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Wednesday Wakeup Call: Time for a change

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Morning, Lunatics …

>> The Wednesday column off Game 4 focuses on Marc-Andre Fleury’s miserable goaltending … which incredibly was nearly topped at the other end of the ice.

But not quite …

I have a 5:30 a.m. exit from this place — not long from now — so I’ll let the column do my talking for this game, save for three things:

1. There’s more to be done than just changing goaltenders. But the column was about that topic, so that’s where it went.

2. Don’t underestimate how much lousy goaltending can throw even a really good, confident hockey team out of sorts. Anyone who knows the sport can attest. If you start thinking every shot is going in, you start doing some pretty dumb things.

3. Be sure to read Eric Bowser’s goal breakdown in the comments here. Quality stuff.

>> Here’s yesterday’s TribLIVE Radio show podcast featuring Douglas Murray.

>> Taking today off in Pittsburgh. Back at it for Game 5 … and 6 … and …

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

271 Comments

  1. Well written . . . and could not agree more.

  2. Fleury HAS to sit out game 5!

    For whatever reason, he can no longer be trusted to make even routine stops in the playoffs.

    Does anyone know a good sports shrink? I know Rene Russo played one in Tin Cup, which is what the Pens will get should they lose this series.

    And Disco Dan cannot be trusted to coach a playoff game. The Isles know his system and are doing a good job of beating it.

    Going to bed, hope I don’t dream of pucks bouncing off Fleury’s pads and into the net…

    • I heard that Kyle Okposo worked with a sports psychologist earlier this season. Seems to be working. I think every sports team should have a sports psychologist on call, especially during a playoff series. I would do it, but I’m pretty sure you need some sort of degree for that

  3. Well said, DK…

    But Max Talbot isn’t walking into that locker room and they need a guts and guile hitter (several of them) on the ice.

  4. As far as I’m concerned, sit Malkin as well Fleury. Malkin, gives up three scoring chances for every one he generates. His turnovers are unacceptable. His STUPID penalties are inexcusable. Any other player with any other coach would have long since been riding the pine. Sit Malkin a period of two or a game. Send a message to the team. Although it may be too late.

  5. Vokoun WILL be in goal for Game 5. The gutsier call for HC DB will be whether he plays Iginla as Sid’s right wing, with Dupuis on left, given their lack of practice time together. I would, but fear HC DB will not pull this trigger. Sid has proven time and again HE can adjust to whatever (and whoever) is thrown at him, so why not now?

  6. Can Disco Dan make the call? He has been coaching scared in the playoffs ever since he got here. The team is soooo tight. A little bravado on his part might be what the team needs.

  7. That indeed was a terrible game.

    On a lighter note, I did meet up with JohninOshKosh tonight for a few beers. He was a cool dude. It was nice to meet up with a blog guy.

    Go Pens! Go Bucs!

  8. Let’s look at why the Penguins are losing by using a simple still shot on each goal scored. There are so many issues with Fleury, his positioning and even worse, the defensive alignment of his teammates.

    Goal 1 – https://twitter.com/EricBowser/status/331974280642449410/photo/1
    - Fleury is too deep in his net
    - Isles have position advantage down low
    - Letang isn’t tying up his man
    - Eaton and Sutter covering same guy
    - Glass late to point
    - Morrow in no man’s land

    Goal 2 – https://twitter.com/EricBowser/status/331974397810311168/photo/1
    - Fleury has full line of sight, standing up
    - Dupuis too far back trying to block shot
    - Adams late to the party as usual
    - Letang doing nothing
    - Orpik with back turned
    - Look where Tavares is located… around the net.

    Goal 3 – https://twitter.com/EricBowser/status/331974535526109185/photo/1
    Fleury – splits, sitting still, horrible angle
    Crosby loses his man
    Orpik loses position advantage tied up with Czikas
    Eaton – not doing much
    Dupuis – in no man’s land
    Kunitz – out of view

    Goal 4 – https://twitter.com/EricBowser/status/331974611652710400/photo/1
    Fleury – top of crease, standing up
    Murray – has his back turned, puck will go off his skate
    Eaton – nowhere near his man
    Iginla – in slot, about to leave his man coming over to try to get shot, he doesn’t
    Malkin and Morrow – what are they doing bunched together covering NO ONE

    Goal 5 – https://twitter.com/EricBowser/status/331974681152348160/photo/1
    Fleury – is about to go down was playing angle for pass, so he’s off his angle
    Orpik – goes down to 1 knee, Tavares will deke around him
    Malkin – D zone turnover turns into this goal, again, no where w/ D
    Martin – covering Bailey

    Goal 6 – https://twitter.com/EricBowser/status/331974756637224961/photo/1
    Fleury – just as shot is coming off stick, he’s REACHING, pads already open
    Niskanen – flat footed because of turnover, never gets into positional advantage
    Letang – watching this beauty after “taking” his man at blue line.

    Way too many players out of position, bunched up, taking no one and Fleury’s positioning is way off.

    • Think you need to revisit analysis of goal number 3. In the screen shot 87′s man has fallen at his feet, Orpik picks up attacking player and Kunitz is standing in the blue paint defending.

      But your point is made. It’s as if the team has lost their collective minds.

    • If there was ever a time for Malkin to get angry and hit someone, it would have been on goal #5. Orpik took the pass to his man away by going down, Martin had his man covered, which left Malkin to take out Tavares. Instead, Geno goes for the puck, not the man, and Tavares is too skilled to just take the puck off of. Need to take the body there.

  9. I can’t argue with the decision to go with Vokoun at this point. From a big picture perspective, doing so could be a serious blow to the Pens’ Stanley Cup chances – they’re unlikely to win the Cup with a 36-year-old goalie who has a grand total of 3 career playoff victories. But right now it’s all about winning two more games and getting out of the first round, and Vokoun gives them the best shot to do that. Worry about round two when it gets here.

    Malkin has been terrible defensively. I may be overreacting, but I wonder if he’s playing his way out of Pittsburgh. It will be really tough to sign both Malkin and Letang to extensions, and Letang may be the more valuable asset at this point. If Geno insists on getting $8.7 mill again, Shero will have to at least listen to trade offers – especially if the Pens go out in round one.

    As much as I love Malkin’s elite skill, you can’t afford to pay ‘Sid money’ to a guy who makes horrible decisions in his own zone and who has not shown the ability to make his wingers better. And there are teams that would give up a ton to get him, contract year or not.

    On a positive note, I still think the Pens win this series. Yay team.

    • With Malkin, there’s no possible way to get equal value in a trade for less than his cap hit.

      Alas, Letang has probably been worse so far this series. Crazy to say on a day he’s a Norris finalist, but he’s the one I wonder about paying.

      • I would’ve thought there was no way to get equal value for Jordan Staal, but somehow Shero pulled it off. And whether he can get equal value is irrelevant; if the salary cap means he can’t keep both Malkin and Letang, one of them must be traded.

        Obviously there will be plenty of time to discuss those matters down the road…

  10. This is what happens when you let a lesser team back in the door, as the Penguins did in Game 2.
    Suddenly….They become worked up out of their minds, and start playing over their heads.
    If I’m correct, the Penguins were four for four in beating this team the last month or so of the season.
    Apparently the Islanders weren’t “too fast” in those games…..!

    • Focus, composure, attitude, leadership, desire, effort… none of it exists right now.

      When you have all the talent in the world but the composure of an idiot, this is what you get.

      DK: Oh, there’s desire. Don’t doubt that.

  11. Agree with the column, but it stopped short– Pens must commit to Vokoun for the rest of the playoffs. Fleury simply cannot perform under pressure. He will never win another Cup.

    I said in the game thread that he’s certainly not the only reason they lost–as Eric has accurately stated, they lack any semblance of composure or professionalism, with very few exceptions. Letang and Malkin repeated meltdowns are inexcusable.

    Again tonight, they made little effort to check anyone, especially Tavares or Okposo, choosing instead to believe in all the regular season press clippings awarding them the Cup at the trade deadline, rather than the hard work and dedication required to win.

    Bylsma should be getting some heat as well, but he doesn’t play the game.

    • Oh, c’mon. As hard as it is to defend MAF right now (and I have no intention of doing so), what does “he will never win another Cup” mean?

      First of all, this sentence is true of most hockey goalkeepers. How many of them win a Cup? How many of them do it more than once?

      Second, I clearly remember how a lot of internet blog comments used to say “Fleury will never will a Cup”, or “we will never win a Cup with MAF”. Until he did, and the Penguins did.

      And I’m sure that, if he ever wins it a second time, the next time he stinks we’ll read “he’ll never win the Cup a third time”.

      MAF having won the Cup before is no guarantee that he can do it again. But it does not follow that he can’t do it.

