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Postgame thoughts from the ATL, and some astonishing Crosby number crunching.

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Some quick-hit thoughts after the Penguins’ 4-2 victory at Atlanta on Saturday:

= Dear readers paying close attention to G MARC-ANDRE FLEURY will notice that he has stopped using the poke check, which he was relying on too much early in the season. Goaltending coach GILLES MELOCHE spent the past couple of weeks working with Fleury on trusting his in-crease ability to “play big,” with the hope being he wouldn’t skate himself out of position by being too aggressive. When Fleury is at his worst, which he was at the start of the season, he is too far out of the net. There is a fine line between challenging and straying, and Fleury is now skating on it – that’s a good thing. He was shutout-good in this game.

By the way, check out my final game story for his joke about when the media chooses to speak with him. Say what you must, but the guy has a great way of looking at things.

Also, I can’t stress enough just how impressed I was by the CEC crowd Friday night. To cheer Fleury from the start was no insignificant things. I’m sometimes hard on Penguins fans, but the majority of them “get it,” and that was obvious Friday night.

= D KRIS LETANG took another puck to the right hand against Atlanta. That’s three by my count on the season. He might be one of the better right-handed shooting defensemen in the league, but I’m not sure what will continue to be true if that right hand keeps taking this kind of beating.

= So, some dear readers have chimed in about my USA Today rankings, which didn’t include C SIDNEY CROSBY as one of the NHL’s top five MVP candidates. A couple of things on that: I voted him No. 1 last season and No. 2 the season before on my Hart Trophy ballot, so enough with the “Rossi doesn’t respect Crosby” stuff, eh. Also, Crosby was in the top five on my first USA Today ballot. For MVP, I put a lot of stock into the player’s team’s performance, and the Penguins weren’t performing real well as of Monday when votes were due. I use the same criteria for that voting as I do the Hart Trophy – “player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.” Were the USA Today vote about the top five players in the NHL, Crosby would have topped my list. He is, without question to this reporter, the best player in hockey. That doesn’t mean he was the MVP as of last Monday.

Anyway, something to think about regarding Crosby: He has scored 62 goals in the past 99 regular-season games. He had 43 goals in the 99 regular-season games prior to that. At the rate of his current run he will have totaled 233 goals by his 450th NHL game. He had 102 goals in his first 225 NHL games.

If Crosby is at 233 goals at 450 NHL games he would be on pace for 517 goals in 1,000 games, a total he would hit before his 30th birthday. Given his conditioning, and with the grace of good health, a run at 800 goals wouldn’t be out of the question.

I’m not sure any great player has totally redefined himself at this early point of his career. Crosby was a playmaker three years ago. These days he’s as good a goal scorer as any player on the planet.

OK, I have a second straight early flight.

 

Cheers,

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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:

    Rob already said it, but great job by the fans at Friday night’s game.

    Fleury’s “dive” began in last year’s playoffs. After one bad game and an early goal in the next game, the “fans” last year gave Flower a Bronx cheer after his next save. The players were furious about it and Marc had been erratic ever since.

    Some players need a kick, some need a hug.

    Other than allowing the haters to hate, “kicking” Marc Andre Fleury serves NO purpose.

    Thankfully, they told him to stop it with that insufferable poke check. A little more work on keeping square and not overplaying shots and Marc with be back to his A game.

    This win at Atlanta was a very good win. Maybe the most important win of the year. On the road after playing at home the night before to a pretty decent team that is resting and waiting for you. And not allowing any “let down” to slip into the game after a nice win the night before.

    Hopefully, the Boston game was that rock bottom wake up call they needed to keep it rolling.

    Speaking of players that need hugs…great game by Geno. Malkin is only half the player he otherwise is at wing. He needs to be involved in the play and he can’t do that standing along the right wing boards covering a point man and then trying to start breakouts flatfooted. I really hope we keep him at center, even after Jordan returns.

  2. PenguinsSupporter says:

    Your criteria for Hart is clearly suspect, as I noticed you voted for Ovechkin in the number five slot, at a time when he is being seriously outplayed by his other teammates, especially Semin. Ovechkin has been so “non ovechkin” that his coach has discussed his overly long shifts as a negative, and his team mates have tried to spark his play by contributing to a series of news articles about the other players needing to relieve Ovechkin of pressures of the captaincy. He again has more empty netters (loitering at the blue line waiting for team mates to get him the puck) and fewer goals this year than any other time in his career. Semin has been the star in washington…

  3. espo33 says:

    PenguinsSupporter-agree with you on that one…

 
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