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Next-day postgame thoughts from Pens @ TBL

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Greetings from the Tampa airport, dear readers. I’m quite exhausted this morning, and not because of the long trip — though certainly that didn’t help; rather, I am confident I spotted my first bed bugs under the mattress. Yikes. I can say that for all the concerned that come with traveling, bed bugs have jumped to the top of my list. The worst part is that seeing one leads you to assume that there are hundreds, and even if you haven’t had your blood sucked — and there are no signs (yet) that I have — you tend to imagine bugs taking liberties with you. Anyway, this paranoia should serve me well going forward, no?

= So, I hope you’ve read my game story and discovered the alarming stat I dug up Wednesday night. If not: G MARC-ANDRE FLEURY has allowed a first- or second-shot goal in seven starts dating to the 2010 playoffs. Now, not all of these goals were on him, certainly not the ones he surrendered in his last two starts. Still. I asked Fleury about this, and his response was in my game story. (Plugs, plugs, plugs.) After our chat in the visiting dressing room at the St. Pete Times Forum he looked at me, rolled his eyes while tipping his head backwards, sighed and said, “It’s just frustrating, you know?” I think we’d all agree that everybody knows how it feels to be stuck on something that we can’t explain. What I don’t know — and after talking with coaches, management and teammates extensively about this, I get the feeling neither to they — is what has happened to Fleury. 

I’m often accused, correctly, of being an apologist for him. That is because he is: A) the most genuine athlete I’ve ever covered; but mostly, B) a goalie that was outstanding for the Penguins in each of their 16 wins during the 2009 playoffs, making big saves in critical moments to help them win the Cup. I presumed the confidence he gained from that run would help him elevate to a consistently elite level. It’s actually been a case of the reverse.

I am starting to wonder when this situation officially becomes a problem.

= Something that might help Fleury: Penguins defensemen not giving ground when opposing forwards enter the zone with the puck. Look at footage of Ds ALEX GOLIGOSKI and DERYK ENGELLAND on Tampa’s second goal. Just way too much space between them and the shooter, and this isn’t something that was exclusive to this game. Fleury is often back in his net these days, but take a look at where his defensemen are positioned.

= I’d be shocked if the Penguins don’t lead the NHL by a wide margin in quality shorthanded chances allowed. This power play seems to invite giveaways. The NHL, so far as I know, doesn’t keep a stat for shorthanded chances allowed, but the early eye test tells me they’ll be comin’ round the mountain.

= A birdie tells me C EVGENI MALKIN will be modeling those Winter Classic threads today. Maybe the new duds will help him find that goal-scoring touch.

 

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. Mike says:

    You state goligoskis and engellands play/positioning as an excuse for Fleury, but Johnson plays behind the same defense, did you seem to forget that? Excuse after excuse for this goalie, when most of them arent even warranted. Enough fleury backers!

  2. Mike says:

    and Johnson is like 3rd in the league in save % while fleury is like 40th

  3. Mario Lopez says:

    powerLESS powerplay is still a JOKE…why is it that watching our PP is like watching a kid try putting a square peg in a round hole, ITS JUST NOT WORKING…..def of insanity: continue to do the samethings & expect different results….

  4. Crosbyfan says:

    When does Staal return? Maybe he’s the spark they need.

  5. Nathan says:

    “This power play seems to invite giveaways.”

    I point most fingers to Malkin as he really just doesn’t care defensively when on the powerplay. When he chases guys that get behind him on a breakaway, have you ever seen him skate the way he does when he goes after a loose puck in the offensive zone? No.

    On the play that turned into the penalty shot he had a chance to stick check Bergenheim between the Lightning’s blueline and centre ice but he didn’t, then when he caught up to they guy he does as he always does in that situation: hook both arms until the ref has to call a penalty shot.

    Of course that second breakaway was created by Crosby, but as far as I can remember this was his only game this season where he went way overboard with the fancy, and gave the puck away so many times. I think Stamkos had something to do with it.

