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Their imperfections aside, who can stop Penguins’ offense?

The handshake line was wrapping up on the PPG Paints Arena ice while Penguins team officials raced toward the locker room.

Against the Penguins, Sergei Bobrovsky never had a chance. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

The handshake line was wrapping up on the PPG Paints Arena ice Thursday night while Penguins team officials raced toward the locker room.

Bill Guerin, who has witnessed it as a teammate and an executive, could only shake his head.

“Our big guys,” he said, “are always there when you need them.”

Those big guys might be able to carry the Penguins a long way this spring. Perhaps all the way. All played substantial roles in the Penguins’ 5-2 win against the Blue Jackets, eliminating Columbus in five. They had some company, too.

“The talent we have in this room is just a little bit different than other teams,” Justin Schultz said. “I mean, look around.”

Sergei Bobrovsky, the likely Vezina Trophy winner, will be looking around for pucks well into the summer. Bob looked like a second-rate goaltender against hockey’s best offensive team. He never came close to solving the Penguins and was seemingly rattled by the Penguins throughout.

“Not bad,” Marc-Andre Fleury said of his team’s offense, with a grin, while sitting at his locker following the game. “Not bad at all.”

The Penguins are attempting to make history in Gary Bettman’s NHL. It’s a history their team owner knows well.

Mario Lemieux emerged from the locker room with a smile on his face about 30 minutes after watching his team bury the Blue Jackets, presumably because his team won the series and because it did so in classic Pittsburgh fashion. The Penguins simply out-scored the Blue Jackets. Make no mistake: Lemieux puts winning first and always has, but he strongly believes the Penguins should play the game the right way, the beautiful way, the entertaining way.

But get this: The last NHL team to lead the league in goals and to win the Stanley Cup was the 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s right. In the past 25 years, the team that has led the NHL in scoring has been eliminated from the postseason at some point, the NHL clearly rewarding teams that play defense more than teams that score goals.

It’s happened four times to the Penguins during that stretch, in 1993, 1996, 2012 and 2013. Can this team be different?

Ian Cole described the philosophy of the defensemen:

“Well, we try to play hard,” Cole said. “And we try to play tight defensively and then get the puck to our forwards. We know how talented they are and how they can score. If we keep doing that, I think we’ll be in a good spot.”

It’s hard to disagree with those sentiments.

The Penguins’ forwards, after all, are so talented and so deep, it seems they’ll give the defending champs a chance in any series.

First, let’s consider the star power.

Evgeni Malkin leads the playoffs in scoring with 11 points in five games. This marks the most points Malkin has scored in a playoff series. And ask yourselves this: Was Malkin even at his best in this series? He hadn’t played in almost four weeks entering the playoffs and never looked to completely regain his legs. Wait until the next round.

Phil Kessel is second in the postseason with nine points. His slump was a big story entering the playoffs, and understandably so. When the playoffs arrive, so does Kessel’s passion. He worked hard during this series, won some puck battles, was responsible defensively and launched two outrageous shots past Bobrovsky. Big Game Phil is something else. This was the game’s first goal:

Sidney Crosby (you’ll notice a theme here) is third in the postseason with seven points in five games. And really, Crosby didn’t have a great series. He was good but not necessarily dominant. There’s another gear for him. He had one great game (in Game 2, when he was sensational and produced three points), one great moment (his overtime feed in Game 3 was the stuff of legend) and one great shot, giving the Penguins’ a 4-2 advantage in the third period:

That’s the scary thing about the Penguins’ stars. They can seemingly be a little off, like on this night, and then fire a shot like that.

“Look at Sid’s goal,” Schultz said, laughing and shaking his head simultaneously. “Puts it in a perfect spot. The talent that we have in this room … we know how to put the puck in the net.”

• Let’s not leave Jake Guentzel out of this equation because he’s playing like a star right now. He scored five goals in this series and became the first player since Maurice “Rocket” Richard — you know, the guy they name the goal-scoring trophy after — to produce five goals in his first four playoff games. He’s fourth in the NHL in postseason scoring with six points, by the way.

Great offensive teams don’t receive offense from only stars, of course. Role players must thrive this time of season.

