 starts because of injury this season, he would be in the running for the Vezina.

If the Vezina was given out based on post-All-Star Game performance, Fleury would win by a landslide.

Sure, the Pens' recent resurgence could be attributed to their new coach and his new offensive system, or the acquisitions of Kunitz and Billy Guerin, but make no mistake about it, the Pens wouldn't even be sniffing the playoffs balls right now if it weren't for the stellar play of the Flower.

Just over six minutes into the third, Hal Gill forced a turnover at the Pens' blue line.

Rob Scuderi cleaned up the zone and chipped the puck ahead to Gill, who was actually contemplating joining the rush.

Gill dropped the puck to Geno, and headed toward the offensive zone.

The league's leading scorer, and leader in takeaways (chew on that two-way dominance Blowvechkin), gained the blue line, dropped the puck to Gill, and drove to the net.

Gill did his best Sergei Gonchar impression and wristed the puck top-shelf on the far side, beating Kipprujoke for his second goal of the season.

Fleury shut the door the rest of the way, en route to a 31 save shutout performance.

Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has just left the building.

Final Score: Pens 2 Flames 0

- The Pens played a full 60 minutes of hockey tonight, and it was truly a joy to watch. The fact that they dominated basically every facet of the game probably helped some too.

- I'll take MAF over any other goalie in the NHL... after the All-Star Break. With more experience will come more season-long consistency, but this kid is just nasty between the pipes.

- Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy both turned in unreal performances tonight.

- If they kept a stat for battles won on the boards, the Pens would have been in the 90-percentile range.

- Dion Pha-who? Besides logging 47 minutes of ice time and acting like he was actually going to drop his gloves with someone on several occasions, what else did this guy do tonight? O-v-e-r-r-a-t-e-d.

- Orpik > Phaneuf.

- Rangers come to town on Saturday for a 1:00 PM matinee. Devils on Wednesday to round out the eight-game home stand. Basically eight points on the line in those two games.
Let's Go Pens!


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