    It looks to me like Fleury has been starting ever so slightly to get back to a solid game (the middles of the last two games), but obviously he has some problems and it starts with his confidence.

    Johnson has supreme confidence this season and it shows in the whole team’s play. Fleury needs some things to start going his way over a few games to get into a rythmn. It doesn’t seem to me like he’s going to really ‘work’ his way through this – he keeps on letting the same type and time of goals as hed did last season.

    “I am starting to wonder when this situation officially becomes a problem.”

    I hate to say it, I never thought I would feel like this, but maybe about a month and a half before the trade dealine?

  6. Joe says:

    I agree with Mike 1. above; Brent Johnson plays with the same defense, which I believe should be without Letang. At what, $4Mil a year or 3 I forget, he is way overpaid for what he brings as a D-man. Maybe move him to offense for his somewhat defensive skills and his +8 must have been scored by Houdini. Ive seen him make as many mistakes that result in the other team game winning goals as Fleury.

    I say trade them both for a big time winger and let the AHL and ECHL affiliates fill the voids.

  7. Nathan says:

    “Joe”
    “…which I believe should be without Letang. At what, $4Mil a year or 3 I forget, he is way overpaid for what he brings as a D-man. Maybe move him to offense for his somewhat defensive skills…”

    “I say trade them both for a big time winger and let the AHL and ECHL affiliates fill the voids.”

    Wow, hey Rob? Just WOW. It sucks, I think, that there are so many fans of hockey that just really have absolutely no clue.

  8. Niall says:

    @ Joe

    Are you kidding me? Do you actually watch the games? He’s been maybe our best player other than Brent Johnson.

  9. Frank says:

    Regarding Fleury’s confidence level, could his problelm be more visual than mental? Doesn’t he wear contact lenses? If so, perhaps an optometrist would be more helpful than a good game . He seems to have special problems with shots to his glove side; the glove is up but the puck flys by it, as though it’s not really where he sees it. Otherwise, a visit to Steve Blass might be helpful, not for a prescription but for advice.

  10. Andy says:

    Sorry Joe, but your opinion of Letang is absolutely unjustifiable. He is in the top-10 in the league in +/- and in the top 5 of points for defensemen. His physical presence has always been under appreciated and he is 23 years old, so he ought to develop further both physically and mentally. I don’t know how you can be anything but impressed with the kids play this year.

  11. harp says:

    Fleury needs to ride to bench for awhile, watch and learn from a veteran how to do it. I say go with Johnson until he has a bad game.
    I have not witnessed Letang making that many mistakes. He’s 3rd in the league for defensemen in scoring and a +8 so he’s not giving up goals.
    Crosby has been good but not great, Malkin has been average and very few others are really contributing right now. Comrie who tore up the preseason is failing so far but at his price tag any contribution is worthy.
    They are .500 right now, something needs to change and soon.

  12. dwf says:

    How long are we going to have to suffer before Fleury gets his confidence back? The Pens are a completely different team when Johnson is in goal. They know that they can make a mistake and he will bail them out. However, they have to play much differently when Fleury is in goal. It is a 50/50 roll of the dice when needs/should be making a big save. Fleury is costing this team valuable early season points.

    Aside from his Stanley Cup run, Fleury is playing like he did when he first came into the league. Stop this insanity! Send him to a hypnotist, have him listen to self confidence tapes, anything but play in goal! The rest of the team and the fans don’t deserve this!

  13. Shawn says:

    I say we trade all of these bandwagon Steelers fans who know so little about hockey that they would trade the team’s best defensemen (and best player to this point in the season) and replace him with AHL or ECHL players or who think you can move a player who has spent his whole life on defense up to forward.

    I am almost longing for the days of 03-04 when there may have been less of them, but at least, they were loyal and knowledgable.

    I wonder how many of those criticizing Fleury or any of the players have ever been on ice, let alone actually played hockey?

    Judging by the innaccuracies of their assessments….almost none.

