Monday, April 30, 2012
If ever there was a draft that highlighted Steelers' GM Kevin Colbert's selection strategy, it was this one. The Pittsburgh Steelers, as they have over the last two decades, chose the most talented player over a player that would fit a larger need. To an extent, the Steelers were able to do both in the 2012 NFL draft, selecting the most talented guard and one of the most talented tackles. However, while the offensive line has potential to go from worst to first, the defense continues to age.
David Decastro was a great pick. With the Steelers waiting for 23 other teams to make their first selection, Decastro was more of a dream pick. Luckily, some teams reached for players out of the projected path. The Chiefs took NT Dontari Poe with the 11th pick -a prospect on the Steelers' board- and the Seahawks took Bruce Irvin, a pass rushing linebacker with so much baggage, Southwest Airlines would charge extra.
The Steelers took Decastro and pundits everywhere exclaimed this was the perfect pick for the perfect team. Descastro can do it all as a guard. He can pass block, he is a monster at pulling, drawing comparisons to Alan Faneca, and he's a great character individual with a fiery competitive spirit.
With a potential future All-Pro guard selected, the Steelers took Mike Adams in the second round. At 6'7 325 pounds, Adams has the talent to be an excellent left tackle. His stock dropped tremendously after testing positive for marijuana during the combine. Assuming Adams has his priorities in order, the Steelers expect to have a revamped offensive line that can finally protect its 100 million dollar quarterback.
But there is a problem with this draft class.
The Steelers barely filled any holes on defense. Sure, they drafted Ta'amu Alameda in the fourth round as a possible replacement to Casey Hampton but, with the league becoming more pass-oreinted, the nose tackle is seeing more time on the sidelines.
With their third round pick, the Steelers took inside linebacker Sean Spence. However, Spence is undersized (5'11 231 pounds) for a run stuffing linebacker and the Steelers already have a playmaker at that position in Lawrence Timmons. Plus, with the steep learning curve under Dick Lebeau's defense, Stevenson Sylvester is already way ahead of Sean Spence to replace Larry Foote. In the end, the Steelers used their third round pick to draft another linebacker.
By all calculations, Pittsburgh did improve their roster with some talented draft picks. But I am still skeptical this draft class is going to improve the team enough to make them Super Bowl contenders for the next years. The Steelers will have better protection for Ben Roethlisberger and they will probably have a better rushing offense creating a more balanced attack.
But if you hear footsteps, it's Ray Rice. He's running, and he's going to be running all over Pittsburgh until the defense has the talent to stop him. While one of the NFL's youngest offenses got younger, the defense is still going to be one year older and one year slower. With no picks being used on replacing Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu, the Steelers will have to wait another year to improve their defense.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
It still amazes me how quickly this season went for the Pittsburgh Penguins; seems only yesterday they were opening up against the Vancouver Canucks to start their western road trip. From there, the team got out to an 8-3-2 start, good enough for first in the Eastern Conference.
Then injuries showed their ugly head, again, as it seemed impossible for the Penguins to have more than three healthy defensemen at a time. Sidney Crosby returned from an 11 month absence and tallied four points against the New York Islanders. But his concussion -or broken neck- symptoms returned and he was shelved for another three months.
Crosby's second departure created a six game losing streak, in which the team was soon bombarded with questions on why they couldn't win. But the play of Evgeni Malkin appeared to lead the team out of their hole and the Penguins recovered in a big way to win 11 straight before losing to Philadelphia in overtime.
The loss proved to be a bigger deal than most thought.
The Penguins went 9-8-1 in their final 17 games and lost in the first round to the Philadelphia Flyers in stunning fashion. While this most recent playoff defeat may go down as the biggest disappointment in franchise history, the organization certainly has a lot more on their plate than they thought.
