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Pens fans wrong to mock Fleury

POSTGAME PUCK

Some quick observations and notes off the Pens’ 2-1 home win over Ottawa in Game 1 of the EQF on Friday night:

— G Marc-Andre Fleury deserves a lot better than a sellout crowd at Mellon Arena sent his way early in Game 2 after his first save. Yes, Fleury started the series stopping just 16 of 22 shots. However, he also has made 19 straight saves to close an oft-pivotal Game 2 — teams that win it are well over 70 percent in series victories. D Brooks Orpik said he “didn’t understand” the mock-cheering from Fleury’s home fans. Neither do I. Performances like from Penguins fans are the reason I often wonder how the Penguins once called them “the best fans in hockey.”

— C Sidney Crosby won 13 of 19 faceoffs, including his last seven. He went 11 for 22 in Game 1. Yeah, Crosby is crazy competitive. I get that. How about some love for C Evgeni Malkin, not often referred to as, uh, interested when in the faceoff circle. He went 7 for 12 in Game 2.

— Orpik dished out nine hits, setting a tone for 52 from the Penguins. I’m real close to dubbing him “G.I. ‘O’: The Penguins’ American Hero.” Thoughts?

— Speaking of fine Americans, C Mike Rupp landed four hits in under seven minutes. Efficiency is a beautiful thing. Just think what Rupp might do when presented with early-morning coffee from Tim Horton’s in Ottawa — a favorite spot for him and me in Canada’s capital city.

— Reason the Penguins agreed to pay D Kris Letang $14 million over the next four seasons: In his club’s biggest game of the season, Letang attempted eight shots — yeah, he connected with only three, but those attempts indicate a willingness to accept responsibility to contribute offensively — and blocked four shots, plus he delivered five hits. Oh, and a winning goal.

— OK, dear readers who kept reading past my Fleury rant, the lovely drive to Ottawa for Games 3 and 4 begins Saturday afternoon. Joy! If any of yinz are heading up, drop me a note with your story — pictures welcome, so long as they are PG — at rrossi@tribweb.com.

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. Frank says:

    “Best fans in hockey”? That’s funny. I recall that arena being a ghost town and people in my section dropping their season ticket plans left and right when this team didn’t have a player named Lemieux, Jagr, Malkin or Crosby on the roster. While our fans are by far not the worst in the league, considering them the “best” is almost comical.

    While I will be the first one to admit that Fleury has let in his fair share of shaky goals this season, it was embarrassing to be around those who were mocking him last night. Zero class. These are probably some of the same people who were praising him after he robbed Carter, Ovechkin and Lidstrom in last years Stanley Cup playoffs. He has won 7 out of 8 playoff series and helped bring this city their third cup.

    The fickleness of it all is pathetic in my opinion.

  2. john says:

    rossi, really I dont see anything wrong with the mock cheers sent fleurys way he has been below average all year and maybe that is what he needed to wake him up. I dont understand why the media in pittsburgh such as tim benz of the x and so on are in love with fluery? I think most of the media tend to forget or ignore the fact that he was #1 overall in the draft and hasnt played like one for most of his career, big deal he made a couple big saves in the playoffs last year, i would take bryzgalov or vokoun over him any day, not to mention another 15-20 goalies in the league who have better stats than him

  3. Tracey Lehigh says:

    Hate being lumped in with the fans who were less than supportive of Fleury; don’t understand it at all. The Pens fans are usually there for the team even after less than stellar performances. Plus, we all know Fleury always bounces back after a loss.
    I really didn’t get it because if all of the fans watched the previous game; they would know it wasn’t a good game for the entire team. I also think they’ve been too quiet at time when the team needs them the most. If the “fans” who “turned” on Flower aren’t there to support the team give there are people who would gladly take their tickets.

    Side note: don’t like G.I. ‘O’ The Pirates already call #46 G.I. Jones.

