It Takes Guts
Hockey isn’t a sport where you can feel great about dropping a game with four seconds to go in overtime or getting shutout by a rival on national television.
Especially in late February, with the trade deadline looming and every point at a premium.
But if the Pittsburgh Penguins, despite having earned only 2 of a possible 6 points in their last three games, have somehow managed to paint a perfect picture of hard work in the process of going 0-1-2.
These aren’t three farm teams we’re talking about, either. These were games against two of the best regular season teams in recent history and the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The injury-plagued Penguins have got to be commended for their style of play.
I’ve said this before this year, but if you could paint a eutopia of what Dan Bylsma’s perfect game might look like, you could draw off of any of the past two games to get an idea of the effort required to make Bylsma’s “70/30” system effective.
With a team that is downright destitute on terms of scoring depth right now, the Penguins are putting on their boots and getting to work. It’s not pretty hockey, it’s not hockey that’s going to attract new fans and enamor the audience with a finesse flow, but it’s certainly fun to watch.
And it might be the most physical the Penguins have looked all year.
Neal/Niskanen Make Their Debuts
Last night saw the debut of recent Dallas Stars’ acquisitions James Neal and Matt Niskanen.
I think the overtime period was a great example of what James Neal brings to the table. He’ll bowl over one of his own players to get to a loose puck, and his release is both quick and powerful.
Niskanen had a solid first half of the game, but struggled as things closed out, and caused a turnover that nearly ended the game a minute earlier for the Penguins.
That being said, Niskanen was verbally overwhelmed yesterday by what the Penguins were asking of him, so there will be an adjustment period for him to catch on to what the defensive scheme calls for and get used to going back into his own end in such a deep fashion to start the rush.
Fleury Shines Again
The memories of Marc-Andre Fleury’s rough start to the year ought to be buried by now.
Fleury was again excellent in goal for the Penguins, stopping Patrick Marleau on a breakaway in the middle of the overtime period.
Fleury is now tied for 7th in the NHL with a goals against average of 2.27 and is tied for 9th in the NHL with a save percentage of 9.21.
Lost in the shuffle of the injury reports, trade rumors, and call-ups from WB/S is the play of Marc-Andre Fleury.
I’ll leave you this morning to ponder this question about the Penguins star goaltender: When was the last time you saw him let up a soft goal?