Here is what we learned about the Pittsburgh Penguins in lieu of the 2011-2012 season:
This is not a Stanley Cup team
Say what you want about the matchup -the Flyers have been dominant over the Penguins in the last two years with a record of 12-5-1- however, the way in which this team lost has been a characteristic all season, overshadowed by their high offensive skill. The Boston Bruins went 2-2 against the Penguins with both their losses involving miraculous breakaway saves by Marc-Andre Fleury (twice on David Krejci) and Brent Johnson (twice on Tyler Seguin). The same could be said in Pittsburgh's 8-1 win over Tampa Bay on February 25th. Marc-Andre Fleury stoned Martin St. Louis multiple times in the first period, allowing the Penguins to get up 3-0 at the end of the first. The matchup against the Flyers was bad but had they not played Philadelphia, another team would have exploited their weaknesses in the defensive zone.
Bylsma's system showed flaws
"Get to our game." The biggest quote of any hockey player on the Penguins (and really everywhere). If the Penguins get to their game, it means they are constantly putting pressure in the offensive zone. With a healthy Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Jordan Staal, and Kris Letang, this team is certainly capable of eating up time with the puck. Blysma's aggressive system led to the highest goal total in the regular season by any team. What his system failed to do, however, was account for the other team when they had the puck. Team defense was incredibly poor. Forwards failed to back check which led to odd-man rushes off of turnovers in the offensive end. Making matters worse, the defensemen were bad at getting the puck out of their own zone leading to goals and they were equally as bad at protecting the stretch pass in the neutral zone. Since the Penguins won't be playing hockey for another five months, Dan Bylsma should have plenty of time to clean up the X's and O's. His job relies on his ability to make adjustments to his system. This franchise, led by Mario Lemieux, will not stand for another embarrassing first round exit in 2013.
Not the most talented team in the division
The Penguins boast a young, talented core. On their roster, they have three centers unmatched in talent by any team in the league; two of which combine for three Art Ross Trophies, a gold medal, a Conn Smythe, and a Stanley Cup. With talented young defensemen such as Kris Letang, a 40 goal scorer in James Neal, and a Stanley Cup goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, it is easy to see why this team was picked to win the Cup this season. But the Flyers proved that they are the younger, more talented team. Six rookies including 19 year old Sean Couturier, started for Philadelphia. Couturier was monumental in shutting down Evgeni Malkin in the series. Brayden Schenn proved to be an agitator with grit and skill, scoring the game-tying goal in game one. No single player is more talented than Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, but as a team, the Flyers have enough to compete for years to come. Add into the mix that the Penguins may lose Jordan Staal within the next year due to free agency or trade, and the Penguins certainly have some catching up to do.
Penguins need a quarterback on the power play
Let's face it, this team needs someone on the blue line to direct the power play. That player could be Kris Letang, but in the two seasons since Sergei Gonchar's departure, Letang has shown an inability to run the power play by himself. He is a talented defenseman, loaded with offensive talent, but his erratic play with the puck and inability to bring the puck up ice has been a thorn in the side of the Penguins on the man advantage. The fact that Steve Sullivan had to play the point in the playoffs is a true testament to how much Letang has to improve.
Simon Despres is ready
Like everyone else in this city, I believe it is time to move on from Paul Martin. If the Penguins can find a team desperately trying to spend to the cap floor, maybe they can orchestrate a trade for a mid-low round pick. Otherwise, Martin should be sent to the minor ala Wade Redden. Simon Despres filled in for Martin after game 3 and looked stable despite playing in his first NHL playoff game. Despres is a big defenseman, listed at 6'4 220. He doesn't hit for his size but he is exceptionally skilled at getting the puck out of his own end, something every player struggled with in black and gold. With defenseman, Joe Morrow, right behind Despres, the Penguins would be wise to take a page out of Philadelphia's book and give these youngsters a chance. If they prove to be the better defensemen on the ice, then they need to play, regardless of age.
The Penguins enter the most interesting offseason in their post-lockout history. With questions surrounding the defense, coaching, power play, and Jordan Staal, Pens' GM Ray Shero has a lot on his plate. Shero already expressed full faith in the coaching staff on Tuesday's press conference, so now the attention turns to the players. Who stays and who goes? Do the Penguins mistakenly stand pat on what is surely a team with a few holes? We'll have to wait and see.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
If there has been one constant throughout this entire series between the Penguins and Flyers, it's that Penguins' penalties are consistently leading to Flyers' goals.