      • Most goalies do not have three certain hall of farmers, and a collection of world class talent playing in front of them.

        I have plenty of experience with people who need to perform under the most extreme pressure; Fleury can’t do it. I would argue that he won a Cup because he didn’t completely understand the stress associated. Attribute some of that to luck, great teammates, and his exceptional athleticism. Now that he has fully grasped the magnitude of the expectations, he is quite incapable of playing to his athletic potential.

        I’ve seen plenty of people just like him, intelligent, positive, and talented, who simply fell apart when expectations were greatest. They cannot control their panic response, and panic is like a disease.

        His teammates are well aware of his inability to perform under pressure, and if he is not replaced, he will drain what little confidence this team has remaining.

        • And how well are these hall of famers, and the collection of world class talent, playing in front of him?

          And, if Fleury’s faltering is draining the confidence of the skaters in front of him, what does it tells us about these hall of famers’ and world class talents’ composure, or their ability to perform under extreme pressure?

          Like I said in my previous post, I’m not interested in defending Fleury right now. I think sitting him would send a strong message, not only to Fleury himself, but to the entire team. If *that* doesn’t wake this team up, I’m not sure what would.

          That said, I don’t buy the notion that Fleury can’t a[nother] Cup. I don’t believe this follows at all. Especially when the Penguins struggles are so clearly a team “effort”, not an individual one.

  12. Iginla is not a left wing. Really looks lost over there. Time to switch him and Kunitz.

    MAF was very bad. Time for Tomas in game 5.

    Stuart

  13. If it is even possible for our “puck-moving defensemen” to go into a lock-down defensive mode, at the expense of some offense, I say do it now. Letang must think the Norris Trophy voting didn’t end with the regular season. Just more of the same stupid decisions and plays tonight. Niskanen has been equally unspectacular for some time now.

    • . . . and what happened to the all of the heavy checking from Game 1? Aren’t the Pens, and HC DB, reading DK’s columns?

  14. I agree DK. There seems to be plenty of desire … But they are soooo tight … Bylsma is tight and the few is responding. Don’t know what to do about that, though. They are playing scared. Head coach, goalie, and most everyone I between.

    • I think off the ice, they are talking about a strong desire to erase the disappointments of the last three playoff series and win another Stanley Cup for the core group and those who never won one.

      I just question their desire while on the ice… well, I guess that’s more effort.

      Nothing illustrated that better than Bob Errey screaming, “get back, get back” while Islanders had a slow developing 3-on-2 odd-man break.

  15. I really don’t think DD has a clue on what is going on, or, for that matter, any answers on how to stop this train wreck! Sure, he can put Vokoun in and that may stop the bleeding for a game or two? But, that still leaves the other issues like: all the mental mistakes, lack of defense, stupid penalties, lack of intestinal fortitude, and of course, poor coaching.

    These Pens simply don’t want to win as bad as the Islanders do! Plain and simple. The Islanders want this series so badly and they show it every shift they hit the ice! Every member of the team knows their role and when they forget it or don’t perform it to the satisfaction of Capuano, well he does what any good coach would do, he lets them know they need to play better to stay in the lineup. What a concept! IMO the Islanders have shown what it means to, in the words of “The Great Ray Shero” be all in!

    And DK, you truly are a master of stating the obvious in this column! Well done! And, I was wrong, you were able to put a positive spin on that disaster of a game by boldly claiming a Pens series victory! BRAVO DK! BRAVO :)

    • One of the pundits on NHL Network praised Jack Capuano’s decisiveness in letting the players who earned their ice time earlier in the game to stay on the ice during the 3rd period when things got tight. That’s a solid confidence booster to the rest of the team, not just the superstar (s). Sounds like a good strategy to me.

  16. The Penguins had 25 turnovers counted by the NHL statisticians, which somehow failed to count a single giveaway for Evgeni Malkin… if you saw the goals scored by John Tavares and Casey Cizikas, you would consider those some bad turnovers.

    Pens outshot Islanders 31-24

    Islanders had more hits 33-26, faceoffs 29-25, power plays 1-4 vs 0-2, and even in blocked shots 16-16.

    Crosby struggled 4 for 18 in faceoffs, mishandled numerous passes, and looked like a different player after taking a puck to his throat.

    Malkin penalized twice for minors and took a fighting major at the conclusion of the game. Had a few turnovers, bad decisions with the puck, and his tracking back on defense was quite poor.

    Sutter had his best game scoring a goal, won 8 of 13 faceoffs, 4 hits, and 2 takeaways.

    Fleury stopped 18-24 shots… 75% save percentage, in 4 games has .891 save %, 14 goals against in 128 shots. Of the goalies who have appeared in more than 1 game, only Nabokov has a worse save % at .846.

    If the Penguins can turnaround their goaltending and team defense, they are exposing Nabokov’s glove hand enough that insulating their goaltender more and with less chances should still give them more than enough chances to score goals.

  17. And without further adieu… to breakaway from the disappointing, frustrating, and mind-numbing performances by the Penguins in this series, I give you my acting debut….

    The things I do for humanity….

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=994120103361

  18. 2012 playoffs – 6 games, 30 goals – 5 goals per game
    2013 playoffs – 4 games, 14 goals – 3.5 goals per game
    - after game 1 shutout, 3 games, 14 goals = 4.66

    Not good.

  19. Now.. about those Pirates…. nice pitching performance line by Gomez considering the late day announcement that J-Mac was placed on the DL.

    All Starling Marte does is hit the baseball in the first inning, lol.

    Andrew McCutchen is heating up… after April 27th game, had .216 avg – he’s up to .276 after going 4 for 4 against the Mariners.

  20. Boy this sure feels like 1993 all over again…

    • Extremely disappointing that this team with all these veterans would allow this to get to this point.

      The 93 team was coming off 2 Cups, this team isn’t and that’s why motivation and desire to win another is there but their effort, composure, etc. just isn’t there.

  21. Malkin doesn’t make wingers better? James Neal has played 40 games as a Penguin with Evgeni Malkin not in the lineup. That’s half a season.

    Neal scored 4 goals in that time frame.

  22. Apparently, Penguins practice for Wednesday is optional.

    I cannot tell you how much I disagree with that decision, if it holds true. They need to make some serious adjustments and recognition of their breakdowns coming back into the defensive zone.

    DK: Just for clarity, optional means on the ice, not off. All strategic sessions are off the ice, all decidedly not optional. It’s aimed at cutting guys a break who are playing through injuries.

    • Bylsma should make them skate up and down the ice until they puke — like Kurt Russell’s Herb Brooks did in the Miracle on Ice movie. Of course, with Bylsma being a players’ coach, that’s not gonna happen.

      That said, I sure hope we see Vokoun in there for Game 5. If Bylsma sticks with Fleury and they end up losing, he deserves to get fired.

      • Little bit late for that. I know you are just being dramatic but you’re not going to develop a sense of team in one day. In my mind, the ‘strategic sessions’ need to be about fundamentals rather than strategery. Even if you have to do one-on-one and work through peoples issues, its gotta be something. These mental breakdowns gotta stop.

  23. I said after the last loss that this was no time to panic. After watching Fleury tonight…… I think it’s time to panic

  24. Play Vokoun. See what happens. But it is incredible how badly the rest of the team is playing. Have you ever seen a team look so good in the regular season the past 2years and so disconbobulated in the playoffs. Unbelievable. Bylsma needs to coach. Lets face it the Pens can score. But other than that, the Islanders are smoking them. How many turnovers? I kept talking to the TV, “dump it, dump it.” Nice play by Cooke on the 3rd goal. He’s been the only physical force on the team. Eaton had a terrible game. Bad decisions. They can still do it, but man, stop turning the damn puck over!!!!!

  25. If the Pens do survive this series, it looks as if their next opponent could be the Senators.

    This smooth, paved road to the finals suddenly appears to have a lot of potholes in it ;)

    • The Senators do not have the offensive talent or explosiveness of the Islanders. What they have is an intense hatred of the Penguins that forced them to abandon their desire to win the last few times the teams played this year and focus, instead, on maming Matt Cooke. If they continue with that tactic, and there is no evidence they would change, it would play right into our hands.

    • This is fantastic news for Pittsburgh! The Senators are the weakest team still remaining. This would dramatically open up the field and give the Pens a great chance to reach the conference final without having to play Boston or Washington – and those teams would have to play each other.

  26. First of all, thanks to DK for providing this forum. Second, thanks to Eric for providing the breakdown of the Pens breakdown for allowing all of these goals to be scored.

