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Some heat off Sid and Geno, and the goalie situation.

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Some postgame thoughts as I sit at the PGH APRT awaiting an early Saturday flight to Philadelphia:

= The Penguins will not practice this morning at Wells Fargo Center. I can’t say I’m surprised. They’ve played every other days since opening the season Oct. 7, and they are really bruised and battered. Ds ALEX GOLIGOSKI and PAUL MARTIN each played over 27 minutes Friday night, their workload increasing because D KRIS LETANG had been ejected aver his hit on Islanders LW BLAKE COMEAU in the second period. That game was the Penguins’ second straight without shutdown defense pair BROOKS ORPIK (day-to-day, groin) and ZBYNEK MICHALEK(2-4 weeks, right shoulder). Goligoski and Martin are each at or near 25 minutes per night through five games. Also, C SIDNEY CROSBY and RW EVGENI MALKIN are each over 22 minutes per game. They might be at that average with C JORDAN STAAL(indefinitely, right foot) in the lineup, but it sure seems to me the Mega Powers are playing harder minutes than they normally would in October.

= I’ve been pretty hard on Crosby and Malkin for not producing a third-period point. Well, fair is fair; and they were very good in overtime, especially on the power play to set up Goligoski’s winning marker.

More clear with each day is that we’re not seeing anywhere near the 100-percent Crosby, who has been bothered by a hip injury since the early days of camp.  I’ve never known him to use an injury as an excuse for not playing up to his expectations, and I don’t give him enough credit for that. Also, perhaps my expectations of him and Malkin are too high. He and Malkin will be judged against former scoring champions/MVPs Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr for as long as they play with the Penguins — and neither Crosby nor Malkin may prove the consistent game-takeover players those players were in their primes. (Few were, to be fair.) Still, neither Crosby nor Malkin are in their primes, so I’ll continue to believe each player will one day get near the rarefied levels Penguins fans came to expect from Lemieux and Jagr in the “get on my back, boys” department.

= I don’t know hockey anywhere well enough to second guess any coach at any level. However, I’m not seeing it from Malkin as a right wing, and I’m not on board with G BRENT JOHNSON starting at Philadelphia if that is the way coach DAN BYLSMAplays it. Totally unfair it is of me to judge the Malkin as a right wing attempt on five games, especially when Staal, who would be his center, hasn’t played. Still, Malkin can’t seem to find that special “Geno Gear” from the wing, and I do wonder if that will change when Staal returns to play with him. As for the goaltending situation: Yes, Johnson has been better than starter MARC-ANDRE FLEURY. Still, Fleury is the No. 1. End of story. This is a big road game against a division opponent, one from which a win would bring the Penguins to 3-3-0 despite having lost three times at home and all these injuries. This is a game No. 1 goalies start. The message sent to Fleury by not playing him — well, I’m not sure what that message would be or what sending it would do. He won’t be embarrassed into playing better, and not starting at Philadelphia in this situation would be embarrassing to a Stanley Cup-winning goalie for the Penguins. Bylsma has made it clear he isn’t thrilled with some of the goals Fleury has allowed in his three losses. That I get. I also get that going with the hot hand in Johnson makes a lot of sense. What I don’t get is not giving Fleury the chance to prevent some goals at Philadelphia. Playing Johnson would invite questions about a goaltending controversy — unnecessary questions, because even Johnson says that Fleury ”is the guy.”

= RW MIKE RUPPlikes the idea of “Real American” being played after he scores goals at the Consol Energy Center. “That’d be awesome,” he said after scoring Friday night. “Though, I just shaved my Hulk Hogan mustache.” Still, I’m trusting that song will be ready to go for Monday night against Ottawa.

 = Lost in the madness of Friday night was the first NHL goal by LW ERIC TANGRADI, who played a strong game overall and continues to show he can handle playing at this level. I’m not sure he hasn’t been the Penguins’ third-best top-six winger after Malkin and LW CHRIS KUNITZ. If he keeps that up for the next couple of weeks don’t the Penguins have to consider keeping him in the NHL even when RW ARRON ASHAM returns from injury? (Don’t think about it too much; the answer should be, “Yes.”)

= Regarding the Letang hit, all I’ll say is this after having some hours to sleep on it: On-ice officials are in a really tough spot with these split-second decisions. Yes, they’re paid to make them, but making the call between a clean hit and an illegal one is hard enough without Rule 48, which I maintain only complicates the matter of illegal hits to the head.

= BLUE is 1-0-0. I’m just saying…

Cheers,

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. Shawn says:

    Anyone who would even think of booing Sergei Gonchar tonight is NOT a Penguins fan.

  2. Pete says:

    BOOOOOOOOO! Sergie Gonchar is the softest and most over rated defenseman in the nhl.. glad we arent paying him big bucks anymore..

  3. priz says:

    Rob,

    Cmon ….Crosby is capable of taking over games all the time. No one is Lemieux but Crosby has his moments of carrying the team many a night.

    What about Malkin. 2 years ago in the playoffs he single handedly crushed Carolina in the Eastern Conference finals. When Crosby was hurt a few years ago he put the team on his back and should have been the MVP.

    Just because they don’t take over every single game doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of doing it….especially in the big games.

    priz

 
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