Wednesday, January 25, 2012

GTOPG: Over Fleury's Left Leg; Pens Win 3-2

By Finesse

Marc-Andre Fleury gives up his share of goals that we think he should stop, most of which go through Brooks Orpik's legs on 1-on-1's and then over Flower's glove.  But if you try to go cross-crease on Flower and you don't get the puck up over his pad, Darren Pang is going to break into hysterics about Fleury's quickness in the Blues' broadcast booth.

Flower was phenomenal last night.  It was his 21st straight appearance, which is far too much, but he now gets a week of well-earned rest.  We had been calling for Brent Johnson to start this game, but apparently the Pens coaching staff knows more than we do.

- Or, perhaps, we know the same thing, which is that the Pens don't have any confidence in Johnson right now.  He is 2-5-0-2 with a 3.47GAA and .876 save percentage.  Those are horrendous numbers.  The last two times the Pens gave him a start, he was yanked and replaced by Fleury (both games were losses).  As reader P.Co pointed out in the comments a few days ago, starting goalies win championships in the spring, but backup goalies win them in January and February.  Johnson has earned at least one or two more chances before the trade deadline to solidify his position as the Pens' backup for the playoffs.  But that's about it.

- Here's a task for someone with access to the coaching staff.  Ask them whether the Pens' defensemen are coached to not tie up opposing forwards in front of the net.  By my unofficial count, the Pens allow approximately 79.8 guys per game to stand untouched in front of Fleury.  It's possible that this is a deliberate strategy by the Pens -- if the defensemen tie up the forwards, that means the D are also locked up, making it harder for them to get loose pucks in the corner.  It's also possible that this is a bad strategy.

- Rumors abound that the Pens are interested in Hal Gill.  We approve.

- Eric Tangradi was scratched last night in favor of Steve MacIntyre, who justified the coaches' confidence in him by taking a ridiculous tripping penalty during his 3:52 of ice time.  Shero has to seriously consider moving Tangradi while he still has some value.  If he still does.

- In the four games since Letang has been back, Deryk Engelland has played 14:31, 10:29, 10:36, and 11:48.

- A seven game win streak is absolutely huge going into the All-Star break. Given everything that's happened this season, we'll take this all day.

Go Pens.

**For reader Bryan**

What hands by Kunitz.


  1. Not a single mention of Kunitz's hands?!

  2. Terrible oversight by us. It's been addressed.

  3. My faith has been restored in you..


  4. Just keep Tangradi. Otherwise he will end up in Philly (his hometown) and become a Penguin Killer.

    I also wanted to chime in in support of The Patriarch when he says "Who wouldn't want to come to Pittsburgh if they were immediately slated to skate on Crosby's wing?" That thought has been in my mind since the Pens drafted Sid.

    I bet John Vanbiesbrouck is available. Remember how he was a renta-goalie for the last 19 years of his career? He's only 48.

  5. I almost called my parents to tell them I'm mentioned in my favorite blog! Thanks :-)

    1. Do you think Engelland or Lovejoy are about to be shipped out of town? If Hal Gill comes, he will be no better than a number 6 Defenseman anyway (and his average TOI this year is at around 17 mins, not much different from Engelland's).

    2. Will the Pens try to claim Antero Niittimaky (my spellchecker just went nuts) off waivers? They've got the cap room for it. If a bad team like Tampa doesn't call dibs on him first, he could be an option for a rental backup goalie, don't you think?

    3. Come to think of it, that pic you guys have up there of Johnson and Fleury is of Johnson being yanked from that infamous game on Long Island last year. Was that the turning point of BJ's career with the Pens?

    4. So we're tied with Ottawa in points for 5th place. This season, the best any team hopes for is to finish 6th in the East.

  6. P.Co -- appreciate the comments, as always.

    If any Pens' D-man should be made available, it's Lovejoy. He's a nice player, but one who has a ceiling (5th or 6th defenseman) that is easily replaceable. He's also about to turn 27 which means he isn't a prospect anymore -- he is what he is. The problem, of course, is that other teams know this so he probably wouldn't bring back a huge return.

    Lovejoy and Engelland are comparable players in that they are both career 3rd-pairing guys, but at least Engelland does one thing really well (fight). Lovejoy is kind of a jack of all trades, solid defensemen.

    You could be absolutely right about the Long Island thing being the turning point of BJ's time here, but I'm not sure it's anything more than coincidence. If anything, that night endeared him to the fan base and should have made him more comfortable in his role here. Nittymaki would obviously be an upgrade over BJ, but there are probably other teams who would want him more than the Pens would, and I still think BJ has earned at least a few more starts to prove that he's out of whatever funk he's been in this season.

    As it stands right now, the 6th seed (vs. Washington or Florida) is a much better matchup than the 5th seed (vs. Philly). But it's too soon to start hoping for certain matchups. Pens have 33 games left -- still have to set sights on division title, unlikely as it may be.

  7. Artistry just weighed in about my comment:

    "Agree with your comment, but just because he's not a prospect anymore doesn't mean he can't improve and play a more prominent role with another team. Good comparable might be Andrew Ference, who seemed to max out with us and went on to be a regular with the B's."

    Such commitment by Artistry.

    I think that the one key difference is that when Ference was on the Pens, it always seemed like there was some untapped potential there, that if he harnessed, he could be a serviceable guy (as he's turned out to be). With Lovejoy, there is nothing about him that stands out that would make you think there is a ton of room for him to grow.

    That's not to say that it can't or won't happen, just that it doesn't have to happen here. The Pens' top-4 guys are locked up, Engelland and Niskanen are at least Lovejoy's equal, and the pipeline is loaded with young, inexpensive defensemen. Lovejoy is a luxury that we can afford to lose.

  8. Great work with this blog so far, guys. Really enjoy reading your Pens insight.

    I'd like to echo your concern about Fleury. He's been the unsung key to the Penguins' success all year long. But with 42 games played (42!) and 21 straight starts, what do you guys see as the path forward to keeping him fresh for the playoffs given that Shero and Bylsma don't seem to trust Johnson? I would be worried if Fleury has 70-73 GP when April rolls around.

  9. Obviously on any given night, Fleury gives you the best chance to win. But at some point you just have to say, F-that and ride with BJ. Pens have a home-and-home with Toronto next Tuesday and Wednesday and then the Bruins on Saturday. BJ should start the Wednesday game, without question. If the Pens ride with Flower for all 3 games, that's an enormous red flag.

  10. If they stop using Johnson, I think you gotta give thiessen a chance at some point. He's earned it

  11. Back up goalies are seemingly dime-a-dozen through free agency/trade/waivers. If they really don't trust Johnson (or Thiessen for that matter) it's time to make a change. I love Johnny as much as the next guy, but riding Fleury like this is worrisome.