    Note to coaching staff, please switch Jarome Iginla back to his natural position of right wing. The left wing experiment is not working well. Please admit this and move on. Also, talk to Malkin and ask him why so many turnovers. It is just irresponsible hockey and it is helping a speedy team such as the Islanders create and capitalize on scoring chances. Please also sit Fleury and start Vokoun as Fleury is playing too much in his own head.

    If the Pens came into this series expecting the Islanders to just lay down for them because they are the Pens, then this is the height of arrogance and they deserve to lose. I have said it before, I will say it again. Scrap what is not working, scrap who is not working, ADJUST, and move on.

    On a positive note, how about them BUCCOS!

  27. I respectfully disagree with the masses.

    This song is a good analogy for how I feel about our current goaltending situation:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTsl28j-WhI

    And if that doesn’t convince you, how about the Sesame Street parody:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZlCyOk70W8

    On a serious note, if we would replace Fleury, then would we stick with Vokoun in the following rounds?

    Also, if we do lose this series, would it be the biggest upset of all time in the NHL playoffs? At the very least, it would have to be in the discussion.

    • Dom, bottom line is, Fleury has totally lost his composure and cannot focus on stopping pucks. Vokoun must be given Game 5 to help this team regain THEIR composure.
      It’s not a matter of standing by your man/team. It’s a matter of survival to advance to the next round.

    • I agree with your sentiment. As I wrote above, this team is not going to win a Stanley Cup with Vokoun, considering that he’s won 3 playoff games in his 16-year career. If Vokoun gets them through this series, at some point they’ll have to go back to Fleury, and that transition could be awkward. But right now Fleury is hurting the team, so you have to think short-term, go with Vokoun, and see what happens.

  28. It sounds like the Pens players were more upset at the media in the locker room than they were with the Islanders on the ice! Hey DD, here is a thought, why don’t you see if Kyle Okposo and John Tavares will wear sweater vests and sport coats for the remaining games? I’ll bet they will get hit a lot harder and more often than they have in the past few games!

  29. Just watched the post game video. (Pirates)

    I get the impression that Clint Hurdle is not real pleased with JMac

    • understatement ;)

    • I’ve been getting that impression for awhile.

    • So was JMac sandbagging an injury?

      Really strange that he gets put on the DL two hours before a scheduled start, well maybe 4 hours, but you catch my drift

      • I think baseball players (and most athletes) are taught to play through pain. So they are very hesitant to reveal injuries until they can no longer hide it. It is all a bunch of macho.

        But it would not surprise me if they suggested to JMac that he does have an injury or gave him the option – DL or bullpen.

      • I still think something is wrong (physically), besides being messed up in the head. Just the way he was acting on the mound his last outing, rolling his shoulder…but what do I know?

      • His fastball was several mph slower than before, that can be mechanics, but that can also be injuries.

        You’d think if they told him either the CL or the bullpen, they wouldn’t wait till game day?

        • Good point Biz.

          The only thing I could possibly think is that they knew earlier in the day or on Monday….and didn’t want to give Genmar too much advance notice. They just wanted him not to think about it, just take the ball and pitch.

    • JMac

      “After the last start, I noticed I was a little more sore than usual,” he said. “I just waited a couple days – I though the extra days would help me out a little bit. It got down to today and I felt a little cranky in there, a little sore – way more sore than I should feel on a start day. So I just said something.”

      “I might have waited a little too late to say something,” he said. “I might have been able to say something a bit earlier.”

      • At least he said something and it didn’t cost us another ball game. On paper, we’re the third, maybe the fourth best team in the division. We can’t afford to give games away every 5th day, even in April and May, if we expect to compete, which is this season’s mandate. JMHO

  30. JAL’s Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfVeOpw-NPY

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates
    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    http://gobuccos.com/pittsburgh-pirate-news/

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates Stats

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsjN0zO-DxI0dHVOMzdPYm9wUEJtdVJ0WWUzVWhFc2c#gid=0

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Should Travis Snider Be Starting Against Left-Handers?

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/first-pitch-should-travis-snider-be-starting-against-left-handers.html

    Gomez Shines on Short Notice in Pirates Win

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/gomez-shines-on-short-notice-in-pirates-win.html

    Prospect Watch: Taillon Hit With Line Drive, Glasnow Strikes Out Ten

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/05/prospect-watch-taillon-hit-with-line-drive-glasnow-strikes-out-ten.html

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Jeanmar Gomez makes spot start, shuts down Mariners in 4-1 win

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/5/8/4311090/jeanmar-gomez-makes-spot-start-shuts-down-mariners-in-4-1-win

    7 WHYGAVS

    Game 32: Pirates 4 Mariners 1

    http://www.whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/april-2013/game-32-pirates-4-mariners-1.html

    8 The Green Weenie

    Bucs Top Mariners 4-1

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/05/bucs-top-mariners-4-1.html

    9 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Jeff Banister, Josh Poytress Join Rumbunter Podcast

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/05/07/pittsburgh-pirates-jeff-banister-josh-poytress-join-rumbunter-podcast/

    10 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Pirates 4, Mariners 1

    http://raisethejollyroger.com/2013/05/pirates-4-mariners-1/

    • Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody Jerry Lewis 1956 His only top 40 hit peaked at number 10. Al Jolson had a number 1 hit with it in 1918

  31. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 City of Champions

    Pirates pick up 4-1 win over Seattle behind Gomez’ strong start

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/05/07/pirates-jeanmar-gomez-goes-five-and-picks-up-4-1-win-over-seattle/

    12 Rant Sports

    A.J. Burnett is Doing Everything Aces do for Pittsburgh Pirates

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/05/07/a-j-burnett-is-doing-everything-aces-do-for-pittsburgh-pirates/

    13 Tacoma News Tribune

    Pirates 4, Mariners 1 — late homer hurts victory hopes

    http://blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners/2013/05/07/pirates-4-mariners-1-late-homer-hurts-victory-hopes/

    14 The Olympian

    Mariners’ hitters struggle vs. Pittsburgh’s surprise starter

    http://www.theolympian.com/2013/05/08/2536856/hitters-struggle-vs-surprise-starter.html

    15 Bleacher Report

    Pittsburgh Pirates’ Young Relief Pitchers Show Their Potential

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1631342-pittsburgh-pirates-young-relief-pitchers-show-their-potential

    16 CBS Sports

    Seattle at Pittsburgh Game Preview

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/gametracker/preview/MLB_20130508_SEA@PIT

    17 Sweetspot

    We’re in a golden age for leadoff hitters

    http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/35590/were-in-a-golden-age-for-leadoff-hitters

    18 PBC Site

    Fill-in starter Gomez earns victory for Bucs

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_05_07_seamlb_pitmlb_1&mode=recap_home&c_id=pit

    Notebook: Liriano to make Pirates debut on Saturday

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130507&content_id=46877236&notebook_id=46877344&vkey=notebook_pit&c_id=pit

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    10 Things We’ve Learned So Far

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20495

    20 Fangraphs

    Maybe It’s Time We Stop Underrating Pitchers From Asian Countries

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/maybe-its-time-we-stop-underrating-pitchers-from-asian-countries/

  32. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Homage to Mean Joe Greene

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/5/7/4308330/homage-to-mean-joe-green

    Steelers and rookie Jarvis Jones seem like perfect match

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/5/7/4306676/steelers-jarvis-jones-comments-defense-LeBeau

    22 Steelers Depot

    - Are You Ready for Some Carrie Underwood on Sunday Night Football?

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2013/05/are-you-ready-for-some-carrie-underwood-on-sunday-night-football/

    Soccer(football) Will T

    23 Daily Telegraph

    Sir Alex Ferguson considering retiring as Manchester United manager before end of the week

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-united/10042798/Sir-Alex-Ferguson-considering-retiring-as-Manchester-United-manager-before-end-of-the-week.html

    24 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: 10 stories you need to read, 7th May, 2013

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-10-stories-you-need-to-read-7th-may-2013

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    All Tied Up but Don’t Worry Yet. Pens lose 6-4.

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/5/7/4310304/all-tied-up-but-dont-worry-yet-pens-lose-6-4

    26 Bleacher Report

    Are Pittsburgh Penguins Overrated or Are New York Islanders Underrated?

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1632588-are-pittsburgh-penguins-overrated-or-are-new-york-islanders-underrated

    27 New York Daily News

    John Tavares scores in third to lead Islanders past Penguins, 6-4, evens series 2-2

    http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/hockey/six-cess-isles-score-6-goals-series-pens-article-1.1337795

  33. “Welcome to Pittsburgh—City of Collapses”

    Pens need to do something to keep this from happening.

    • Epic.

      You left out Epic.

    • Well the first thing should be to keep Mr. John Tavares from turning into this years version of Claude Giroux. This particular gentleman needs to be checked like he was in game 1 for the entire series.