Very clearly, this is Bryan Rust’s time of year. He burned the Blue Jackets two more times, giving him four goals for the series. He score six goals last postseason. Of Rust’s 10 playoff goals, six of them came on nights when the Penguins eliminated an opponent:

Why is Rust so effective in the biggest of games? Aside from the six goals in series clinchers last spring, he scored the goal that put away the Lightning with the Penguins on the ropes in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final and scored the opening goal of the Stanley Cup Final.

“I don’t even know what’s going on,” Rust said. “I’m trying to have fun with it.”

If these Penguins are anything, they’re fun.

Even Scott Wilson is doing things like this:

Scoring goals can be a contagious thing. To get where the Penguins want to go, they’ll probably have to score more goals, even more than last season.

Without Kris Letang, they don’t control games five on five with quite the same efficiency. They don’t break out of their zone with the same zip. Their defensemen are solid, to a man, but the star power isn’t there without him.

The forwards need to keep this up, at least to some extent.

“We found a way to get this done,” Matt Cullen said. “By no means did we have our best game. It just tells you what we’re capable of.”

The Penguins are capable of scoring a lot of goals. This usually isn’t the foundation of championship teams, but then, these Penguins like to do things their own way. So far, so good.

“Every team is unique,” Cullen said with a grin.

JOSH’S FIVE THOUGHTS

• The Penguins probably need to score a similar amount of goals to beat the Capitals. Sure, Washington possesses some major flaws, many of which have been evident against the Maple Leafs. Do not underestimate the Capitals, however. That’s a great team that figures to give the Penguins’ blue line fits, especially with Letang out of the lineup. Sure, the Penguins can beat the Capitals. They absolutely can beat the Capitals. But I suspect they’ll need to score a ton of goals to do so. And, well, it’s not like they aren’t capable.

• Timing can be everything in life, and the timing of this series win couldn’t have been better for the Penguins. I’m estimating they’ll get around one week off to prepare for the second round. I’d be surprised if they get less than a week off, in fact, because of the reality that the Capitals and Leafs will play until at least Sunday. This is just right. The Penguins could use a big rest, and they’ll get one. However, had they eliminated the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the rest may actually have been too long. They’d have been looking at 10 days off. That would have potentially been a problem.

• Bobrovsky is an utter fraud. Quite frankly, this series wasn’t so one-sided at all. The Penguins dominated for stretches and have more high-end skill, but the Blue Jackets dominated territorially for far longer stretches of time. This shouldn’t have been a five-game series, frankly. But Bobrovsky made it a five-game series. No one is disputing the Penguins’ offensive genius. It’s a real thing. But come on. When you’re about to claim your second career Vezina Trophy, you shouldn’t be allowing four goals per game against any team in a playoff series. Sorry. That’s not good enough. Not by a long shot.

• The Penguins’ goaltending situation remains something of a mystery. I don’t believe Sullivan will remove Fleury at this point. He’s on a roll, Matt Murray is still walking with a pronounced limp and there is a sense that Fleury has earned a chance to carry the Penguins to the promised land. But it’s difficult to overlook that Fleury did allow nine goals in two road games in this series and he’s sporting a very unimpressive .887 save percentage on the road this season. This is a troubling number. And yet, he’s been brilliant at home all season and was, in general, fabulous in this series. My guess is that Fleury will start the second round but, when he stumbles, and when Murray gets healthy, a change is quite possible. That said, Murray is still walking with a limp and hasn’t skated in more than a week.

• I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Sullivan has really turned the Penguins into the Penguins again. When you think of the Penguins, you think of talent, goals, entertaining hockey and more goals. It’s always been the franchise’s way. And it is their way again. Are the Penguins good enough defensively, without Letang, to win the Stanley Cup? I think that’s a very fair question, one I don’t have the answer to. This is, however, a very special offense, one that’s able to flourish because the head coach is smart enough to get out of the way when great players want to accomplish great things. The Penguins need to tighten their game up again, and Stanley Cups aren’t easily, no matter your talent level. If the Penguins play the Capitals, make no mistake, they could lose that series. But they sure are the Penguins again. The staleness of the Dan Bylsma era and the bizarro world of the Mike Johnston are over. The Penguins feel very fresh once again.