  4. Ray Haluska says:

    It’s an insult to the way he played last year to suggest that MAF is totally on his game as his defenders in the media have been wont to do for several months now. I’m sure he feels a little nervous as do the fans every time a shot on goal is taken in a close game. I hope he regains his confidence so fans can regain their confidence in him because lately he gives up bad goals the way the Pirates pitchers give up homeruns. He and the rest of the team (other than Sid) need to find the form they displayed in last year’s playoffs and that means blocking shots, taking away space from attacking players and having more players than Sidney attacking the net. It’s easy to forget the hard work and GOOD LUCK that go into winning a championship. The Penguins were dead in the water down 3-0 in Game 6 against the phlyers when Talbot’s fight actually did spur the team to a comeback to close out the series in six. Game 7 at home of that series would have been too much of a crapshoot given the long history of the two teams. There were also 3 OT games in the Caps series and the two the Pens won came on deflections after the Caps tested MAF with some great shots. After beating the Carolina Cowherbells in a sweep, they had to win 4 of the final 5 against the Wings to win. For months now, there has been a big difference than the eagle that flew across the crease to stop Lidstrom’s last second shot and the surprising goals that have been leaked in through the first pair of games this playoff season. Granted, no Cup run is identical. It’s a roller coaster ride where we live and die every other night depending on the outcome of the game. Along the way road victories are necessary and it would be nice to regain that home ice advantage by winning game 3 or 4 if not both.
    Our opinions matter little, so whether it’s Bronx cheers or blind faith, the games are won and lost on the ice, no matter how hard you twirl that towel.
    The boards have been acting funny since the circus left town. Those bounces have favored the Penguins a few times in the past. The hockey gods owed the visitors a favorable bounce like the one the Senators receieved in Game 1.
    Don’t worry about the next series. Pay close attention and enjoy this one.

  5. Brandi says:

    Thank you for calling out the Fleury haters. I’m tired of Fleury taking the blame for everything. And I completely agree with you when you say ‘those fans should go back to watching football’.

    I consider myself one of the biggest hockey fans and consider hockey almost a religion for me.

    I am a huge Fleury fan. I think he is, more often than not, underrated. I think he’s amazingly quick, flexible, incredible in shoot-outs, etc. I have faith in the guy. Always have.

    I think it’s sad that the fans criticizing Fleury are, more likely than not, the people that didn’t watch hockey pre-crosby…and probably haven’t watched a whole lot of games this season. Playoffs start – oh, and look, they turn the tvs on or buy a ticket and gloat in the ‘i’m going to game 2 of the first series’ yet they can’t tell you who number 3 is, or 27, etc. While I think it’s incredible that there is a new population of fans…maybe the ones that participated in the sad, sad demonstration of mock-cheering last night should get to know the game, how it works, and what it means to be a ‘fan’.

    It means a hell of a lot more than buying a blue Crosby jersey and wearing it around town. If you can’t appreciate the athletics it takes to play hockey…watch baseball.

  6. Frank says:

    It’s funny looking at how other goaltenders throughout the league have performed in these playoffs up to this point. While our own “fans” have been busy bashing Fleury and mocking him in his own arena…

    Niemi: Gave up four last night, including this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIfXnpYpVbs

    Nabokov: While the Sharks won last night, he gave up 5 goals on 18 shots.

    Bryzgalov: The possible Mr. Vezina and flavor of the year gave up 6 goals last night.

    Miller: Gave up 5 goals to the Bruins (Today).

    Theodore: Plekanec OT goal (Thursday night).

  7. diane says:

    Fans like media, become easily spoiled with winning. Sadly, the fans want to be the story. How fast was your publication in publishing the story that Fleury was late on Wednesday? Was that really breaking news?

  8. Paul M says:

    Frank is right. Many of the so called fans in town couldn’t explain icing or off sides if their life depended on it. Without marque names like “Sid the kid,” Malkin, Jagr or Lemieux many of them would still be looking for something else to do. Perhaps the Penguins called them the best fans in the league because they WANTED TO CONTINUE TO TAKE THEIR MONEY. Go to Calgary or Edmonton on a Tuesday night in January to meet some real fans of the game of hockey. Sorry but I have to go throw up after hearing, “G.I. “O” The Penguins American Hero.” Maybe you could call Mike Rupp, “the King of Canadian Caffeine.” Possibly you have too much time on your hands.