      • Sounds like a good plan. Too bad it’s hard to do when all they would rather be doing is chasing pucks and not playing the body. Hard to check when they refuse to keep the player in front of them and it’s hard to win when the Pens version of hockey differs from that they learned as kids in hockey 101. Maybe Bylsma can write a book about that too.

  34. The only way this team advances is if they can get Vokoun to steal a couple games. That is telling about how bad the Pens are as a team and a defensive standpoint, because who would ever think a Pens goalie would need to steal games from that scary offensive juggernaut: The Islanders.

    The Isles seem to be playing every game like it’s game 7 of the cup finals. So much for the magic numbers 4 or 7 the Pens are using as their battle cry. Maybe they should adopt the Isles mantra and only worry about 1 from now on.

    Of course if the Isles do win – which seems more and more likely – they will only go on to lose the next series in 5, which will just make things all the more disturbing.

  35. Its a 7 game series, yes, there is a bit of panic in the air, but it ain’t over yet.

    Winning Stanley Cups ain’t easy, you know.

    Pens in 6

    Just sayin……

  36. I know it’s taboo around here to look at things from the other team’s perspective. As far as everyone’s concerned the Islanders jerseys might as well just say “Opponent” across the front. But since March 22nd, the Islanders have lost a grand total of 1 game in regulation to a team not named the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was to the Flyers the next to last game of the regular season right after they had clinched a playoff spot. That spans 24 games.

    “Opponent” was the hottest team coming down the stretch playing playoff type games night in & night out under playoff type pressure.

    • Milo,

      LOL! You hit the nail on the head with your “Opponent” comment!

    • Shouldn’t matter. They are still a young, inexperienced team when it comes to the playoffs and what it takes to win, and the Pens shouldn’t be having this kinda of trouble with them, especially a Pens team that should have more to prove to the world and themselves based on the previous embarrassing playoff exits than the Isles do.

      The Pens in ’07 were like the Isles now and a lot more talented, but the Sens didn’t seem to have much of a problem with them. Like the Pens should be doing; the Sens took the red hot Pens behind the barn and whipped their butts. Fact is; these Pens could lose this bad to any team that simply decided to answer the bell, whether they were hot going into the playoffs or not.

      This ain’t about the Isles, this again is all about the Pens lack of fundamentals, desire, compete, smarts, whatever you want to call it, that is allowing yet another less than talented team take them to task with all the things the Pens should have learned by now and do better than them.

      • Oh there’s no doubt. Even with all I said, the Penguins have let this happen. Especially after drubbing them 5-0 in the 1st game.

        • They are guilty of believing all the hype that has been written about them since the beginning of the season. Someone forgot to tell them that they have to actually go out and play AND win the games!

        • If the Pens lose this series it will be because they refused to put them away in game 2. When they should have been standing on their necks up 3-1, they started writing welfare checks instead. Bylsma should have called a timeout when he saw the tide turning and put his foot in their collective a$$ but like always, just stood by and watched it happen.

          I think he should have called a timeout when they got up 4-3 in last nite’s game with 10 minutes to go, and tried getting them to shut things down a bit but Mr. Casual would have none of that.

          • Bylsma did call a timeout in game 2. In fact, he called it with the Pens still winning 3-1, because he saw the tide turning. He did exactly what you suggested. #blamecoachfail

            Last night, the Pens did not lead 4-3 with 10 minutes remaining. They led 4-3 with 19 minutes remaining (way too early to call a timeout there.) The Isles tied it 4-4 with 15 minutes remaining.

            There are plenty of things you can blame Bylsma for, but both of your examples are factually inaccurate.

      • I don’t think the views are mutually exclusive.

        Isles deserve credit, Pens deserve criticism. Both are valid.

    • If you remember, I said the worst thing the Pens could do is take the Isles for granted. They did just that. A younger team, less experience…and as you said, flying into the playoffs with just one loss in how long? SMH
      Recipe for disaster. Pens SHOULD HAVE known better. And they did, but only for Game 1. Then it was like…ok, we showed them…NOT.

      • They always try to put it away too early.

        Got 3 goals in first? Press for 4th, that’ll put ‘em away. No, that let’s them back in. (Last years playoffs)

        Dominate game one, that will teach them. Yep, it taught them to step up their game and get back in it.

        I don’t question their desire. Hard not to question their commitment to 16-28 games of 60 minutes.

      • I remember also saying the way the Pens went into the playoffs was not good and no matter how non-important those last games were, they should have played them like they were playoff games but instead the backed into the playoffs in some kinda rest mode and lost the urgency and focus needed to compete with not just the Isles, but anyone. This “turn it on” crap just doesn’t happen in sports but everyone thought that’s all they’d need to do.

        • They ended the season in a win by the way against the hapless hurricanes… I remember, Neal had a trick. The problem is they kept having guys hurt and never had any kind of rhythm like they had in the 15 game win streak without Crosby.

    • Understand that Milo… and nice stats. But this Pens team is a collection of incredible talent…top players in the world n’at. Or so we’re led to believe. The failure of this team to come close to matching the “Opponents” work rate, effort, hitting, efficiency is mind numbing.

    • Too true Milo. The Pens were pretty fair down the stretch too though.

      And on paper it shouldnt have been a contest.

      sadly – it’s not played on paper!!

  37. I don’t think it’s taboo. But I get your point in saying it.

    Islanders deserve a lot of credit. They played well to close the season and got back to it after their game 1 wake up call.

    Pens still look like they’re foolin around with the snooze button. Pens gotta wake up.

    If Pens lose this series, they’ll deserve the scorn that will follow.

  38. Yay, my internet is working, finally.

    This hotel sux!!!

    Lots of rants I wanted to post last night!!! But couldn’t – anyway you Lunatics said most of it for me!!!

    I’m still not sure I’m too frustrated to post all this – but here’s my thoughts:

    I thought they nearly righted the ship in the second, but yet another bank shot of poor MAF proved a killer.

    But overall – simply a terrible, undisciplined, unforgiveable performance.

    First – Malkin’s discipline. Or lack of. I guess it left with Sergei Gonchar. To be fair, Geno’s had a merry go round on his line all year – how many LWs has he had? He has no chemistry with Iginla, Iggy can’t play LW. Geno’s visibly frustrated and playing like a spoiled PeeWee, no excuses for that. But I wonder how much Sarge kept him in line, because DB certainly cannot.

    Next – Iggy. Iggy cannot play LW. The step you lose being in unfamiliar areas is killing him vs the speedy Isles. When we got him I thought “where will we put him? He’s never played LW and not everybody can make the transition…” I posted about this awhile ago but it seemed buzz-kill-ish in the post-trade glow. But really the options were 1) break up Sid’s line, which was hard due to their great chemistry 2) Put him off wing w Malkin 3) Put him RW but mover Neal off wing 4) 3rd line?
    The good news is, there’s also great chemistry with Kunitz and Geno, and it allows Iggy to play RW with Sid. Will that happen?
    I dunno. But I hope so.

    I guess the return of Orpik didn’t exactly stabilize things.

    I sometimes wonder what position LeTang is playing.

    MAF would be better if he never had to stop pucks coming from behind him. (Oh, and great work Eric on the goals! The 3rd one was painful. )

    And sadly – re Fleury – it’s over for him (and probably was last year). Doesn’t mean that he won’t play another playoff game or even win another Cup. Just means that other teams “know something” about him now, which was pretty plain v PHL and screamingly obvious after last night: He does not have the mental strength to be consistent when the Pens are playing as mind-bogglingly sloppy and undisciplined in front of him as they have been the last 10 periods or so. Every opponent knows this now, and it gives them that little bit of extra confidence they wouldn’t otherwise have, which can make all the difference. Every playoff game from now on is going to be a huge uphill mental battle for 29. Very sad to see.

    Someone said previous thread that MAF is a disease that infects the whole team. It’s a great metaphor but I think it’s backwards. Horrible D-zone play is s disease that infects all goalies, some more than others. MAF is particularly susceptible to it, like having a weak gene LOL!

    So – it’s Vokoun for Game 5. I do not believe he will do much better if the Pens play as they have been. Remember how awful he was early in the year when the team was awful in their own end? We were all scratching our heads and going “Cripes look how out of position Vokoun is!!” Like I said, and I posted back then : Goalies are a barometer for their team’s overall defense. It was amazing how fast the Pens could make a career Steady Eddie like Vokoun look awful. He is not the answer, but he may be a temporary Band-aid, if only because he is a vet who has stabilized the team before (though I believe he did that in the locker room between periods; it’s entirely another thing to do it between the pipes.) We’ll see.

    Oh – and the vets. Please pick up the white courtesy phone.

