Tag Archives: Marc-Andre Fleury

Pens 3 Islanders 1

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Game Recap

This seemed like a fairly straightforward win for the Pens.  You improve your playoff position by taking care of the teams you’re supposed to beat.  Especially at home, and that’s exactly what the Pens did here.  I have a few thoughts, though:

  • Kunitz put in a pair of goals.  He hasn’t been as productive this year as most people had hoped.  Maybe this will be a turning point for him.
  • Fleury had a huge game with 37 saves on the day.  He’s not very consistent this year, but when he’s on he’s almost a guaranteed win for the Pens.
  • Tyler Kennedy had a fight about 10 minutes into the game.  I’m not one for fighting in hockey, but this one really seemed to set the tempo for the game.  TK’s always been the spark for the Pens, and he did it again tonight.
  • The Islanders out-shot the Pens by 10, but I think the Pens definitely out-played them.  It was one of those games where the Islanders were racking up the shots, but not getting too many quality looks.
  • At the moment, the only race that really matters is the race between the Pens and the Devils for the Atlantic Division title.  Jersey has a 1 point advantage with two games in hand.  It’s a decent lead, but not insurmountable if the Pens start playing well after the Olympic break.

The Rangers are up next on Friday night.  They got out to a decent start, but have struggled a lot as of late.  I don’t see any reason the Pens can’t get a couple of more points out of that one.

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Catch-Up

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Sorry for the absence of posts lately, but I’ve been a little preoccupied with the snow the past few days.  If you aren’t in town and don’t have access to a news source, Pittsburgh looks roughly like the image above right now.  It sucks.  But, enough with the snow.  I’m sick of talking about it already.  Lets get into the nice diversion from real life that is the sports world.

The Pens went on a two game skid over the past few days losing back-to-back games to Montreal and Washington.  The 5-3 loss to the Canadiens looks really easy to diagnose when you look at the stat sheet.  We were in the penalty box for literally half the game (29 penalty minutes for the Pens).  The reality, however, is a little different.  The Habs only scored 1 goal on the power play, going 1 for 7.  The real reason the Pens lost this game was because Fleury had a bad night.  It happens.  He let in some softies and was even lifted from the game after giving up 4 goals.  It’s not something to be overly concerned about, though.  The second game was just weird.  The Pens jumped out to a 4-1 lead halfway through the game, and still led 4-2 at the second intermission.  It was at that point that they just died.  The Caps got a slew of chances in the third period, cashed in on a couple of them, and won in overtime.  It really makes you shake your head.  I’ve got two theories on why this happened.  The first is that the Caps are a very good team offensively, and they got a fire lit under them for the third period.  That’s a combo that would be hard for anyone to stop.  The second theory is that the Pens were tired.  The Montreal game was the night before (the Caps game was at noon).  To get to Washington in the snow, they had to fly to Trenton, NJ and bus it.  They arrived very late after mostly sleeping on the bus.  I think dying at the end of an emotional game like that given their situation is totally understandable.  I may be in the minority, but I’m willing to brush this one off a little bit.  Plus, if you want to look at the glass half full, it was a tremendously entertaining hockey game that was nationally televised and hopefully brought in some new fans.

As poorly as the Pens have played over the past few days, the Panthers have been going in completely the opposite direction.  Against Seton Hall, the Pitt regained its shot, shooting 51.7% from the field.  After disappearing in Morgantown, Gil Brown dropped 23 points and Brad Wannamaker had 13.  Ashton Gibbs broke out of his slump a little bit and saw the ball go through the net at least while going 3 for 7 on the day.  Best of all, Pitt out-rebounded the Pirates 36-27 and only allowed 8 offensive boards.  I’m drawing a line in the sand and saying that Pitt’s goal should be to limit opponents to less than 10 offensive boards per game.  It’s good that they met it for this game.  Overall, the 83-58 drubbing exorcised a lot of demons even though it was against a less than stellar defense.  That trend continued against Robert Morris on Monday where the Panthers notched a 77-53 win.  It was very close for the first half as the Colonials shot 48% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc.  They were challenged shots as well, which is why I wasn’t really worried.  Sure enough, RMU cooled off a lot in the second half, and Pitt was able to win going away.  The Panthers had a 39-26 advantage on the boards (with only 9 offensive boards for RMU, so they still pass the test), but they only held a 16-14 edge at the half.  That was a bit troubling.  RMU really shot themselves in the foot in this one with their style of play.  They were very aggressive defensively, and very physical with the rebounds, and that led to a lot of fouls.  Two of their starters were in foul trouble by halftime.  It really handcuffed what they could do.  So, in general, it looks like the Panthers are starting to heat up again with a rematch against WVU coming up on Friday.  I guess all it took was half empty gyms because of a snow storm.  STAGE FRIGHT!  That’s their problem!  But, seriously, it’s good to see the shots start to fall again.  I’m still just a little nervous for the long term health of the program that it relies so much on streaky shooting this year.