Through the first five games, the Flyers are 11 for 20 on the power play which includes three separate 5 on 3 advantages. To make matters worse, the penalties Pittsburgh is taking are mostly retaliatory.
In game five, the Pens took five penalties which led to two goals. Deryk Engelland was called for roughing after finishing his check on Daniel Briere who was already falling down. That penalty may have been the only excusable one for the Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin took two penalties selfish penalties while chasing after Sean Couturier instead of focusing on scoring. Malkin's first penalty led to a power play goal for Philadelphia after Craig Adams was called for slashing Jaromir Jagr's stick in half, putting the Flyers on a 5 on 3 power play. On Sunday, the focus cannot lapse for a second. A 5 on 3 power play for Philadelphia could kill Pittsburgh's season in a heartbeat.
Lastly, Tyler Kennedy's retaliatory slash on Scott Hartnell led to a late-game power play with the Flyers down 3-2. Whether the slash was in response to Hartnell's hit or something earlier in the game, Kennedy needs to be a little smarter by knowing the situation.
They all do.
Chris Kunitz's penalties on the power play have killed Pittsburgh's momentum throughout the series. While the Flyers look like they've taken a semester on how to properly fall at the slightest of contact, the Penguins need to adjust before heading into one of the toughest games all year.
This is not to say the penalty kill gets a free pass for their awful performance in the first five games. The centering passes in front of the net from the goal line need to be thwarted and the unit needs to do a better job of blocking shots. That said, it would be better if the Penguins could just stay out of the box, altogether.
This is a great team even strength, one that is outscoring the Flyers 17-10 this series while not allowing an even strength goal since game three. If the Penguins have any hope of bringing this series back to Pittsburgh for a game seven, they will have to stay out of the box. If the Penguins retaliate to Philadelphia's antics, they'll only be playing into their opponent's hands.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Letang's physical talent is undeniable. He is one of the fastest skaters in the league, seemingly never trapped when the play is going the other way. He also possesses a decent shot, smooth stick handling moves, and, at times, unbelievable vision. His physicality makes him a lot tougher to play against in comparison to Coffey. In fact, there have also been comparisons made between Letang and a smaller version Chris Pronger.
But lately, especially on the biggest stage, Letang has shown more semblance to "Nuke" Laloosh, the superstar pitcher played by Tim Robbins in the 1988 classic, Bull Durham. Letang's talent is sometimes wasted by his immaturity; or, as Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) puts it, "Million dollar arm, ten cent head."
Nothing was more evident of Letang's immaturity and lack of composure than his brief performance in game 3 of the Eastern quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday. After telling reporters that the Penguins would play a more defensively focused game, Letang completely went against his own words 20 seconds into the game.
After the Penguins recover from an immediate Paul Martin turnover, the puck gets dumped into the Flyers' zone. While Pittsburgh is in the process of trying to recover the puck and set up a cycle, Letang pinches between the face-off circles in front of Ilya Bryzgalov, leaving Martin to fend for himself on the blue line.
That's being more defensive?
It gets better. After Matt Niskanen takes a cross checking penalty to put the Flyers on the power play, Letang cross checks Sean Couturier to give the Flyers a 5 on 3 advantage. Less than a minute later, Daniel Briere scores to put the Flyers up by two.
Rather than cooling down and realizing that the only way to effectively defeat a team is to outscore them, Letang ends up fighting Kimmo Timmonen just four minutes after Briere's goal. He pounds the snot out of Timmonen but, in the process, gets ejected from the game and then proceeds to shush the crowd as Max Talbot did three years ago. Within 12 minutes of the game, Letang has committed a penalty that directly resulted in a goal, a fighting major, game misconduct and subsequent ejection.
You want to shush the crowd? Try making a play. Instead of using your stick to slash and hack players, try using it to take away a passing lane.