INJURY REPORT

Chris Kunitz and Chad Ruhwedel skated on Thursday morning. It’s unknown when they’ll be able to return.

• Malkin was banged up during Rust’s second goal but stayed in the game.

• Kessel was nursing some kind of injury — likely of the clavicle or shoulder variety — entering Game 5 but quite clearly was operating with reasonably good health.

• Hornqvist survived having his face crosschecked off the crossbar.

Carl Hagelin? More on him later.

THREE NUMBERS OF NOTE

3 — Number of Blue Jackets’ playoff wins in 15 playoff appearances. What is it about Pittsburgh teams owning teams from the state of Ohio?

5 — Number of giveaways the Penguins were charged with in Game 5. Not a perfect number, but not awful. A cleaner brand of hockey will be needed, one would think, moving forward.

0 — Number of Stanley Cup titles John Tortorella has won since abandoning the self-proclaimed “safe is death” philosophy that won the Lightning their only championship 13 years ago. Blocking shots and racking up body checks seems to be death for Torts’ teams.

THE NEXT GAME

The Penguins will be watching TV a good bit during the next few days. They’ll play the winner of the Capitals-Maple Leafs series. Were I to guess when the series will start, well, I’d guess next Thursday. But that’s merely a guess and much could change between now and then. The Penguins will have ample time for rest at least. They’ll get a day off tomorrow and will surely resume practicing this weekend, either on Saturday or Sunday.

MATT SUNDAY GALLERY

Penguins vs. Blue Jackets, Game 5, PPG Paints Arena, April 20, 2017. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

82 Comments

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82 comments on "Their imperfections aside, who can stop Penguins’ offense?"

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Bradleya89
Bradleya89

Maybe Geno can hit over 30 playoff points again; he only needs 19 w/ three rounds to go.

WildcatRay
WildcatRay

Why 30? Average 11 a series, that’s 44!

wisertime
wisertime

“What is it about Pittsburgh teams owning teams from the state of Ohio?”

haha, true with the Steelers and Pens, but has the Pirates really owned the Reds? or does Pittsburgh just not consider the Pirates a real Pittsburgh team. I would also take a guess that Ohio St. has owned the Pitt Panthers when they play. But then again, they must not be a real Pittsburgh team either.

mike
mike

The tools on NBC are complaining about Ovy getting hipped. Stop it already, Marchand moves on, garbage happens.

wd319
wd319

Brian Rust reminds me of John Tonelli.

aspiring saint
aspiring saint

This team reflects the emotions and style of the goaltender, and that will become a much greater challenge in the 2nd round when facing the Caps. Murray is a calming force. Fleury, though much more entertaining to watch, triggers the unease that seemed to be reflected in Sullivan’s summation of the series. That there just never was a comfort level in any of the games.

wisertime
wisertime

interesting point. Murray = calm, Fleury = frantic. not sure I believe it at this point, but who knows. the pens have been very erratic so far. lots of offense, but some sketchy defensive play. Fleury has done a good job so far. one bad period in game 3, a bad game in game 4, but was very good in games 1,2 and 5.

WildcatRay
WildcatRay

The CBJ were flying in both Games 3 & 4, but Fleury did what he had to to help win Game 3. His teammates did more to lose Game 4 than he did. If anything, he gave them a chance to win & they didn’t take advantage of it.

Fleury also helped them weather the early push by the CBJ in Game 5. If it was The Bob in the Pens goal, they’d have been down several goals in the 1st.

Pghgolfgirl
Pghgolfgirl

I’m just thrilled that we made it through the CBJ series without any major injuries. Funny, since Beau Bennett removed the “Curse” via Twitter on 4/13, we haven’t had any injuries. Coincidence? I think not!
(Beau Bennett‏Verified account @BeauBennett19 50m50 minutes ago
P.s. the curse has been lifted. I think you guys have faced enough adversity by now. #bb8)

mattleers
mattleers

What happened to the note about the feelings about Dubinsky I saw on here last night? TMI? I’d love to hear that story, even if you have to censor the speakers’ names.

paldrich2
paldrich2

The only answer to the question in the headline is a hot goalie. That certainly wasn’t Bob. I assume the Penguins will see better goaltending in the next round. That said, with the way the Penguins are defending these days, Fleury will probably need to be their best player the rest of the way.