So that’s pretty much what you missed (besides that silly ‘Super Bowl’ thing.  How bout’ that Saint defense, by the way?).  I hope everyone out there made it through the storm in good shape (you’ve at least got power if you’re reading this.  That’s a start).  I’ll be back tomorrow night for a Pens recap.  I promise.

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Pens Sweep Back To Back

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Pens 2 Red Wings 1 (SO)

Pens 5 Sabres 4

In contrast with the ugly game by Pitt over the weekend, the Pens have been playing fantastic.  They started out the weekend with a perfect game for national TV on Sunday, and then came back against a very good Sabres team tonight.  Overall, it was a very impressive pair of games.  The Pens were skating, they were keeping dumb penalties to a minimum, and they were getting pucks on net.  You’re going to get a lot of good results if you do those three things.

The first game against Detroit was fantastic television.  The Red Wings aren’t the team that we saw the last time they were in Pittsburgh.  They’re in a very tough Western Conference, but they’re struggling pretty hard right now.  The Pens took advantage and completely tilted the ice on the Wings.  They led the shooting battle 47-24.  You usually deserve 2 points if you do that, but there was a problem.  Jimmy Howard, in his first real stint with the big boy club in Detroit, was standing on his head in net.  He came up with 46 saves on the night in a fantastic performance.  It was really special to watch, even from an opposing fan’s perspective.  Beyond that, it was an extremely clean game.  Not a lot of penalties or turnovers.  Just good hockey the way it was meant to be played.  With Howard kepping them in the game with key saves, the Wings were able to draw overtime and eventually a shootout.  Fleury came up big as he’s been doing in shootouts for a while now, and the Pens come out with the extra point (that they probably deserved anyway due to their play).  Just a fantastic hockey game.  I’m sure the NHL is thanking its lucky stars that that was on national TV.  That’s the kind of game that will bring in new fans.

The second game had a lot more offense to say the least.  The Pens jumped out with a real quick goal (as in first minute quick).  The Sabres answered with a pair of quick goals 5 minutes later and a third striaght to start the second period.  The Pens rounded out the second period with their own run of 4 straight goals, and then hung on for dear life in the third.  I’ll tell you the truth.  When we went down 3-1 I thought we were cooked.  Ryan Miller is a fantastic goalie, and even thought we’ve had good luck with him in the past I thought it just wasn’t meant to be.  That’s the Sabres game.  Jump out to a lead and choke you with their defense.  But, lo and behold, the Pens pulled it out.  This was a fairly physical back and forth game, but very entertaining to watch overall.  Sid had a hat trick, but I mostly liked that the Pens hustled throughout the entire game.  I have to admit that I was a bit worried about that coming off Sunday’s game.  You can’t ask for much more out of a team than what the Pens showed these past two days.  I’d love another quick game here to keep up the momentum, but the next game isn’t until Saturday against Montreal.  We’ll see how it goes.

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Pens Catch-Up

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Pens 2 Flyers 1

Pens 4 Rangers 2

Pens 1 Senators 4

Big set of games here for the Pens with respect to their playoff position, and they get 4 out of a possible 6 points.  Not in the prettiest fashion ever, but it works.  Wins against Philly and the Rangers are great because they’re in the division.  A loss against Ottawa is excusable because they’re a buzz saw right now.  So, this is about as good as you could hope for.  With the Olympics right around the corner, the Pens are still in a really nice position.

Sunday was the first game against the Flyers, and it was a typical Flyers/Penguins game: 52 total penalty minutes and 3 goals.  In a game that relies on the special teams, Pens fans would be understandably nervous.  After all, our power play isn’t the best to ever roam the ice.  But, alas, the Pens scored 2 goals on 6 chances, and that proved to be the difference maker.  Philadelphia converted on 1 of 9 power plays.  The Pens have a very good penalty kill unit (one that doesn’t receive nearly the credit it deserves), but I think that has more to do with the Flyers awful power play than the Pens great penalty kill.  That was pretty much the game.  It was a constant stream of penalties, with every goal scored on the power play.  I have no idea how Philly fans watch that garbage every game.

