Penguin Playoff Notes: Fleury, Letang, Bob Errey on James Neal

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Wanna get away?

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury looking up at the scoreboard to see how much time remains after the Columbus Blue Jackets break though with a Game 6 goal.

Penguins fans can laugh now that Round 1 is in the books. The Flower didn’t wilt.

In regards to Fleury, there does seem to be a disconnect between some national writers and those which follow the Penguins more closely.

A good number of respected writers outside of Pittsburgh have little faith in the Flower. That’s understandable, he’s collapsed in the postseason time and time again. Once a person gets a narrative cemented in his or her mind, it’s difficult to change. Maybe there’s no investment level there, no reason to believe. Just a cold, hard reality that Fleury has shrunk before in big moments. It’s true, but what really stands out to me is how Fleury responded to a potential late-game Game 6 collapse.

After Artem Anisimov’s wrister from above the left circle beat Fleury to close the game to 4-2 with 6:06 remaining in regulation, the puck dropped at center ice.

Sidney Crosby won the draw but nobody was home for the Pens.

Right winger, Lee Stempniak, left his man, Matt Calvert. Stempniak went forward while the puck dribbled back into Pittsburgh’s zone. Calvert jumped on it, ahead of Kris Letang on right defense, and it was off to the races.

Calvert came in on Fleury for what amounted to a clean breakaway.

Fleury caught Calvert’s wrister in the mid-section, then used his glove to snap the puck out of the air.

A Columbus goal there makes it 4-3 with nearly six minutes remaining in regulation. The Flower stood strong, however, and at that point it seemed clear that if the Penguins were to blow a lead, it wouldn’t be because of their goalie.

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Marc-Andre Fleury’s Playoff Numbers

— 4-2, 2.81 goals-against average, .908 save percentage, per Yahoo!.

— Three penalties drawn, none take, Extra Skater. Best in league among playoff goalies.

— 94.8 save percentage, 5-on-5 play, per Extra Skater.

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Pens coach, Dan Bylsma, spoke Wednesday.

“I think that’s a price and a desperation level, I thought Game 5 and 6 were our best in that regard the best all year long. We were very good in Game 6 in the first period in Columbus. We had 15 shots to their four, that was as desperate as we played defense all year long … we saw Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi, Tanner Glass, James Neal all blocking shots in the first period. We found that in our game and that’s where we need to be at.”

Regarding the play of defenseman, Kris Letang, here’s what Bylsma had to say.

“His best games were 5 and 6 without a question. It did coincide with him getting paired with Paul Martin. Getting in that pair, being a shutdown pair with Paul, I think elevated his game. He’s a little bit different than Paul, there’s a little more dynamic flair to his game, his jersey and his hair seem to fly a little bit more when he’s skating up the ice with the puck. It’s a little bit more dynamic, but I think it all roots from how well he can play defense and him defending. He was every bit of that in Game’s 5 and 6 for us.”

Regarding goalie Marc-Andre Fleury:

“A number of responses from our team and from Marc. Hasn’t been a day that’s gone by when I haven’t got a question about it from this room … He had to respond with four or five great saves. At the end of the series, it’s not about how many saves, he responded in a big way for our team.”

Dan Bylsma:

Sidney Crosby:

Brandon Sutter:

Joe Vitale:

Paul Martin:

Marc-Andre Fleury:

(Courtesy, Pittsburgh Penguins)

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Columbus’s fans “The Fifth Line” almost reminded me of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ black-out crowd at last season’s wild-card game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Blue Jackets have never won a playoff series since coming into the NHL in 2000, while the Pirates hadn’t won a playoff game since 1992.

I’m not so sure about CBJ’s fans white-out when the Penguins wore white sweaters on-ice, but the Blue Jackets aren’t used to being in the postseason, let alone color-coordinating their shirts.

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ROOT announcer, Bob Errey, goes off on James Neal after the winger vacates his spot on defense which results in a third Columbus score in Game 6.

“That’s Neal clearing it up the wall. That’s James Neal’s wing, James Neal cleared it to his point. He’s not there. And the re-direct comes in. James Neal should be out there, he’s the man.”

**

A Google search looking for NHL predictions revealed a lack of overall belief in the Pittsburgh Penguins (Click here. Not one of the SB Nation bloggers has the Pens going past Round 2 and about half had Pittsburgh losing against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1.

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Is Kris Letang’s fatigue a good thing?

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“It’s different,” said Letang, who played in his ninth game Monday after returning from the stroke April 9.

I haven’t had a chance to play that much. Sometimes if I’m out for a few extended shifts, I get a little more tired than I used to.”

The Penguins have been careful with Letang’s ice time during the playoffs.

He averaged 24 minutes and 14 seconds during the regular season. However, his ice time has been cut to 22:30 per game against the Blue Jackets despite overtime games.

Letang provided a performance in Game 5 on Saturday night that the coaching staff would prefer to see duplicated. Improved conditioning should only help.

“It comes with time,” Letang said. “I am starting to feel better each game.”

He doesn’t have the energy to freelance the way he did before suffering a stroke. That means that rather than carrying the puck up ice, trying to make an impossible, high-risk play, sometimes he dumps it.

Nothing wrong with that and it’s actually preferable in many instances.

As a fellow stroke survivor, it’s simply a joy to see Letang back out on the ice little more than three months after a life-altering event.

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Links ‘n At

Penguins backups, scratches are staying prepared, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Pens’ center Crosby named Hart Trophy finalist, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Penguins’ efficient 5-on-5 play leading to postseason success, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

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Treasure Life!
JT
@JohnToperzer
@PiratesTalk

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