    Really – the single biggest reason I had any confidence this playoffs, were the moves RS made, specifically to bring in older, experienced players who could be locker room leaders. Guys who could stand up in the room, calm the team down, get them focused and all pulling in the same direction. I viewed this as Shero’s insulation against DB’s apparent inability to get through to the team and straighten them out when they’re undisciplined, panicking, outright choking, as they are now. It hasn’t happened, for a variety of reasons, but bottom line, guys like Morrow and Iggy have to find a way to get through to this team, because no one else seems to be doing it. Perhaps it will be Vokoun. It has to be somebody. Soon.

    And speaking of getting through to the team – last note is Dan Bylsma. I won’t go on about the hot seat, I don’t think anyone can argue that Dan’s butt is smokin’ about now. It’s one thing to not be able to counter an opponent, or be unwilling to do it. (I actually think that is a form of choking in itself – but that’s another essay.) A coach needs to get through to his team, somehow. DB seems unable to. Remember how the Flyers responded so passionately to Laviolette last year? He was in his guy’s heads, in a good way. He’d call a time-out, lecture them, and we’d all go “Oh sh-t, look out, here they come!” And they would. The way the Isles are responding now to Capuano – like a well organized pack of mad dogs. Have you ever got the feeling the Pens respond to DB in that way? I know he’s a bit of a cool technocrat, but you still have to have the ear, the minds, and the emotions of your players. IMO, Bylsma does not seem to. Not since 2009 anyway.

    That is all for now. Time for my meds!

    • The Iggy comments are what I was harping on from day 1. Bylsma’s grasp of the obvious is many times coated in grease and I think he was the kid in kindergarten relentlessly trying to force the square peg into the round hole.

    • Well done! I agree on all counts.

      Bylsma had their ear in 09, because he wasn’t Therrien.

      He guided that team to the cup, which is what they needed.

      Seems to me, he’s still guiding and they need discipline. Tough to start now in a three game series. Malkin, Letang, et al should have seen bench for a few shifts during regular season.

    • Sarah,

      Very well put on all accounts! I’ve said long ago that the players have tuned DD out.

    • All good stuff Sarah. You seem to have good insight as is……who needs meds?

    • Any chance that’s available in audio book form ?

    • Sarah, the disease line was mine, and I certainly agree that the inexcusable defensive play exacerbates the poor play of Fleury, but it is his own panic response to pressure that infects the rest of this team. It puts more pressure on them to score goals in the knowledge that he is going to give up some bad ones.

      All that said, neither Malkin nor Letang respond well to pressure either. Both lack maturity.

      I enjoy your insights. Welcome to the asylum.

      • To be fair CW – it does indeed works both ways, and one feeds the other…..bad D begets bad goaltending, begets bad D…..and so on.

        I just don’t think MAF is the root of it. He’s certainly allowing it to spin out of control now however.

        Both Vokoun and MAF have looked appalling when the Pens play sloppy.

        Both of them look pretty solid when the Pens play responsible. MAF has way more upside when the Pens play well – he steals goals that Vokoun won’t,

        I guess the question is – will Vokoun prevent the killer goals even when the Pens are pooping their pants like they are now? He hasn’t thus far – but maybe this is a great test of his veteran leadership.

        I hope he passes!

        Enjoy your thoughts too!

  39. I already picked 7 games before the series started but not who would win, but I’ll finally make my prediction for the rest of the series.

    Pens win the next game with Vokoun in net, lose to the Isles in game 6 with Vokoun and then lose again in game 7 at home with Fleury in net.

    I also predict Milbury will be so deliriously happy after game 7, he will forget to look both ways and get hit by a taxi crossing the street outside the studio.

    Almost makes it worth it…almost.

    • It might be worth it.

      I can hear Pierre McGuire now talking about the cabbie that killed Millbury, “I first rode with him when I was scouting the USHL in DesMoines. He got his start learning to drive from the great cabbies Alex Reiger and Bobby Wheeler for three years before getting the call to move up hear and take a shot drving for the legendary dispatcher Louie Depalma”.

      • Pierre would also tell us the last scholastic institution that the driver attended. Double bonus if the driver grew up or lived in Saskatoon.

  40. Not knowing much about hockey other than the puck goes in the net, I’ve enjoyed all the analysis above and the rants. But I think Sarah’s last paragraph of her column hits it on the head.

    There has to be someone in charge, waking up these “world class” players before they hit the golf course in mid-May. Again.

    Biblically speaking, “to whom much is given, much is expected”. Paraphrased.

    • The whole Bylsma rant sounds cute, but what about Dejan’s point No. 2 above?

      Dan certainly isn’t flawless, but fact is that even average goaltending has the Pens in Round 2 already.

      Bylsma isn’t a shrink or a General and these players aren’t patients or soldiers.

      • Good points NMR. But it’s still up to DB to put them in a position to succeed. And for the most part, he has. My biggest gripe is his insistence in keeping Iginla on left wing, when he clearly is struggling there. I think many of the problems with Malkin can be solved by changing Kunitz with iginla. Then again, It shouldn’t be an issue with Malkin. He gets paid good $$ to score goals. He’s pouting. He’s giving the puck away. He needs put in his place.
        Again, it’s not a problem to blame on one person. it’s a TEAM with many issues.

      • True, he isn’t and they aren’t, but he needs to be a coach.

      • So does even average D.

  41. What I saw…

    A team that easily allowed the opposition to enter their end of the ice and accumulate significant time on offense.

    A team that failed repeatedly to clear the puck from their own end.

    Defensive players who seemed out of position regularly.

    Bad goal tending.

    This series provides further proof just how meaningless the regular season is in hockey. The #8 seed clearly has the momentum.

  42. When does Steelers training camp start?

    • When does DK refer to one of my posts as “quality stuff”?

      • When you make your acting debut.

        How about that pitching staff?

        Neal Huntington deserves the credit for that win last night and maybe a few more in the next 15 days or more. The CL, properly used once again, nets a good pitching effort and not having to play from 4 runs behind. Hats off to the Seal and Clint!

        • How ridiculous does starting Jonathan Sanchez look now that its pretty clear the team had a better starter already on the roster?

          • Yeah, and it seems like they’re looking for a reason to not start him Sunday.

            • Wow, the Genmar Bandwagon is filling up quickly.

              • “better starter”

                Not the answer, not even average. Just better.

                That point cannot be argued.

              • I don’t know. He’s started 2 games, they’ve won 2 games. Why over think it ? Send him out there again. We all know he’s got an expiration date.

            • Maybe, like Liriano, he hasn’t had enough at bats yet.

            • I’m done blaming the starters for overworking the bullpen as long as Clint Hurdle is managing this team.

              Give me one good reason Gomez was pulled last night, and before you use some stupid “stretched out” hooey read Link #8 above which states that Gomes threw 13 MORE pitches in just his last start.

              Can’t blame the starters when they aren’t even given the chance.

              • AMEN.

                Like pulling Locke after 74 pitches on Saturday with a 4-2 lead and a lefty coming up.

              • Clint said that Gomez “historically” wilts after 75 pitches. Put him out there and hope he gets out of it in 9 pitches? I have no problem with it, especially with a rested bullpen. And they just had 2 off days.

              • People are worried about Melancon & Grilli, he’s going to kill Justin Wilson.

              • Wilson already looked like road kill the last time I saw him pitch…which was just a few days ago.

              • I am worried about wins. I am not worried about how tired pitchers are in early May.

                The starters have not given them the innings. They’ve had to use the bullpen —to win games!

              • None of these overworked bullpen concerns are about the CURRENT workload, they’re about the PROJECTED workload.

                And I agree with Milo.

                The starting pitching has nothing to do with Melancon and Grilli. They pitch the 8th and 9th respectively only when winning, and thats it.

                It’s the middle relief that is getting killed.

              • NMR, Melancon has thrown less pitches to this point in the season than our 8th inning guy (Grilli) did last year.

              • Middle relief—that’s what depth is for, right?

              • So you’re arguing that the Pirates do have pitching depth, AW?

                I agree.

              • Middle relief depth? I would hope so.

          • Neal deserves the credit for the Sanchez experiment, too.

          • For me NMR, that decision is in coin flipping territory. Sanchez started to pitch better towards the end of Spring. Fortunately our record is decent and we’re within reach so not too much harm, not too much foul. Lots of things to unload on NH for but for me this isn’t one of them.

            • I agree 21. It seems like they both pitched about the same in the spring. Plus they were certainly hoping that Sanchez would get closer to the pitcher he used to be —I think that is why they gave him a long leash. And that might be why Genmar was on the team too…as the long man for Sanchez

            • First, where do you get the idea that I’m blaming Huntington?

              Huntington acquired both Gomez and Sanchez this off season.

              Hurdle penciled one into the rotation and one into the bullpen.