The second game was a weird one.  The Pens went into Madison Square Garden to face a struggling Rangers team, and played well.  However, they just couldn’t get anything to go their way.  Going into the third period, the stats were equal and the score was tied at 1.  The break finally came for the Rangers when Artem Anisimov shoved a shot at Fleury that somehow squeaked between his skate and the post and rested right on the goal line.  The odds of that happening are slim, and the odds of the referee seeing it instead of losing sight and blowing the whistle are even greater, but that’s what happened.  The ref saw the whole thing, waited for Fleury to move which kicked the puck over the line, and called the goal.  It figured that when the refs finally got a call right, it would screw us.  Grrrrrr…  But, hey, that’s hockey.  I was about ready to say that luck was just on the Rangers side and it wasn’t our day when the Pens took luck into their own hands.  Malkin scored on a power play 30 seconds later, followed by Baby Pens call up Chris Conner putting his second goal of the game in a minute after that.  It was incredible.  Both were just quick sniper goals that showed just how much offensive power this team has when they’re on.  An empty netter later, and the Pens pulled 2 points out of an embarrassing loss.

The game on Thursday was to be expected.  Ottawa is red hot right now, and charging up the playoff seeding after a slow start.  The ice was kind of slanted when you watched the game, but the stat sheet was very even overall.  There were some stupid turnovers by the Penguins, but nothing too serious.  Malkin continued his resurgence with another goal, which was nice to see.  It was just a very well played hockey game overall, and the Sens just got lucky a couple of more times than the Pens.  It happens.  We’ve already being them earlier in the year, so it’s not a huge loss.  I didn’t really see anything to be overly concerned with here.  Just a bad day at the office.  We weren’t skating real well, and the Sens goalie, Brian Elliott, didn’t allow many rebounds at all.  He’s playing fantastic right now.  A chance for redemption is on Sunday against…..wait for it…..Detroit.  Mmmmmm…..I can’t wait.

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Pens 2 Western Canada 1

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Pens 3 Flames 1

Pens 3 Oilers 2

Pens 2 Canucks 6

Well, there’s only one way to describe this swing through western Canada: bi-polar.  The Pens entered the three games coming off a ‘taking care of business’ win in Toronto and an awful game in Minnesota.  Fleury continued his up and down play by following up one of his worst games against the Wild with one of his best against Calgary.  He played well enough to win in Edmonton, and was out in Vancouver (until it got out of hand).  But I just don’t understand where these lapses are coming from.  Some people seem to think it may be because he’s thinking too much about the next time he’ll be in Vancouver.  Others seem to think that he’s lost motivation after winning a cup.  I have no idea, but something is going on between his ears that’s taking away his consistency, and I’d love to know what it is.

Calgary was a classic game where Fleury stole it for us.  He faced 38 shots and stopped 37 of them.  The ice was heavily slanted in the Flames favor all night (we only got 27 shots ourselves).  We just continued the bad play from St. Paul.  I have no idea why.  The good news from this game is that the power play woke up a bit.  We actually went 1 for 5 in this game as opposed to 0 for 6 in Minnesota.  I know, I know.  Baby steps.  The only other notable thing in this game was how Sid continued his hot streak, putting in yet another goal.  Maybe he was just trying to impress the young lady in the crowd seen above.  Can we put her on the payroll?

We started out the game in Edmonton the same flat way as Calgary and Minnesota.  I think with the late night (stupid west coast games starting at 9:30) and the Pens down 2-0, a lot of Pittsburgh fans turned the game off.  It could have been much worse if Edmonton wasn’t such a bad team themselves.  You know how pitiful this game was?  There was 7 total shots by both teams in the first period (4 for Edmonton and 3 for the Pens).  I didn’t realize that that was possible.  I mean, with all the talent on our roster we should have one guy with 7 shots in a period.  Wow.  It wasn’t until Tyler Kennedy scored a few minutes into the 3rd period that we woke up.  The Pens scored 3 times in 7 minutes and came back to win, shoving it in the face of all those whose bedtime is 11:30 or so.

I was kind of hopeful that the momentum from the Oilers game would carry over into the Vancouver game, but unfortunately we ran into a brick wall.  That brick wall being our backup goaltender, John Curry.  Now, to be fair, Curry is a recent call up from the Baby Pens, and he’s only played in 3 career NHL games.  But, he just played awful.  Really really awful.  He let in 5 goals in 14 shots, and some of them were such bunnies that he would have benched even if he were still in Wilkes Barre.  It was so bad that it didn’t really matter how well the position players played, we just weren’t going to win that game.  Period.  The one bright spot is that Evgeni Malkin broke his streak without a goal.  He didn’t try to.  The puck just kind of bounced off his skate after a bad pass.  But I’m sure he’ll take it.  It goes to show what happens when you go to the net.  I’m just a little disappointed that he has to wait until Tuesday to try to build on that.