    One win and the Stillers are going to the Super Bowl. One loss and the sky is falling. And I have watched this patten my entire life. From afar…

    Now they have brought this drunken manic yinzerness to my Penguins and MAF can’t have a bad week without the “sky falling.”

  14. Matt says:

    @ Shawn 12:

    Couldn’t agree more. For as bad as the team was those days it was nice to get student rush tickets in C & B when they were drawing 12-13k at the mellon. Then after the lockout you saw 18k crosby jerseys going into the arena, most of them probably couldn’t name you 3 players from their down years. Throw out the names jamie pushor or mike eastwood & they’ll shrug their shoulders. I don’t assess people’s statements based on whether or not they’ve played hockey because many knowledgeable people have not. But things like trade Letang or shift him to offense? C’mon. I do have to say Fleury continues to have me worrisome. I’m absolutely not discounting what he did in the 08 & 09 playoffs, but his game has regressed since that time & reflects the majority of his career. Amazing talent & athletic ability, but lacking serious consistency. It’s not as though we don’t have numerous other problems (powerplay – epic, secondary scoring, even primary scoring at this point), but we are a team w/ serious cup expectations so this Fleury issue needs to be addressed very soon.

  15. Patrick says:

    Shawn your comment is amost as dumb as joes. I’m sick and tired of hearing fellow penguins fans about having to justify and put themselves on the pedistal because “they were fans before ’04″. Who cares? A fan is a fan and the pens and NHL are lucky to have as many as they can get.

    And since when do you have to know how to pay goalie to see Fluery lets in too many easy goals and our power play is useless? Thats like saying you have to have played baseball to know the Pirates suck.

    Does anyone remember Jim Carrey? Won the Veinza and then 3 years later couldn’t get on a roster. I’m really hoping ths doesn’t happen to Fleury. Who knows? Fact is, it’s a 82 game season and I’d rather be struggling now then in December. Let’s get it together guys!

  16. dwf says:

    Shawn

    You don’t need to have taken a shift to see that MAF is having some serious issues so far this season. Please refer to his 1-5 record and .851 save %. Also, it hasn’t been just “a bad week”, it has been a BAD month!

    I’m sure you are a big MAF fan with years of fan experience, but, please call a spade a spade. MAF is playing terrible and is showing no signs of improvement. He doesn’t deserve to be taking playing time away from Johnson in an attempt to get his confidence back.

  17. Shawn says:

    Matt, Alex Hicks, Dan Focht, Joe Dziedzic, Jeff Norton. I had forgotten Pushor, actually. We’ve had some GREAT ones through here…

    Patrick, I’m not bashing new fans or even bandwagon fans. Welcome aboard.

    I’m bashing Steelers fans.

    They are either the worst best fans or the best worst fans in all of sports. Please reread my “drunken manic yinzerness” theory above.

    Penguins fans were not like that. They were smart, loyal and PATIENT. I can only imagine these same fans in 1985, “eh, Mahr-e-o hasn’t won the Cup yet, let’s trade him.”

    When the crowd gave Fleury a mock cheer in last years playoffs after one bad goal I could have vomited. And he and the whole team noticed it. He hasn’t been right since.

    dwf

    You can’t just look at numbers. A 2 on 0 breakaway and a soft wrister from the point both count as one save. An Ovechkin one timer on the powerplay and a Scott Gomez roller from the left boards both count as one goal.

    The best way to evaluate goalies is to watch the SHOOTERS. When they shoot it, do you think it’s going to go in and it doesn’t? Good save. Does it go in when you think it won’t? Bad goal.

    The 20 shots goalie A faces on Wed. are not the same 20 shots goalie B faces on Fri.

    MAF has not played well. He also has not played even 10% as poorly as this hysteria would demand.

    The goal to Gomez was the worst ever. His win in Nashville, however, was his worst game of the year. TB was bad, too. His loss against Philly on Friday was easily his best game of the year.

    Try finding that in the numbers.

    It’s all about saves relative to scoring chances.

    Also, Johnson is playing sick hockey right now. Anyone else would look bad next to him.

 
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