  9. Chuck Schubert says:

    Rob, I was there Friday night & was shocked and offended by the mock cheer of Fleury. After that first goal on which I believe Gonchar should’ve stepped up on Regim, I screamed, “Last one tonight Fleury, brother.” And with a little help from Crosby I was correct! Not sure if anyone heard me from E-1 though?

    Love your insights Rob.

  10. Bruce says:

    The fans were right to mock Fleury. As we’ve seen with Roethlisberger and Holmes, the last thing a young player needs is coddling from the press or the fans. The fans are not there to be friends with the players. They are consumers and they wxpect results for the money they spend.

    If Fleury plays well, he should be cheered, and if not… he deserves to be jeered. If the kid doesn’t like being jeered, there’s a way for him to prevent it from happening again – play better! Based on how he played in games 2 and 3, I would guess he’s figured that out for himself.

  11. Bobby O says:

    Wow, People get too personal about their hockey teams/players. It’s NOT just a Pittsburgh thing, or these fans are any different than any others thing. People who love Fleury try to defend him at all costs and people who don’t like him (for whatever reason) look for ways to poke holes in him. It’s like politics and being super-conservative, or ultra-liberal.

    People need to see things realistically and find some middle ground already. I like Fleury, I think he’s a good enough goalie to back-stop the team to a cup (and he has) but the fact is he’s been average at best this season and completely of the mark in Game 1, so for the fans to give him a mock cheer on his first save after letting in a stoppable goal on the first shot of game 2 is not out of line all things considered and I think he’s smart enough and level-headed to know that and took it with a grain of salt. In fact, if anyone asked him, Knowing how he is, I’m sure he would have said “Yeah, I deserved that a little bit.” Besides, a mock cheer is a lot different from being booed and if fans truly were upset and “classless” that’s what he would have gotten.

    People have to realize Fleury is not your son, not your boyfriend (girls) and not even your friend. He’s been playing hockey his whole life and I’m sure this wouldn’t even score low in the top 100 most disappointing events in his career. You of all people should know this much Rob and I’ll apologize for all the classless fans (even though I wasn’t there) if they somehow disgraced the good character of Pittsburgh in the nations eyes with its low brow conduct.

  12. Dan says:

    I don’t see how this is much different, or any more right, than you riding Geno at midseason.

  13. Alan W says:

    I think part of the problem is that hockey is a sport that most of the people in this city watch, but few have ever played. As a defenseman of over 15 years now, it’s easier for me to spot the lapses in team defense than it is for the casual fan. And in Game 1, Fleury was clearly the victim of bad team defense. In most games, Fleury bails out his defensemen much more than they bail him out.

    Game 1:
    Goal 1 : Blame Gonchar, didn’t pick up Regin as he crashed the net.
    Goal 2 : Fleury could’ve had better positioning but Gogo broke his stick and Neil went unopposed.
    Goal 3 : Bad luck, every goalie in the league would’ve played that puck behind the net. Not to mention both Eaton and Letang let Kelly walk right into the slot.
    Goal 4 : Jordan Staal stands with his feet planted, watching the play and ignores the man drifting in behind him to pick up the rebound.
    Goal 5 : Lots goes wrong here. Eaton plays the pass too loosely. Staal doesn’t hustle back and gives up on the play. Letang is terribly out of position, beginning the play behind the Ottawa net.

    Game 2:
    Goal 1: Gonchar is 25 feet away from Regin as he crosses the blue line, which is terrible positioning as a result of a bad turnover from Orpik.

    It’s just easier for most fans and even commentators to blame the goalie. Of all those goals scored, I only give Fleury partial blame for goals 2 and 5 of Game 1 for not having a better angle on the shot. And I think it’s no coincidence that with Rupp and McKee in the lineup, and more responsible defensive zone play, that the Pens won game 3, 4-2.

    Pittsburgh hockey fans need to learn that goals aren’t simply transactions between a shooter and the goalie. There’s a lot that happens in front of the goalie that allow a goal to happen or not. And sometimes, no matter how good, a goalie just gets beat. RE: Malkin/Brodeur 10/24/06

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