This is not the behavior of a Paul Coffey, Nick Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara or even Chris Pronger caliber player. Talent-wise, he has the potential to reach that level. But the lack of composure and discipline, especially against a team that is pushing you to the brink of elimination, is inexcusable. The talk of Letang being a Norris candidate should be placed on hold until he shows the maturity to manage that kind of situation.
The defensive zone coverage and decision making abilities on the breakout are both areas of needed improvement and Letang has shown a steady growth in both areas since coming up with the club in 2007. The turnovers are still evident and, at times, he appears to lose complete focus in his own zone. However, those issues should resolve themselves with experience. The maturity level needs to be fixed immediately. The Penguins cannot afford to have Letang take stupid selfish penalties when he is depended on as the biggest scoring threat on the blue line, by far.
Monday, April 9, 2012
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers will meet for the sixth time in playoff history with the Flyers defeating the Penguins in 1989, 1997 and 2000, and the Penguins returning the favor in 2008 and 2009. With five series already in the books, there are plenty of memories that give this rivalry true character and setup a great series for 2012. Before breaking down this playoff series, let's take a look at the playoff history between these two bitter rivals:
- The Penguins were fresh off a 4-0 sweep of the New York Rangers in the Patrick Division Semifinals. It was their first playoff appearance since 1982 and their first series win since 1979.
- In game 1, the Penguins erased a 3-1 deficit to come back and defeat the Flyers 4-3 on a game-winning goal by Rob Brown.
- In game 2, the Penguins took a 1-0 lead but the Flyers, led by a Tim Kerr hat trick, roared back to defeat the Penguins 4-2.
- Playing at the Spectrum for games 3 and 4, Phil Bourque scored in overtime to give the Penguins a 2-1 series lead but the Flyers tied the series thanks to a two goal effort by Tim Kerr in game 4.
- Game 5 was unquestionably the most memorable. Mario Lemieux, coming back from a neck injury he sustained in game 4, scored a hat trick en route to a 6-1 Penguins lead after the first period. In the second period, Rob Brown scored and Flyers' goaltender, Ron Hextall, chased after him. Flyers' coach Paul Holmgren pulled his net minder and Philadelphia suddenly drew within two goals. However, Mario Lemieux capped off one of the most amazing performances in playoff history, totaling five goals and eight points in the game.
- The Flyers tied the series in Philadelphia with a 6-2 win in game 6.
- Ken Wregget, filling in for an injured Ron Hextall, stopped 39 of 40 shots to advance the Flyers into the next round after defeating the Penguins 4-1 in game 7.
- Led by the "Legion of Doom" line (Eric Lindros, John Leclair and Mikael Renberg) the Flyers dominated the series, 4-1. John Leclair had game-winning goals in games 1, 3 and 5.
- The lone Penguins' win came from two short-handed goals from Eddie Olczyk and Petr Nedved. The most memorable moment for Pittsburgh fans, however, came late in the game from number 66. Mario Lemieux, playing in his last game before his first retirement, took a pass off the boards, skated in on goaltender Garth Snow, and scored five-hole. The arena exploded in cheers from the hometown fans, as Mario raised his arms in the air.
- The Penguins got out to a 2-1 lead in game 5, but the Flyers came back and coasted to a 6-3 victory.
- The Flyers would go on to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in four games in the Stanley Cup Finals.
- After a 4-1 series win over the Washington Capitals in the first round, the Penguins got out to a 2-0 series lead against Philadelphia.
- Ron Tugnutt surrendered just one goal in the first two games of the series which were in Philadelphia.
- A four against four brawl late in game 2 seemed to set the tone for the rest of the series.
- The Flyers won game 3 on an overtime goal from Andy Delmore.
- Keith Primeau tied the series with a heartbreaking goal in the fifth overtime.
- Daymond Langkow scored 23 seconds into game 5 to give the Flyers the lead. Andy Delmore recorded a hat trick and Mark Recchi registered five points to defeat the Penguins 6-3. Late in the game, Penguins' defenseman Bob Boughner leveled Keith Primeau who needed to be carted off the ice.
