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History suggests Fleury will bounce back big Friday

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POSTGAME PUCK

Some quick observations and notes off the Pens’ 5-4 home loss to Ottawa in Game 1 of the EQF on Wednesday night:

LW CHRIS KUNITZ played 14:12 with a bum shoulder and delivered five hits. He, C JORDAN STAAL and LW RUSLAN FEDOTENKO combined for 15 knocks. Toss that output from those three at me before the game and I’d have said the Penguins would be up, 1-0, in this series.

— If Staal, LW MATT COOKE and RW TYLER KENNEDY are “the Nightmare Line,” perhaps LW JARKKO RUUTU, C CHRIS KELLY and RW CHRIS NEIL, a trio that combined for three goals and six points to go with nine hits, will need a catchy nickname if the Penguins allow them to continue at such a productive pace. I thought before this series the Senators No. 3 line could influence these games without producing points. If they are producing points, I need to think about how realistic the chances are that these Penguins can advance.

G MARC-ANDRE FLEURY in the last two postseasons after a loss: 8-3, 2.10 GAA, .931 SV%. He’s not known as a big game goalie for nothing.

———

ON THE BEAT ROAD: ALEX GOLIGOSKI

As readers may know from past posts, a player often earns high marks with beat reporters in moments after losses. How a player handles himself in the dressing room during trying times is a measure of his character, and to a man this group of Penguins earns high marks from me.

Goligoski provided a case-in-point example after this loss. His goal late in the third period was his first in the playoffs, and it came during a stretch when he has felt considerable heat from players and select media members for a disappointing finish to his first full regular season.

Sitting at his locker bench with no media around, I approached Goligoski to speak about the game and, specifically, his goal. He responded with a quizzical look at me then in the direction of FSN Pittsburgh’s Stan Savran, whom I was unaware had targeted Goligoski for one of many one-on-one on-camera interviews that go to a club’s broadcast partner.

“I don’t know who I am supposed to talk to,” Goligoski said.

“Go ahead and talk with Stan,” I responded, knowing that I was in desperate need of tracking down other Penguins players and with limited time before I had to provide the Trib’s night sports desk with a (inside newspaper lingo alert) Quoter — game story with quotes, duh!

Several minutes later as I stood in the player’s lounge area awaiting a player, Goligoski passed me on his way into the training room.

“Rossi, did you still need to talk to me?” he asked.

Times like these are the ones that leave beat reporters fairly snarky when it comes to their territory, and I am no exception.

To be with a team daily for an entire season, or in my case several seasons, is to feel a sense of awkward connection to players. They are not my friends, and at some point I will write something that every one of them hates; but they are, in a way, my guys — and never is that more so than during the playoffs when TV and radio stations descend upon the hockey rinks as though they were the football field on the South Side. That contradiction-connection is equally uncomfortable and gratifying for me.

“Not now, ‘Goose,’” I said to Goligoski. “I wanted to ask about your first playoff goal.”

He had figured as much.

“When I score one in a win, I’ll get you then,” he said.

Good enough from one of my guys. I’ll hold him to that.

— BY ROB ROSSI

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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.

Comments

  1. Glen Mikkelsen says:

    Lets see, what will Goligoski say about his first play-off goal…. How about: “Its always nice to score, and it was a brilliant pass by Sid, but it means nothing when we lose the game.”

    Here are a few questions to Dan Bylsma that would be actually interesting to read replies to:

    1: With Guerin and Fedotenko having been supremely disappointing all season even strength and you having seen the effect of scratching Sykora for that same reason in last season’s playoffs, are you considering line-up changes for game 2?

    2: What was the thinking behind scratching the teams’ biggest forward, one among the most punishing hitters on the team who has shown a knack for scoring (Rupp) against the most physical team in the East?

    3: With Guerin never (sic!) winning a single puck battle, how can it be that Ponikarovski are never on the first unit PP any more? After all – the PP has clicked at a very high percentage the few times it happened in the regular season.

    4: As ‘getting to our game’ is such and important dictum with you, does it concern you that e.v.e.r.y s.i.n.g.l.e t.i.me you meet a trapping team, the team looks clueless even strength?

    5: Have you considered addressing that…. rather than hoping the team will magically get to those soft dump-ins against a team having put their entire team behind the puck and the goal? If it is being addressed it doesn’t show – what do you perceive to be the reason?

    Fewer softballs, Rob, please. We’re counting on you guys :-).
    Dan Bylsma this season is looking like a coach who lucked into things last year. There has been no accountability demanded with Guerin and Feds, and alternatives haven’t been tried out.

  2. john says:

    Evgeni Malkin TOI: 19:41
    ES TOI: 14:28
    # of shifts at C with one or both of the useless Ukranians on his wing: All of them
    # of shifts at C with Max Talbot on his wing: 0
    Dan Bylsma’s management of Malkin’s shifts and ice time: Priceless

  3. concernedpensfan says:

    I agree with Glen. Bylsma seems clueless with all his chatter about “getting to our game” and it doesn’t seem to register that there is a connection between all the turnovers and the neutral zone trap that has proven effective at paralyzing the Penguins style of play.

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