Overall, it was a miserable trip.  We were out-played for most of it.  We got some good and some bad goaltending.  The power play is still a mess, though we did try some new line combinations.  But there were some bright spots: Malkin broke his scoreless streak…..kinda.  Sid found some new people to give restraining orders to.  Fleury did have a good game in Calgary.  So, when all is said and done, getting 4 of 6 points out of this swing is not too bad.  It could have been much worse.  The Islanders are in town on Tuesday.  We’re not in bad shape in the conference standings, but it would be nice to get some things back working again against a bad team if we could.

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Pens 4 Maple Leafs 1

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Game Recap

To tell you the truth, I was nervous about this one before it started.  Not because I don’t think we can beat the Maple Leafs, but because this was an enormous game.  We’re heading out on a big 5 game road trip.  Seeing the way this team has played, especially on the road, as of late made me nervous.  Toronto is the only game on the trip besides Edmonton that should be a gimmie (the others are Minnesota, Calgary and Vancouver).  If we started out the trip with a loss here, it could be a long slide.  But we didn’t.  We took care of a team that’s not very good.  That’s what teams like the Pens should do.

I think the biggest difference in this game was goaltending.  Fleury played extremely well and Gustavsson didn’t.  That’s the game right there.  I like the fact that Fleury hasn’t been playing his best lately and had a horrible game against the Flyers, but was able to shake it off and come up big for us.  That shows a lot of mental strength which is half the battle for goaltenders.  Gustavsson gave up some bunnies, but he hasn’t played well all year.  He doesn’t have much of a defense in front of him, but he’s been playing poorly reguardless.

This wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however.  Toronto out-shot us yesterday.  If they hadn’t been so inept as to consistently turn the puck over, it could have been a problem.  To be honest, that kind of surprised me.  From what I was watching it seemed like we were a lot more dominant than the shots total said.  Maybe it was all the bad shots that the Leafs were taking.  Whatever the reason, I’ll take it.  But I’m sticking it in the back of my mind as a red flag that may be a sign of things to come.  Overall, however, it’s hard to complain.  Sarge had a pair of goals and I learned a new hockey rule: you can’t have 2 goals on the same play.  Good to know.  I saw a lot more hustle yesterday than I have in a couple of weeks.  I loved seeing that the most of all.  Next up is the Wild.  They’re not the really boring trap team that they have been in past years, but they still have the defensive game that could throw us for a loop.  I know they’re down in the standings, but I wouldn’t be surprised at a loss here.

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Pens Catch-Up

 

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Pens 2 Seantors 6

Pens 3 Thrashers 2

I think our Pens have turned bipolar.  Seriously.  We came out completely flat against Ottawa, and then played fantastic against Atlanta.  Neither team is terrible this year, either.  Neither team is great, but that’s beside the point.  We just laid an egg in Canada, and Coach Byslma made a great speech to them on the flight down to Atlanta or something.  Whatever it was, the effort was totally turned around down in Georgia.  Maybe they just get depressed by cold weather?  I don’t know.

We started out great in Ottawa.  We grabbed a quick 1-0 lead, and were playing well…..for a few minutes.  Then we just sorta stopped trying.  Even still, we were only down 2-1 at the second intermission.  You got the feeling that if Bylsma read them the Riot Act in the locker room, they could take this one.  The Senators weren’t playing too great themselves.  Unfortunately, we came out and gave up a few quick goals, and completely shut down.  I hated seeing that.  I hate seeing a team quit.  It’s one thing to be out-played.  It’s quite another to wave the white flag.  There were two main themes that played in here.  First of all, Fleury had a horrible day.  Probably one of the worst games he’s had in Pittsburgh.  He let in some real softies.  The other main theme was the amount of turnovers we had.  We just couldn’t hang onto the puck.  It’s really hard to win when you do that (obviously).

But, like I said, Byslma obviously said something to them before Saturday’s game because they were a completely different team.  We were skating a lot better, and Fleury had a much better game.  Defensively, we had a great game and forced the Thrashers into a lot of poor outside looks.  You could tell that we were really frustrating them because the game started to get a little nasty towards the end.  Lots of hits, a couple of fights, etc.  Atlanta got a goal towards the end with their goalie pulled, so the game was not as close as the score would indicate.  Overall, just a good bounce back game that was won on effort.  These are the type of games we need while we’re still being hit by injuries.

We continue the road trip down in Miami tomorrow.  The Panthers aren’t nearly as good as these last two clubs, so we’ll see if the effort we showed on Saturday night continues.  We’ll get another ‘W’ if we do.

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