              And second, Hurdle/Huntington should be fired on the spot if two meaningless spring training starts were their justification for ANYTHING. Every single year provides about a dozen examples of spring training phenoms who turn out to be absolute busts. Nobody that gets paid to make baseball decisions should be dumb enough to trust spring training baseball.

              • This sounded to me like you were blaming Huntington:

                “How ridiculous does starting Jonathan Sanchez look now that its pretty clear the team had a better starter already on the roster?”

                But in my opinion where they both started the season felt like it was moe of a Huntington call.

                I’ve always felt that spring training performance/stats were meaningless but sometimes a roster spot or two for us unfortunately comes down to spring training.

              • NMR,
                Don’t you want to use Spring Training to see if Sanchez can still be an effective pitcher? If not, then don’t even sign him.

                And apparently they evaluated Sanchez on 18 innings pitched this spring.

                And my guess, that type of thing happened all around baseball to a lot of teams

              • NMR…. just watch the post-game presser with Hurdle explaining why JG was pullled… please, before going off the deep end on a manager, there’s plenty of info out there that we don’t know about. Hurdle explains very clearly in his post-game press conference that JG was told he was going to start at 4pm…. just 3 hours before the game. And then he explains that JG gets into trouble around pitch number 75. They pulled him in the 5th for that reason.

              • I don’t recall anyone clamoring for Jeanmar to be in the rotation ahead of Sanchez. In fact, today may be the first time I’ve read pro-Jeanmar posts.

              • The clamoring was for Cole. :-)

                And thanks for showing me the correct spelling of Jeanmar’s name, AW. ( I’ll never misspell Cedeno because of you)

              • @Naje

                Come on man, think about that. Magical pitch #75 where Jeanmar turns back into a pumpkin? Ridiculous.

                @TC

                If they evaluated Sanchez to be an effective pitcher after that spring training performance, then they were clearly wrong.

                @AW

                Not at the beginning of the year, but what about after Sanchez’ first two awful starts and Jeanmars solid long relief? No reason JS should’ve been sent back out.

            • Thanks, Naje. That was what I was trying to say earlier, but you said it better. :-)

              • I also thought Hurdle’s explanation of his use of the bullpen (Grilli & Melancon) on Sunday was very insightful.

              • Hurdle’s explanation about Sunday was during his pregame show last night.

              • I’ll buy everyone a beer if Hurdle can produce actual evidence that pitch #75, exactly, is where Jeanmar Gomez no longer can pitch effectively.

                The guy didn’t show any signs of tiring, yet Hurdle went by-the-book. So, so typical.

              • Hurdle going by the book is typical? Really?
                REALLY?

                Tell that to the posters who complain he leaves a lefty in to pitch to a righty (only one example). Man, there are a lot of things you can legitimately complain about Hurdle, but going by the book being typical ain’t one of them. Just isn’t.

      • I see you still need a designated driver.

    • Steelers camp this year won’t fix things as they are going nowhere this season.

      It’s looking like the Pirates or bust. How sad is it to pin any hopes of a meaningful sports season outcome on a 20-year loser and yet another perennial choke artist.

      Given the option, I think I’d rather put my hopes for happiness or euphoria in the hands of my doctor and pharmacist.

  43. These playoff Pens teams of late remind me of the line from “Shawshank.” Has to do a certain part of the anatomy “puckering up tighter than a snare drum.”

    As for hitting the Isles more, it’s hard to hit what you can’t catch.

    Finally, as for Tavares: Total. Hockey. Stud. Hate seeing him do it against the Pens, but love seeing that he has been able to perform like that in the playoffs. Always liked him and his style of play.

  44. Agree with above sentiment. Pens sphincters are tightening like a frogs, starting with the HC and down. Hard to seize initiative. Need intensity and focus – and maybe an adjustment coming out of your own end- that has been missing since Gm 1.

    Off topic, but could someone over at the Steelers offices just tell Ryan Clark to STFU ?

  45. I think a change has to be made, but not goaltending. Before you call for the backup goaltender, ask yourself this: is the goaltender on the other end of the ice outplaying your goaltender? You’d have a hard time convincing me that Nabokov is really outplaying Fleury. Fleury is not getting outplayed, the Penguins are getting outplayed. The goals Fleury is allowing are symptomatic of a bigger problem… one that’s allowed to become epidemic.

    Dan Bylsma has permitted his players to commit countless errors due to laziness, lack of discipline, and loss of focus. The consequences almost always result in quality chances against the Penguins, but almost never result in action against the player committing the error. In the absence of accountability and discipline, the problem will spread. When a player of Malkin’s caliber is permitted to make the same egregious errors time after time, other players start making them, too. Before you know it, you have your third and fourth line players making cross-ice passes in front of your own goal. The problem has been allowed to spread for so long, it’s become epidemic: there is an appalling lack of accountability, discipline, and commitment in Penguins hockey.

    Over the course of a single game, it’s easy for the Penguins to shift their offense into high-gear and rely on heroics from some of the best scoring talents in the game. In the playoffs, individual heroics are secondary to the commitment of every man on the bench executing the same plan. It’s up to the coach to demand and enforce that commitment… from everyone. This team has so many leaders on the ice, but it’s the leadership behind the bench that’s most important.

    • All valid points, Relentless, but Fleury has totally lost his stability and his composure. He NEEDS a game off. The TEAM needs their collective arses kicked.

      • The entire team lost it’s stability and composure in front of him, so I find it difficult to start the accountability at Fleury. If the Penguins were playing the kind of defense they did in Game 1 and MAF was just letting in soft goals I’d feel differently, but that’s simply not the case. Switching Fleury in favor of Vokoun is treating the symptom but ignoring the problem.

  46. I’m confused… Is Letang nominated for the Chuck Norris trophy?

  47. Tim Alderson promoted to AAA.

  48. This is eerily similar to the Flyers series (minus the penalty kill woes). Everything seems easy for the Islanders. They enter the zone with ease and control the puck for long periods of time. This is magnified by the Pens inability to clear the puck. Instead of making the safe play they do something stupid. The Penguins on the other hand seem to have to work very hard and only get occasional rushes and offensive zone time.

    Fleury – once again has lost his confidence. Vokoun has to play game 5.
    Letang – actually thought he played a really good defensive game. However, once the puck was on his stick he made terrible decisions.
    Malkin – Inconsistent. Makes great plays on offense but still too many turnovers. Hamenic is in his head just like Coutorier was last year.
    Crosby – was a non factor. Have to wonder how that puck to the throat affected him.
    Iginla – needs to be moved to his natural wing, but also has to finish. Was set up a couple times with good scoring opportunities but couldn’t bury them
    Morrow – has been completely invisible since game 1
    Sutter – finally played like he did in the regular season

  49. Most things I have to say have already been said so I will not add to those, but have a couple of questions I am asking after the game.

    First, does Letang face suspension for cross-checking an official after seeing him wearing the striped jersey? Video evidence of the check is here: http://youtu.be/DlY3s2ZyCks

    Second, why does Malkin wait until after the game is over to finally hit someone? Completely classless by the Pens in the scrum after the game. They deserved to lose so at least so some class while doing it.

    Third, since Malkin and Hamonick were given fighting majors at the end of the game, does Kunitz face a suspension for being 3rd man in, pulling Hamonick off of Malkin?

    • good questions. I missed the very end of the game. Was beyond disgusted and then isles scored an “empty-netter” with Fleury still in the cage.

    • I was once again impressed with Crosby’s lower body strength when he wrestled one of the Islanders down to the ice during the brawl at the end. The intriguing part for me was when Sid stuck his stick into the scrum, hunting for the puck before he helped one of his opponents to the ground. Was he trying to justify his physical actions, or was he still in “get the puck” mode? Either way, I was impressed with the ease with which Crosby gently took down a potential fighter.

      • I Forgot to mention that Pierre McGuire would have called the physical foolishness at the end of the game a “meeting of the clans”. Can you tell that I do not live in Root network country? And, no, I am not a PG fan. I just internalize his words subconsciously. How sad/odd!

  50. I read the blog daily, I just choose to rarely join in the comments. After last night’s game, it’s time for change.

    Fleury is not entirely to blame. Anyone that blames the goalie on every goal should take a moment to learn about the game of hockey. Yes, Fleury let in soft goals that were inexcusable, but a majority of the time he is being hung out to dry by his team in front of him. This team looks absolutely dominant during the regular season, but as soon as the playoffs start it falls apart. I’m not one to pass sole blame around, but I’m really starting to question the coaching.

