With a 14-8-0 record, the Pittsburgh Penguins deserve to be followed closely by the media. I mean, to the victor go the spoils, you know? I can't fault a good team from being respected (or despised) for their successes.
One thing I do have an issue with, and this isn't aimed specifically at the Pittsburgh franchise, is when the media goes above and beyond to lay it on thick when the Pens (or Flyers, or Bruins, or Rangers or Capitals) have game broadcast on national television, which seems to be weekly on NBC Sports Net (nee Versus by way of Outdoor Life Network).
While we make jokes commonly about Pierre McGuire needing to shut up with his über man crush on Sidney Crosby, his (and the NBC Sports Net crew) will likely be aimed at a different Pittsburgh Penguin this evening when the Lightning and the Penguins face off for the second time in a week in prime-time.
While I have no doubt the studio and broadcast crew will heap praise and revelry upon Cosby and the infallible Penguins in general at any chance they get, the limelight should be shown brightest on Evgeni Malkin tonight.
With 4 goals and 17 assists in 18 games, Malkin returning is very much something to promote... But so is the notion concussions are an issue in the NHL, the fact the Penguins have mismanaged a star returning from concussion before would also be a narrative, roster players on both teams who have suffered head injuries in their career, etc...
Instead, it'll be the infallible Penguins and the Bond Villain Guy Boucher leading the evil Tampa Bay Lightning, with focus being on the heroes of Steeltown more than the stars of both rosters.
So, here's what Lightning fans get to do tonight - tune in to NBC Sports Net for the game starting at 7:30, then mute the television and turn on the radio to 970 WFLA and the voice of Lightning hockey, Dave Mishkin. It may not be a practical solution, but NBC Sports Net's coverage of the NHL (northeast centric and biased) is nowhere near practical in a 30 team league.
Bitching aside, Ondrej Palat becomes the 4th Tampa Bay Lightning prospect to make his NHL debut this season (Cory Conacher, Alex Killorn and Richard Panik are the other three). Reports from the local beat writers via Twitter say that Palat will start on the third line tonight with Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson.
Another lineup note: it's back to the old 12-6 roster split. Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Brendan Mikkelson and Marc-Andre Bergeron are sitting this one out. Adam Hall is back in, as is Sami Salo as I told you about last night.
Mathieu Garon makes another start (he'll get the day off tomorrow against the Devils in Newark), his GAA and save percentage may be better than Anders Lindback (2.86 GAA / .911 save %) but his 2-7-0 record isn't. Garon is not responsible for the teams play in front of him, however. With no effort to start last Thursdays loss to the Rangers and bonehead mistakes ripping defeat from the jaws of victory (by way of the all-offense mentality)on Saturday against the Bruins... Well, those are two examples of losses having less to do with Garon and more to do with what ails the Lightning.
Marc-Andre Fleury is in net for the Penguins. Fleury's GAA is .46 points lower than Garon, his save percentage is one-hundredths of a percentage point higher at .912, but his record is 10-5-0. That's proof of how the team in front of you effects play.
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