PITTSBURGH (LGS) — Andrew Peters is visiting new hockey lands this season, a jerseyed Stranger in a Strange Land. On Saturday night, Peters found himself taking a faceoff late on a Sabres power play in the first period. Although he lost it to Sidney Crosby, he kept working in the corner to win the puck and pass it back to the left point.
In the second, Peters had to mark Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for two minutes when his line first got caught on the ice and then iced the puck. The Pens naturally looked like they were on the power play, but let the record show that although Henrik Tallinder and Teppo Numminen and Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy and others were on the ice at various times when Malkin scored a goal and set up three others, Andrew Peters was not. Peters was also credited with three first-period shots on goal.
Say what you want about the guy's fighting skills, and I've burned him publicly and privately many times, unlike many of his teammates he's doing exactly what is expected of him this season — and sometimes, more.
Ryan Miller easily could have gotten a five-minute penalty for spearing when he did his best Billy Smith impersonation in the third period. Jordan Staal had whacked at Miller, and Miller took the business end of his goal stick and lustily poked at the Staal family jewels, immediately endangering no less than four possible future NHLers. It's no exaggeration to say that the Staal Dynasty was in real danger. In the greatest tradition of NHL officiating, Miller got only a talkin-to. Staal got his revenge by winding up with, you guessed it, a pair.
Pens got their share of breaks too
Referee Greg Devorski sported a cut over the bridge of his nose. Allow me to open up the wound again, and give a fresh one to partner Ian Walsh.
After a quick whistle in the second period, Sidney Crosby backhanded the puck into the empty net a good three seconds late. Maxim Afinogenov was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty earlier in the season for shooting a puck at the goalie when the whistle blew at the top of his backswing. Why no penalty on Sid?
And why no penalty when Crosby slashed Drew Stafford after Stafford had taken a penalty for elbowing Matt Cooke? Pittsburgh scored on the ensuing power play.
And why no penalty on Pittsburgh in the third period, a minute after the game was tied at 2, when one of the Pens shot the puck over the glass and into the crowd from his own end?
Just to put a nice symmetry on the refs' night, there was also a quick whistle after a Thomas Vanek wraparound try in the third period.
Doin' the Igloo Polka
I'll miss the Igloo, now the oldest arena in the league. There's something about walking up a steep hillside toward, well, an Igloo, to see a hockey game. The fans are boisterous but never intimidating to out of town fans, not in my experience anyway. You can be sure the new building will not have half the charm, or be nearly as loud, as the Civic Arena.
The music might be just as good though. Where else do you hear the Chicken Dance Polka — and with its wing part, why isn't it played in Buffalo? They keep the fans entertained there, that's for sure. I'm surprised the Sabre Dance didn't crop up like it usually does in Pittsburgh.
The selections can be very clever. After a Pittsburgh penalty, the Beatles' "Obladi, Oblada, life goes on." After an icing, The Doors' Break On Through (to the other side).
Before Saturday night, the Sabres had allowed one power play goal all season on the road. They allowed two on Saturday night.
Someone's going to have to explain to me why the leading goal scorer in the NHL is having his ice time cut again, to 07-08 levels even. Vanek was sixth among forwards in ice time a year ago, behind even Paul Gaustad, at 16:51. In the first 10 games this year, he saw less than 18 minutes of ice time only once. In the last seven games, he's been under 18 minutes five times, including 16:59 last night.
Ruff called out Vanek after Friday night's loss to Columbus for a poor entry play and has taken away shifts as punishment in recent games.
The coach can talk all he wants about defensive deficiencies cropping up (Vanek's been a minus player in six of the last nine games) and making Vanek one of the best two-way forwards in the league, but this is classic overcoaching. Superstars, $8 million players, should be treated differently than muckers and grinders.
Ruff is truly playing with fire here.
By the way, Sidney Crosby finished with almost 22 minutes of ice time.