    Malkin, Letang, and many more constantly turned the puck over. Our defense, when racing back to the puck to try to counter their forecheck, never seems to get the puck out quickly. They will stop, hesitate for a moment(which allows the Isles player to get to them), then they are unable to get a clean pass. Eventually in the scrum the Isles win majority of the pucks, and continue their offensive zone possession. I haven’t looked at TOA(Time on attack) for the past 3 games, but I feel like the Isles should nearly double the Pens TOA.

    The team, as a whole, are playing poorly. With as much leadership there is in that locker room, I find it hard to believe someone hasn’t stepped up to say enough is enough. If they haven’t yet, I sure hope they do before Game 5.

    • You are right that Fleury is not entirely to blame, but if he stops at least two of the soft goals he gave up, this game could very easily ended differently. This is not to say it is all his fault, but to win a playoff series, you usually need a goalie to steal a game for you. Fleury did quite the opposite of that and by allowing soft goals, the team playing in front of him starts to question things.

      • Which soft goals are you referring to? The one that made the game 6-4 with less than a minute? Already losing at that point.

        Tavaras’ go ahead goal? Malkin turnover, pourous D, Fleury made the first save until he was bowled over.

        The one Streit shot from the point and missed Fleury entirely because he was positioned in front of the net, but happened to deflect off of Murray and in?

        I’ll give you the one by Cizekis. Inexusable. That allowed the game to be tied up.

        Soft goals, yes he let in a couple. But where’s the team D in front of him? You say his soft goals cause the team in front of him to question things, but maybe Fleury is already questioning the team in front of him from their lack of defense/quality play.

        If I wasn’t a big Pens fan, I would almost want to see Vokoun in game 5 get shelled in the same manner just so the Fleury detractors could sit down and shut up finally. But I won’t, because I want a series win more than anything. There is much more to this Penguins team than what they’ve shown us so far.

        • Well said zico!

        • I believe Iceman agrees with you, Zico, just that he was wishing Fleury would have been the hero and stolen the game for us. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
          If you give your location, Bizrow will add you to the list of Dejan’s Lunatics :)

        • Look I have been a Fleury supporter up until this point, however, he just isn’t cutting it. I am not calling the Tavares goal a soft goal. Tavares is a skilled player and was given a wide open shot at net. He should score that goal. The Streit goal as well was not all on Fleury. Sure, he could’ve saved it, but the deflection off of Murray’s skate makes that really tough and had it been a deflection off a Islander’s stick, would’ve been a great goal.

          The soft goals I am talking about are the following

          1. The first Streit goal. There is no one impeding Fleury’s view of Streit taking a shot from just inside the blue line and therefore Fleury should make the save. The Pens argue that an Islander hit him in the front, but it looks like Fleury just got out of position and misplayed the shot.

          2. The Okposo goal. First of all, there should have been no rebound from the shot from the point in the first place. Second, there is no way there should be space between Fleury and the goal post for the shot from behind the net to go in. Terrible play all around for Fleury.

          3. The Cizekis goal. While there wasn’t much time left in the game, no way Fleury should allow this one to go in. If Fleury stops this goal, the Pens are able to pull the goalie in an effort to tie the game with a goal. Instead, they are down two with pretty much no chance to tie the game.

          Fleury just has to stop 2 of these goals for the game to be forced to go to overtime. He is also good enough to make good saves on a couple of the other shots as well, but these softies need to be avoided.

        • we’ve seen that already earlier in the regular season… fleury was struggling (or injured? cant remember), vokoun came in and got shelled… then vokoun had his STFD moment in the locker room and they looked like a different team. We need another STFD moment so we can go on an win another 15 straight. Yes I said 15. I’m allowing one that an opposing goalie will steal that I will still consider a win. Only one. (As opposed to the gm3 win that I considered a loss.) (rambles on.. but only in my head)

        • Well said Zico.

  51. Oh, and I forgot one thing. I could have sworn I have seen statistics that say Fleury was 1-1 with a sub .900 S% against the Isles, and Vokoun was 3-0 with solid stats against the Isles. Small sample size on the season, but it couldn’t hurt to consider.

    • I guess we’ll see if those Vokoun stats hold up in Game 5. They’re gonna have to.

      • Bylsma has no choice at this point. Fleury allows the most God-awful goals in the playoffs. He may have more raw talent than Vokoun, but he has totally lost whatever playoff mojo he used to possess. I don’t know how you rehabilitate Fleury back into your top goalie next season after pulling him in the playoffs this year, but that is next year’s problem. Maybe you unload him in the offseason and get a young goalie to eventually take over from Vokoun, and Fleury gets a fresh start somewhere else. All I know is Fleury appears to spell another Rd. 1 embarrassing loss if he stays in the net.

    • Vokoun shoulda played game 2. Right? That woulda made the most sense. We have two solid goalies. Why build off of game 1 when you can just forget it and start fresh. That would have been a bold coaching move. Guess I am waiting for the next bold coaching move.

  52. But did we chip the puck in deep?

  53. Duke Welker – up.
    Josh Harrison – down.

  54. Ok everyone take a deep breathe and simma down! Its still 2-2! :)

    1st of all bylsma needs to look at “his game” in the mirror and realize that his game which is nothing more than a 2 man forecheck needs to go when playing teams with depth at forward like philly last year and nyi this year. Neither team has great puck moving dman but are capable of making short passes behind our forecheckers which leads to rushes up ice that look like jailbreaks for our dman. WE MUST TRAP IT UP and prevent high speed 3 on 3 and 4 on 3 rushes up ice!!! I’ve been pleading for this since last season and still cant believe that bylsma hasn’t addressed his stubbornness to play “his game” which is getting used like a practice drill by philly last season and now by Tavares n Co.

    Secondly, Orpik looked like he was still hurt. Pens rushed letang back from a groin injury earlier this season and it looks like the pens did something similar with orpik. He most definitely did not look right. I know despres had a horrible start in game 3 but he didn’t play much down the stretch and looked a little better when he shook off the rust in the 2nd period. I think I would’ve stayed with the winning lineup on defense for game 4 and gave orpik more time to heal. He cost us early then never really looked right the rest of the game.

    Going back to thunder dan, he needs to stop neutering his own depth by dressing glass and adams and not using his 4th line in a normal rotation. Looks like nyi is rolling 4 lines while the pens wear down trying to keep up with them. Glass needs to sit for Jeffrey so we can get some more puck possession in our favor when the bottom 6 is on the ice. Jeffrey isn’t physical but was playing well defensively, has offense in his game and is versatile enough to help any of the 4 lines.

    Not only is Bylsma insisting on playing a system that requires max energy with a 2 man forecheck along with high speed backchecking and dman that need to close gaps by opposing blue lines, but he’s also doing so while only playing 9-10 forwards legit minutes. If it wasn’t for PK and all the stupid penalties we took, glass and adams would’ve only played 3-5 minutes max.

    I actually thought pens looked sharp early last night from a technical system standpoint but it was obvious that orpik wasn’t right and the team wore down. Stupid penalties are usually due to fatigue…unless your wearing 71…so hopefully bylsma realizes that his depth is limited by his own doing and 4 lines need to play. Glass out Jeffrey must go in!

    Finally here are the lines that MUST be employed for game 5 and 6 victories to come:

    Dupuis-Crosby-iginla(RW)
    kunitz-malkin-neal
    Jeffrey-sutter-cooke
    morrow-jokinen-adams

    Unsure about defense because based on last night not sure if orpik will play in game 5 so I wont speculate since options on defense are what they are.

    Oh and Flower in the cage!!! :)

    • This guy gets it!

      I agree Fleury should get the start!.

    • Thanks for the perspective. The Pens will still win this series. But it sure is frustrating to watch.

      What people are missing is that the biggest problem in this series is not the goaltending. It’s the fact that the Islanders are totally dominating play 5-on-5 – and that is just inexplicable. Putting Vokoun in net will not change that. Something else needs to change.

      I like your lines although I’d prefer to see Kennedy in there:
      Dupuis-Crosby-Iginla
      Kunitz-Malkin-Neal
      Morrow-Sutter-Kennedy
      Jokinen-Adams-Cooke

      • I like TK as much as anyone and always have but in this case I think the pens need jeffreys defensive instincts and versatility up and down the lineup.

    • You say you are unsure about the defense, but they should definitely bench Paul Martin because he is “soff” right? Weakest defenseman out there? Why do they even employ this joke of a hockey player?

      Oh wait, Martin seemed to be the only defenseman actually playing with sound defensive positioning. Even saw several times where he was lifting Islander’s sticks right in front of the net to prevent rebound goals and second chances.

