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Game 5 (Flyers) – Postgame

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Some observations following the Penguins’ 3-0 loss in Game 5, which cut their series lead to 3-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal:

TRIB’S THREE STARS:

1 — G Martin Biron, Flyers: Don’t look now, but his series save percentage is .927 after a 28-save performance in Game 5.

2 — RW Arron Asham, Flyers: Scoring the winner counts for a lot, especially when your club is facing elimination.

3 — RW Mike Knuble: A known Penguins-punisher is back, which cannot mean good things for the local hockey club.

*POWERLESS: If you’re waiting for one team to take control of this series with its power play — don’t. The Penguins are 1-for-16 since Game 2 and the Flyers are 1-for-19 over the same span. Neither team has scored a power-play goal in the past two games. First player on either team that gets one Saturday in Game 6 wins a free Orange Julius at the grand re-opening of the Mt. Lebanon Dairy Queen on Banksville Road this weekend. (No kidding.)

Penguins D Sergei Gonchar said after the Penguins’ 0-for-4 effort in Game 5 that his club’s power-play performance has been “frustrating.” Indeed. He should try writing about it.

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Interim coach Dan Bylsma will face some heat if the Penguins don’t win this series — at least in terms of his decision to scratch RW Petr Sykora and D Kris Letang for Game 5 in favor of RW Miroslav Satan and D Philippe Boucher.

I commend each player for doing the good-teammate-thing by holding back on criticism of Bylsma. I also admire that each player has not used injury as an excuse for subpar play. (Yes, I think Sykora and Letang are both hurt, and, no, I don’t believe anybody that tells me otherwise; their track record suggests recent struggles are because of injury, not a slump.)

If Sykora and Letang are hurt, the Penguins should say so; not the players, but the team, whether it be Bylsma or GM Ray Shero. If they aren’t hurt, the decision to mess with a lineup that was winning — perhaps winning because of superb play in the series by G Marc-Andre Fleury, but winning nonetheless — will be a talking point much of the summer IF THE PENGUINS LOSE THIS SERIES.

As I told Trib columnist Mike Prisuta on Thursday morning: “It’s a gutsy call by (Bylsma) to change the lineup.” It was, and I think making that call speaks to his readiness to be the full-time head coach. However, it is a gutsy call because it might not work out for the better, and if it doesn’t, criticism — while perhaps not totally fair given the in-the-closet injury status of Sykora and Letang — will come the way of Bylsma.

That’s just the way it works in the NHL. I suspect Bylsma realizes as much.

SERIOUSLY: Chances are if your TV set goes dark during a game, something somewhere not near Pittsburgh is wrong, and there are a lot of people working to fix it. Calling the cable company or satellite provider every two minutes really won’t solve the problem any faster — and yelling at the operators will accomplish nothing. Plus, they make this thing called the radio, and there’s nothing wrong with listening then reading about the game in, say, a newspaper or on a certain newspaper’s web site.

A NOTE THAT SHOULD INTEREST YOU: Cs Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have scored six of the Penguins’ 13 goals in this series. RW Tyler Kennedy has two, as does RW Bill Guerin.

With his goal in Game 5, Flyers RW Claude Giroux has scored twice — two more times than the following Penguins: LWs Chris Kunitz and Ruslan Fedotenko and C Jordan Staal.

Look, if the series ends Saturday at Philadelphia, I think Kunitz and Staal will have left an imprint no matter — the former with his big hits and the latter with his strong defensive and territorial play in the offensive zone. However, for the Penguins to win Saturday and wrap this series, I firmly believe they need Kunitz, Staal or Fedotenko to score a goal.

QUOTE AND A QUESTION: Crosby on the series so far: “We knew it was going to be a battle and that’s what it is.”

So, dear reader, I ask you: Are the Penguins actually fortunate to be leading this battler given the way Games 3-5 have played out?

Send your thoughts via e-mail.

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

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