RockAye
RockAye

Ha good point but there won’t be a hot goalie coming out of DC-Toronto!

Rainmanoly
Rainmanoly

I still believe the only way for another team to beat and/or shutdown the Penguins is for the Power Play to dry up. A big, physical team that can take penalties and disrupt the flow of the game without being forced to pay for it by the PP will beat the Pens.

WildcatRay
WildcatRay

You make a valid point. Making a team pay for their mistakes by scoring on the PowerPlay is often the key to winning the series.

By scoring on the power play a team can take much of the aggressiveness away from their opponent.

Rainmanoly
Rainmanoly

Sigh, -2 and no discussion. I’d love to know how you disagree.

Orsulak11
Orsulak11

Happy with the series win, but giving up 40-ish shots per game is not a recipe for sustained success -postseason or regular season. I think this is where the Pens miss Letang the most. I also think they miss Hagelin’s defensive play. Will need to be much better next round.

WildcatRay
WildcatRay

Shots on goal can be deceptive statistic. If many of them are long range and not quality chances it really does not necessarily mean one team is out playing the other.

SmlyGrl
SmlyGrl

Please tell Olli THANK YOU for his great game and his ‘save’ last night!!!!!

bward31
bward31

Hey Josh, Why are you counting the Leafs out? I think that series is a toss up.

Jay Roberts
Jay Roberts

Dang, need Hags back, never thought kunitz might beat him back.

RockAye
RockAye

Josh – great stuff. And the most amazing thing is what you said about Sid not being dominant and Geno not really full Geno, etc. Could you even imagine if the Penguins purposely took it easy on the CBJ, but STILL won in 5??? I guess we’ll know if that next gear comes out next round!

tailor31415
tailor31415

Defense was pretty horrendous during the away games. The stat still shows Fleury’s home vs away differences, but you can’t deny how terrible the Dmen were in Columbus, especially for Game 4.

Matt B (@Talisker66)
Matt B (@Talisker66)

One of the best things HCMS has done is make Kessel the PP QB. The PP now goes through him and he makes things happen. The curl around the top of the circle and unleashing his lethal wrist shot opens so many other things up. Plus he’s a great passer and tends to make smart plays. If the PP clicks, then other teams will let up a little bit on that aggressiveness.

Sector7G
Sector7G

What is so good about Rust’s game right now is he’s not relying on just his speed and area passes to get chances. He’s working down low and scoring in the dirty areas.

RockAye
RockAye

Few players out there maximize shot opportunities like he does. Really smart player.

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

I can tell you who can stop the Pens offense. Washington. They were the best defensive team all season for a reason. If the Pens have to score 5 goals in games to win that series, they won’t.

That being said, I still think the Pens are capable of tightening it up and winning 2-1 games and beating the paper champs.

RockAye
RockAye

DC is a valid concern but given the Penguins recent complete disregard for goalie credentials, I say they whoop Holtby same as last year.

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

They definitely can. They have to play better than they did this series though.

He Shoots He Scores
He Shoots He Scores

Remember we hung 8 on the Craps last time we played them, this team isn’t scared of the Caps D.

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

I didn’t say they were. That 8 wasn’t the playoffs. Holtby isn’t going to choke a series away, like the turd we just faced.

Luiz Mello
Luiz Mello

Agreed. The Penguins *need* to tighten up, beginning next round, if they are to go far. No way around that. Good news is they are capable of improving on that, even without Letang. Not to the same level if #58 were available, but better than they were against Columbus.

Peter J
Peter J

The Laughs are giving them a good run for their money, and the Pens are better in goal, on the blueline, and miles ahead up front than the Leafs. This has been insane in this series.comment imagev

nightsky73144
nightsky73144

Though, every game in that series has been close (3 OTs).
And, Sunshine, while I do respect Holtby, I’m not especially impressed by Washington’s Dmen. Felt the same last year against them. Now, they’ve upgraded, with Shattenkirk; and Pens are missing Letang (though, I agree with DK, the rest of the D are improved from last year, and there’s greater depth).
But, while Washington’s forwards can be terrific…their Dmen? Eh, don’t scare me.
Great team, but weakest link is the blue line.

iacas
iacas

Shattenkirk isn’t really a D-man in the sense of playing D, either: he’s a power play guy, an offensive D-man. Niskanen is still their best D, and occasionally Orpik when he remembers to oil up the wheels on his walker, no?