      • PM played ok last night…he had a horrendous turnover where he passed it right to a nyi player in the high slot just inside right face off circle so I wonder what you’d be saying if the result was a GA…and on the Tavares goal after malkins turnover he could slid at tavares’ feet to block his shot and take away pass but instead he waved his stick and backed off to cover his guy. Early in the game PM stepped up and got beat like a red headed step child which led to orpik and fleury being hung out to dry and orpik taking a penalty. But other than that he was ok…

        Point is we cant have our highest paid dman being inconsistent. Hence my suggestion we trade him when his trade value peaked around trade deadline time…

      • remember what I told you yesterday, Iceman :)

        • Yup I’m done. Come to the realization we have a person who just has an issue with red heads so there is no trying to reason.

          • Wow…great analysis iceman so lets recap your “logic”…you admit that martin wasn’t good in the 1st 2 games then say he was good yesterday…so apparently you and Jandy find it acceptable that our highest paid dman has stretches where his play is unacceptable?!?! That’s certainly your perogative…and I realize the team as a whole has issues but my point since last season is that our defense is ill built due to the 5M we’re paying PM. If you don’t understand that then that’s on you!

            • Yes I admit that Martin did not play a great game in games one or two, but can that really count as a stretch of bad games. Every player has a game or two where they are off. Other than when he was hurt, Martin was one of our best defensemen this whole season. He has played well defensively and has been moving the puck well. On a side note, if you want to go ahead and trade someone for inconsistency, let’s get rid of Malkin. He sure has not been a vision of consistent good play. Let’s also get rid of Letang who has his moments where his brain quits working. Actually, let’s just start over anew with the whole team because there is no one who has played consistently this playoff series.

              Last year Martin was terrible. I will admit that. But he has turned around his game and deserves to be on this team.

  55. Last night might have been the most painful Penguins playoff game I’ve watched. Even tougher than the ’08 finals loss, because you at least saw talent, grit and excellent play in that series.

    Don’t think it’s laziness. Don’t think it’s stupidity. And it’s certainly not a lack of ability.

    Hate to say it, but I’m not sure this team can win tight games. They respond to adversity, even minor adversity, in the absolute worst possible way. If they aren’t playing with a comfortable lead they implode under the weight of their own expectations.

    Crazy as it sounds, the deadline acquisitions exacerbate the problem. Iginla and Morrow know this is probably it. They want it so bad that its almost a burden–one that gets heavier and heavier the longer the Isles stay in each game. The team looks tight even when playing with a lead. There is no excitement, just fear.

    Either that or Malkin owes the Russian mob and he’s just handing over the puck in his own end.

    • They’ve won alot of tight games.. just look at gm3. They do not play well with a lead apparently. Game 2 and Game 3 should have been blowouts. Up by 2 goals very early in the game only to crumble.

      • LEt’s not forget that in game 2 they couldve been down about 5-3 after 1 period. MAF was very strong. But wore down. Again. Sadly.

  56. You know, with all ten million answers to whats wrong with the Pens, it is enough to make a Hippos head hurt. Do this, dont do that. Trap! Dont trap! Vokoun! Fleury! Play this guy! Play that guy! Yikes!!!

    As a simple Hippo, I think the problems could be solved by the following:

    1) Stop the 75-foot passes. Now. Dump it in, so no stupid turnovers.
    2) Dont get too cute in the offensive zone. SHOOT THE PUCK !!! :)
    3) Stop keeping the Dmen up. They arent fast enough for the Isles speed.
    4) Eliminate foolish penalties. Are you listening, Malkin and Cooke?
    5) Get Iginla off LW. He isnt a LW. Sheesh.
    6) Start Vokoun.

    I dont get paid the big bucks like Bylsma does, but what he is currently doing isnt working.
    This is like 1993 all over again. Sad, but true.

    • I don’t remember 1993. What happened then? I know it was the islanders but what other comparison is there.

    • Hippo – I think it’s a bit more than that…..
      They can’t dump it in deep unless they successfully get through neutral. They can’t get through neutral cos their breakout is predictable and there are no Fs back to help, the boards get pinched off and the resulting stretch passes get picked off in the middle.

      They could try to have say Doug Murray carry the puck through neutral, but that ain’t happening. Their D doesn;t have that kind of speed or skill, with the exception of Letang.

      I really think the breakout needs to change and have more support from Fs back deep. Then you actually have support to get through neutral zone, but you have to work to do it.

      What the Pens try to do is the equivalent of reaching for desert without eating their veggies.

      • Sarah, I am just advocating they dump the puck, then pressure the Islanders.
        Anything to stop the long passes…….. and resulting turnovers.
        If the Isles continue to pinch the boards, dump it in………………. if they are always retreating to get the puck in their own end, they will eventually stop pinching……….because they see that the turnovers arent happening.

        And of course I dont want Murray to carry the puck.
        Lord, that is a scary visual. ;)

        • What I saw last nite was multiple players looking straight at an Islander 10 FEET AWAY…and throw the puck right to him…as if he was invisible.

    • If I remember correctly, in 93 Mario was in & out of the lineup. We played better without Mario because everyone worked harder and then let up when the big guy came back. Don’t really see a direct comparison with today’s team.

      • In both 1993, and 2013, the Pens did the long passes, and had a lot of turnovers as a result. This led to Islander rushes, D out of position, and Islander goals as a result.

        This is why I am so afraid…………… it is almost exactly like 1993.
        Really scary.

        If you need a microcosm of 1993…………. just look at Volek’s series-winning goal.

      • Really?

        With Sid out in game 1, Pens win 5-0-playing a strong 2 way game.

        Sid’s back and the Pens are 1-2 and playing like team sh*t.

        It’s literally EXACTLY the same.

        • so you’re saying we need Sid to sit game 5. wonder how the lines would look like then?

          • Crosby is not playing like the Crosby of old yet. Not working in close o the boards like he did. If we just give the puck away there well we know the outcome. I would hate to sit him but the difference with him in right now is obvious.

            • As a follow-up TK is not well liked here on this blog, but he does have energy and plays well in the playoffs. That is something we could use right now.

  57. Vokoun will start game 5

    • I’m still on the denial phase.

      • The only positive I can say about this is at least it proves Dan Bylsma is not in the denial phase.

        I still adamantly believe that if you’re going to hold Fleury accountable for letting pucks in, you had better hold the other five skaters in front of him accountable for their indiscretions which led to those scoring chances. I’m not calling for Malkin and Letang to be scratched, but I’d certainly expect to see their ice time (and their exposure) limited in Game 5.

        • The guy on the radio believes this might be the end of Fleury in Pgh.

          • Dom, don’t be surprised if it is.

            For this season, maybe forever as a Pen.

            And to be clear, I do NOT think Vokoun can lead them to 14 more Ws this season.

            I don’t even know he’ll be any better than MAF the way the Pens are playing now.

            It’s really a huge shame.

            • I hope MAF is done in Pittsburgh. I believe Vokoun can win. IF….the team in front of him plays to its potential.

              • If the other five skaters on the ice played to their potential, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

                I agree with Sarah: it is a shame. If the Penguins return to playing like they did in Game 1, Vokoun looks like a hero and Fleury gets chased out of town as the goat. If the Penguins continue to play as they did in Games 2 through 4, the goaltending change won’t make much difference.

                I have to wonder if Bylsma made the switch not because he thought it was the right decision, but because he thought his job depended on it.

  58. I think if it is PLan B in the playoffs for The Flower then it needs to be Plan B for the regular season also. We have cap issues and have no need for an expensive goalie who can’t perform in the playoffs anymore.

  59. Also, if today is Plan B day why wasn’t it plan b yesterday when it could have helped?

    • I agree. Vokoun in game 4 would have been more like a normal rotation from the regular season. Even if he lost and came back with MAF in game 5 it wouldn’t seem like the desperation move the switch looks like now. If Vokoun plays badly in game 5, where does that leave you for game 6? Hoping for MAF to make one of his patented outstanding rebound games? If Vokoun wins game 5, do you play him game 6 and possibly shatter what’s left of MAF’s confindence?

      • Agree

        Rock…meet hard place.

        But let’s face it. If the team doesn’t play better in front of the goalie, it really does not matter.

        If there is any positive at all, the series is still only tied at 2-2. The next team to win a road game probably takes the series.

        • Even last night with the defense not at the top of it’s game. With a decent goaltender in net we would have won. and game 2 as well

          • DO not necessarily agree. Saw MAF make at least 3-4 saves Vokoun just cannot make. We forget about those too easily when we’re this frustrated.

            • I nor anyone else can predict what another goaltender would have done or not by facing the same shots that were taken. I am pointing out more of the ones that should not be given up by a decent goaltender in general.

  60. ANyway – all moot – it’s official.
    Voky Game 5.

    Now or never Tomas.

    • Agreed. Either crap or get off the pot or we won’t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of. I am mixing my mom-isms. Another ton leave you with…Iginla should have been switched back to his natural wing from jump street.

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