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Rossi: Can Pens still count on their big advantages?


COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nobody seemed rattled.

If nothing else, that was probably a positive for the Penguins as of late Wednesday night. They had blown a 3-0 lead, surrendered a goal with 24 seconds remaining, and lost in overtime for a second time in the series – but, from the dressing room, there was a sense of relative calm.

They have, most of these players ad coaches, been here before.

It was a year ago, actually.

The Penguins appeared in firm control of a first-round playoff series against the New York Islanders when, as the Columbus Blue Jackets have now, Game 4 slipped away to turn a best-of-seven into a best-of-three.

Then, as will be the case Saturday night, Game 5 was at Consol Energy Center, the fan base – at least based off the imperfect measure of social media – was mostly nervous. (A difference is that – again, based on social media – the fan base seems angry now; not necessarily for the right reasons, but…)

The Penguins’ performance in Game 5 against the Islanders last season was not perfect, but it was probably their closest to perfection of that postseason. They stayed composed, received a boost from a new addition to the lineup in the form of winger Tyler Kennedy’s goal and blanked the Islanders.

Something happened to the inexperienced Islanders once Round 1 became a best-of-three last postseason. The narrative went from “maybe they can pull an upset” to “they can actually do it.”

The Islanders didn’t handle that change well, either.

The Penguins ultimately exposed the Islanders’ lack of experience – and shaky goaltending – to advance last postseason. They did so by a slim margin and without looking dominant, but they did do that.

The Blue Jackets still lack experience, though not confidence. However, their goaltending might not be all that less shaky than the Islanders was a year ago. Sergei Bobrovsky has needed to make only 14 third-period saves in two Columbus’ victories. When tested, he has mostly been C-grade level.

If experience matters in the playoffs, that should prove the case in favor of the Penguins over the next three games.

Of course, maybe at this point this series is not about experience?


>> The Game 4 loss is not on Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Coach Dan Bylsma made that clear, and he was spot on. Still, now the series is about Crosby and Malkin. The two best players in the world should be expected to make a big impact with probably nothing less than the future of their coaches and some teammates on the line. THE GAMER:


>> As a counter to the Crosby/Malkin narrative, Josh Yohe offered this observation:

The Penguins are averaging 3.50 goals in this series, more than their 2.95 from the regular season. Of course, they are also allowing an average of 3.50 in this series, more than their 2.49 from the regular season – and 0.74 more goals-for than Columbus had averaged in the regular season (2.76).

Goal prevention is the game this time of season. It’s just not one the Penguins are playing.

Also, Yohe reported on Game 4’s TURNING POINT:


>> Contributor Justin Boggs, who proved himself a deadline-writing wizard, was there to hear Nick Foligno insist he called his shot before OT. The story from BEHIND ENEMY LINES:


>> Marcel Goc may call it a comeback. He could help in that goal prevention problem. NOTES n’AT:


>> Unlike the Twiturkeys, columnist Dejan Kovacevic took a deep breath after Game 4 and opined that maybe Marc-Andre Fleury had earned a mulligan based on how all bout a couple of incidents have game. Fleury is probably the reason the series is tied instead of 3-1 in favor of the Blue Jackets. Uh, yeah, you read that right. It’s true. The Game 4 COMMENTARY:


The Penguins, as planned, sacked practice for Thursday. They’re being beat up in this series, but clearly the coaching staff is crazy for taking a big-picture approach. Chris Adamski and Jason Mackey will have your updates from Bylsma’s media availability at Consol Energy Center.


Tickets remain available for Game 5.


Tea is brewing folks. Believe that.


Be EXCELLENT to each other,





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.

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