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

The blue line isn’t all there is to D, though.

If we have Hags, I’ll agree that Washington will be way too slow at the blue line.

Look, I’m just trying to be realistic here. The Pens are a great team. I don’t think they’re as good as last year, especially without Letang and Hagelin. And, to be honest, the Pens blue line didn’t look especially quick against the BJs and they haven’t played as poorly on defense as they did in this series in a long time (in the playoffs). They’ll have problems with the Caps top line.

I’m by no means saying the Pens can’t do it. I am saying that if they play the way that they did against Columbus they’re going to be in trouble. Especially without home ice and given how meh they’ve been on the road all year.

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

I wouldn’t look too much into that. The Leafs are a bad matchup for the Caps. They’re young and fast. Also, Anderson has been huge at times. I wouldn’t discount that at all when talking about who is in goal.

If the Pens get Hags back, they are a bad matchup too, but I don’t think the Pens are good enough on D without Letang. They almost looked slow against the Jackets at times.

I know people will be pissed that I say this so down cup away, but unless the Caps choke the Pens D isn’t good enough without Letang to win that series, in my opinion. Add in Fleury’s road woes to that concern list too.

I hope I’m wrong, obviously.

gojo
gojo

If MAF can play like he did last night (and in the first two games), the Pens will beat everyone. Team D and fore-checking just isn’t the same without Hagelin. It may be a great series, we’ve got the better coach and talent, but I’ll say it’ll be MAF vs Holtby that really matters.

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

That’s the problem I see, too. The home/road splits are a problem. Especially in a series where they don’t have home ice. I think they can do it, it’s just if you expect your goalie to make 45 saves in Washington you’ll be lucky to win a game there.

Peter J
Peter J

yeah, well, they still have to win! 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMk5sMHj58I

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

Yeah, it’s not a given, by any stretch. Outside of the Caps top line the Leafs have carried play for long stretches and generally been the better team.

Peter J
Peter J

A buddy of mine is a Caps fan. I told him that if I had a bookie, I would have put everything on the Caps Wednesday night. It was 4-2 when I fell asleep. I got a text from him in the 3rd saying “I just put my straightjacket on”. The Leafs would probably give us fits, too. Should be fun either way. 🙂

Peter J
Peter J

That Crosby goal, though. Seriously. I know he practices stuff like this a lot, but I mean, when Geno started the pass, his back was facing the goal line. He was able to turn/position his body, shoot the puck on a one-timer, and put that shot in a perfect spot. And he probably still hasn’t looked at the net. It’s insane how lucky we’ve been as Penguins fans almost every year since 1985.

iacas
iacas

I’m not claiming to be within a billion trillion miles of Sidney Crosby, but yeah… players know where they are on the ice and can make those shots with their eyes closed (or at least not looking toward the goal). In soccer it’s often more important to take a peek at the goalie/goal but then make sure you contact the right part of the ball (it can take a funny bounce or something, like a puck).

Also, Sid might try that shot five times and score once… but we just forget the other 4x. Two might go high or right, two might deflect off the goalie’s shoulder… etc. The ones that he scores on stand out.

None of that takes anything away from Sid, because the success rate for others might be one in fifteen, and include flubs, or they might not even try and will skate it in a step or two.

Peter J
Peter J

I’m honestly still somewhat searching for your point here. Are you saying Sid’s 1 in 5 isn’t a better percentage than the vast majority’s 1 in 15? Or because he knew where he was on the ice the fact that he did an almost 180 and still got the one-timer off, going bar-down wasn’t a pretty goal?

JC
JC

Through this whole series I kept thinking how the CBJ’s Vezina goalie has let them down. I still think we would have won this series, but Bobrovsky made it a shorter series. I know the Vezina is decided and voted on before the playoffs, but should Bobrovsky indeed win, he should be embarrassed to accept it.

iacas
iacas

I don’t know that the Pens win the series if Bob plays better. A few key early saves and the Pens start gripping their sticks harder, steering their shots a bit, being more tentative, trying to set up the perfect goal with lots of passes instead of shooting everything…

A guy who knows hockey really well texted me after 10:00 of the Boston series a few years back and said “How are you guys not up 5-0 right now?” Rask was making a ton of saves. We know how the rest of that series went…

cs2766
cs2766

Friday would be a good start to the series, what with the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday. But it’ll be Thursday. The Washington-Toronto series will end no later than Tuesday.

