Saturday, March 26, 2011

GTOPG: Marc-Andre Fleury Puts De Onus in a Stranglehold. Pens Win 1-0

By Finesse

When the injury bug was tearing through the Pens' locker room like Barry Bonds at GNC, we assigned the burden of maintaining the Pens' season to Marc-Andre Fleury, recognizing that with no Sid and no Geno there were going to be a lot of 2-1 games, a lot of overtimes, and a lot of shootouts.  How has Fleury responded?

"I eat de onus for de breakfast."
Much is being made of Fleury's random March 25 shutout streak, a quirky stat that proves only that Fleury gets better as the season goes on.  Does anyone remember his first 8 games?  We're afraid to go back and research what we wrote about him then.  What a goalie.

For the second straight night, the Pens outplayed a division rival in a critical game.  After a blistering first period in which the Pens outshot the Devils by a 3 to 1 margin (Pens had 3 shots, Devils had 1), this one had 1-0 shutout on Patrick Elias snipe-job written all over it.  Fleury would have none of it.

Some other random reaction...

- Last night marked the return of Mike Comrie, he of 0 goals, 5 assists, and 0 impact in 16 games.  Guess what?  He didn't score.  He was placed on the power play at one point with Staal and Kovalev.  Guess what?  No power play goal.  The last time someone was that ineffective for 8 minutes and 7 seconds...well, you can fill in this bad joke yourself.

- Steiggy defended the first period of this game by saying that while some might find it boring, he enjoyed it because it was like a chess match.  Unfortunately, watching chess may be the only thing that is more boring than the first period.

Huge move coming up.
- Craig Adams attempted unlimited shots.  Alexei Kovalev had unlimited super soft passes intercepted.

- For maybe the first time in the Martin Brodeur era, the Pens looked completely comfortable playing the Devils' style.  And not only did the Pens look comfortable, they looked more comfortable than the Devils.  None of us wants the Pens to consistently play like New Jersey, but to have that ability in the arsenal is a huge weapon come playoff time.

- Speaking of playoff time, last night was likely the nail in the coffin for the Devils.  Pensblog has full coverage.  No one saw this disaster of a season coming for the Devils, but this is a temporary burial.  When they get Parise back next year, they will be right back in the mix.  But for now?  Good riddance.

- If Team Canada was picking rosters today, would Chris Kunitz be the Captain or just an Alternate?

- James Neal needs your support.  He may not be scoring in regulation, but he's won two games for the Pens this week in shootouts and he is consistently dominant, especially in the offensive zone.  The production may not be there, but this is no Ponikarovsky.  This is a thoroughbred.

- If the NHL went to 4-on-4 all the time, and did a re-draft of everyone in the league, Kris Letang would be a top-5 pick.  Maybe top-3.

- Finally, a thought on Sid.  He's looking good in practice, but that is no guarantee that he will return this year, or that you should want him to.  So I'm on board with Dejan Kovacevic questioning the wisdom of Sid returning, but his rationale for raising the question is crazy.  D.K. thinks that roughly three weeks is not enough time for Crosby to get into good enough shape to prepare for the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Let's get this cleared up once and for all - Sid's "conditioning" should be the least of your concerns.  He could gain 30 pounds of fat and still be one of the best players in the league (just look at Ovechkin).  So it's enough with the "he's not in game shape" concern.  Mario was never in shape, let alone game shape, and all he did was carry Hall-of-Fame defensemen on his back every spring.  Your concern about Sid should be about how he handles contact.  Other than that, he can lean on his stick in practice all he wants because if he comes back this year, it's going to be the other team's defensemen leaning on their sticks.

Game Shape.

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