FLPensFan
FLPensFan

Great job Josh. I really enjoying your writing style. Would you call it conversational? I find myself reading it in your voice sort of like I read Geno’s quotes only much different 🙂

Anthony Ragano
Anthony Ragano

What about Hagelin? Why is he not in the injury report?

Bettis36
Bettis36

The loss of Letang has been excruciatingly evident IMO. Man do they miss him in the D zone. The forwards really need to tighten things up like they did in the first two games. Call me crazy, but I think Ruhwedel should get a spot once he’s healthy. They need his wheels.

nfontana85
nfontana85

who do you sit then?

iacas
iacas

Hainsey? I think the others have played reasonably well, and I’m probably under-rating Hainsey quite a bit, but he’s the oldest and slowest…

MT
MT

Good Lord, no, you don’t sit Hainsey. He’s so solid and dependable. Not sure who to sit, it’s a tough choice.

Clint Novak
Clint Novak

Love the tell it like it is.. Bobs an utter fraud is such a true statement, and he did his team such a disservice this series. Pens knew they could score goals at will anytime on him, and they did. Next series, the defensive work needs to be more refined, but this extra rest will be a big aid

Deb5039
Deb5039

“one great shot”???? Really. The third period Sid was in Selke mode in this game…plus he led all forwards in ice time. There is also a reason Sully has Sid leading the Pens in ice time in game 3, (more skating time than any D): he’s quietly their strongest defender. His defensive skill is very much ignored when media are evaluating his play. (similar to Sochi Olympics when Mike Babcock was saying Sid played an almost perfect game and the media was questioning why he wasn’t scoring more and Babcock was just shaking his head).

Scho from NewK
Scho from NewK

Thought I heard during the game 5 broadcast that Sid was on the ice for like 8 or 9 of the 13 goals Columbus scored in the series..

gojo
gojo

Wasn’t it Hagelin last year that called Sid the ultimate grinder? I think his 200 foot game at full velocity 100% of the time demonstrates leadership beyond anyone else I’ve ever seen.

BillF'nMurray
BillF'nMurray

Agree. Sid picked a few pockets last night and created some turnovers in the neutral zone. That type of play gets overlooked a lot.

Sisyphus
Sisyphus

Reminds me of a time many years ago when Mario was not scoring in a series vs. the Caps, but more than making up for it with outstanding defensive play. When a reporter asked coach Scottie Bowman what was wrong with Lemieux his reply was something like, “Are you kidding? He was the best player on the ice.”

nightsky73144
nightsky73144

Sid was a star in the first game, in my opinion, even with no points, because of his defensive brilliance. That said, however, his defensive game was not up to his usual (very high) standards over the course of the whole series. Part of that was because of Sheary struggling on the line, absolutely, but Sid himself had more defensive errors than we usually see from him.
But, I’m not at all worried about Sid’s game. I believe what Sullivan said, that this team will only get better as the playoffs continue. They probably won’t maintain a 4 goals per game average (though I’d love to see that); but they will hopefully tighten up defensively as a team, and continue to find a way to score timely goals.

Deb5039
Deb5039

I think after the third game every other time Sid’s line was on the ice the announcer was saying “Sheary just coughed up the puck, or Sheary just missed a pass, failed to finish a scoring chance etc” I think Sheary was playing like he was concussed and the Coach finally moved him off Sid’s line. That said, Sid’s line still was credited with the most scoring chances of any line on the ice…

Goose
Goose

The caps and Jackets are not comparable. This team bought some serious rest at the right time. They will need every bit of it against a better 2nd round opponent.

nfontana85
nfontana85

Washington does not have a Seth Jones on the blueline but has more talent offensively.
As dumb as it would be i think WSH also tries to hit PIT out of the next series (I mean Barry Trotz is the coach). I think CBUS was a pretty similar matchup to what the pens would see in WSH in the 2nd round.

Sean Horn
Sean Horn

They’re not comparable, but I don’t think the Caps have looked bulletproof against the Leafs either.

The Pens are faster & more offensively skilled than TML. Pens have 2 goalies that are better (IF Murray gets healthy) than Toronto.

CBJ was rather relentless against the Pens. Caps are very capable of similar, yet have more star power and offensive capabilities. The Caps D looks brutal, however.

Jess Kesade
Jess Kesade

The penguins, without letang, simply just need to keep chugging along. Try and tighten up as much as you can, but it’s clear the penguins probably won’t be able to carry out that type of suffocating defense they played so well last playoffs in those third periods, protecting the lead. But that’s fine, gotta adjust. Also, don’t like the sounds of that hagelin mention. We need him so bad in the second round.

As for the goalie situation, obviously it doesn’t look great for matt if he’s still limping and hasn’t skated for a week.. but gosh if we play the caps You gotta think they are gonna smell blood… no letang, and no Murray (IMO not sure we beat the caps last year without him!). Fleury is amazing at home but those two away game performances had me a little shook there.

Marc
Marc

Pens only have to win 1 of 4 on the road to beat the Caps if they win all their home games. That doesn’t sound impossible to me

He Shoots He Scores
He Shoots He Scores

Plus if the Leafs win tonight in DC, the Caps will tighten up like always. Playoff’s, hard to breathe, can’t get air. The Caps usual way! There’s a reason there are no Stanley Cup Banners in DC, thanks to the Pens Curse.

Sisyphus
Sisyphus

The smell of blood will be lost under the smell of the apple that they’ll be choking on, as per usual.

mdjbarron
mdjbarron

I’m hoping the more on Hagelin is he was going to play if a game 6 was required and he’ll be good to go next round. His speed is needed to back up the defense and create room for the big guns, especially against the Caps.

sybco99
sybco99

Love the last bullipoint Josh! So true

Donnie
Donnie

4 down, 12 to go!! Happy for MAF, one of the better playoff games that he’s played. I also liked Sully’s quote after the game: “I believe our best hockey is ahead of us.” Yes it is, and that’s scary for the rest of the league.

iacas
iacas

Hopefully that’s true. Lots of slop against Columbus. Talent overcame it but Columbus wasn’t a good team.

He Shoots He Scores
He Shoots He Scores

That’s true, bad team’s always win 50 games.

muzings
muzings

😂😂😂

Taylor Siwik
Taylor Siwik

It’s fleurys net now. Anything else would be complete hypocrisy on mike Sullivan’s part. Last year, Murray got the net when fleury was injured. It should be the same way this year with fleury. Anything else would prove where mike Sullivan’s biases lie and may create a rift within the team.

Ryan
Ryan

Fleury should stay in net until he falters. However, two road games against the Caps like we saw in Columbus and Fleury won’t get back in if Murray is healthy.

As pointed out Fleury is .887 on the road right now in the playoffs. With 4 road games against the Caps we lose the series if those numbers hold. You can be sure Holtby will be better than that on the road.

MrBaytee
MrBaytee

That depends on the health of Murray (big ? at this point) and how well Fleury is playing. If he keeps playing like he has on the road this year, there could be merit to making a change if its available.

Taylor Siwik
Taylor Siwik

MM gave up 7 goals in Columbus earlier this season….not exactly stellar

Black_Sunshine
Black_Sunshine

Fleury gave up 6 against a terrible Detroit team. What’s your point? Goalies have bad games.

Ryan
Ryan

If you’re going to use the regular season as an example you’d never start Fleury over Murray…just look at the stat lines. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

mdjbarron
mdjbarron

Remember ECF last year? Murray was pulled in game 4 after allowing four goals. Fleury came in and looked good. Sullivan gave him the start in game 5. Fleury looked shaky, giving up a couple bad goals. Back to Murray the rest of the way.

If Fleury looks rough two games in a row and Murray is healthy, he should get back in and reassess from there. Until then it’s Flower’s net.

Taylor Siwik
Taylor Siwik

I would say that’s probably fair but unless he completely falls apart in those two games he should not be taken out. The guy just made 50 saves and even with a few bad goals in this series, made timely save after timely save each game

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