- Mark Recchi and John Leclair scored for the Flyers in game 6, to preserve another series victory for Philadelphia.
- The Flyers accused the Penguins for being scared to face them in the first round of the playoffs, after a lackluster performance late in the regular season.
- After the Flyers got out to a 2-1 lead in game 1 at Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh stormed back with a goal from Sidney Crosby and two goals from Evgeni Malkin. Malkin was crushed by Mike Richards and had a tough time getting back to his own end to play defense. Just as he got over the attacking blue line, the Penguins got control of the puck and outlet a pass to the young Russian who blew a slapshot past Marty Biron.
- With the score tied at 2 in game 2, legendary forward Gary Roberts fed a nifty backhand pass to Max Talbot who beat Biron in front. Talbot's goal at 8:51 into the third period would stand up as the game winner.
- Marian Hossa scored two goals in game 3, including the game winning goal, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 17 of 18 shots to give the Penguins a 3-0 series advantage.
- The Flyers, led by two goals from Joffrey Lupul, beat the Penguins 4-2 in game 4.
- Pittsburgh dominated the Flyers in game 6, winning 6-0 and clinching their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1992. Ryan Malone scored twice, Hossa, Crosby, Dupuis and Malkin added a goal each.
- The Penguins, of course, would go on to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in six games.
- The Penguins and Flyers met again, this time in the first round of the playoffs.
- Pittsburgh controlled game 1, defeating the Flyers 4-1. Sidney Crosby scored a power play goal 4:41 into the game, and the Penguins tallied three more goals before Simon Gagne ended Fleury's quest for a shutout.
- Game 2 was a much tighter game. Scott Hartnell deflected a slapshot from Matt Carle to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. The Penguins tied the game on a goal from Bill Guerin 14 minutes into the second period. After a goal by Darroll Powe early in the third period gave the Flyers the lead, Jeff Carter had a chance to put the game out of reach. With a wide open cage, Carter attempted to slam the puck in, however, Marc-Andre Fleury extended his right skate out to make a brilliant toe save. The Penguins tied the score on a goal off the leg of Evgeni Malkin, then won the game in overtime with Bill Guerin's second goal of the game.
- The Flyers took game 3 at the Wachovia Center, with a 6-3 win. The game ended with 58 penalty minutes between the two teams.
- Marc-Andre Fleury simply stole game 4 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After allowing 5 goals on 29 shots in game 3, Fleury 45 of 46 shots in game 4 to give Pittsburgh a 3-1 series edge.
- The Flyers took game 5 backed by a great performance by Biron. Arron Asham, Claude Giroux and Mike Knuble each tallied a goal to send the series back to Philadelphia for game 6.
- After the Flyers stormed out to a 3-0 lead in game 6, Max Talbot challenged Daniel Carcillo to a fight. Carcillo obliged and seemed to pummel Talbot, further fueling the Philadelphia crowd. As Max Talbot went to the penalty box, he shushed the crowd. Just seconds later, Ruslan Fedotenko jammed in a loose puck to cut the Flyers lead to 3-1. Mark Eaton and Sidney Crosby each batted a puck out of the air to tie the game at three. Sergei Gonchar's slapshot from the point gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 lead 2:19 into the third period, and Sidney Crosby added an empty net goal to seal the deal.
- The Penguins would go on to win their third Stanley Cup.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Be honest, the night before the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates opened their season against the Chicago Cubs, you predicted another 90-100 loss season where the Pirates would be 20 games out of first by mid-June.
It's OK, I did the same thing.
While the Pirates did eventually lose 90 games last season, they were in first place as late as mid-July, something completely unpredictable. Thanks to excellent pitching from Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton, the Pirates were riding high for over half the season.
Then the pitching collapsed and so did the team, falling out of first place faster than an average major league fastball. As the team began to free fall, the hope began to die down and the talk of Steelers training camp started to overtake the conversations of average Pittsburghers.
What about this year?
I have no single prediction, to be honest. My mind is split on how the Pirates will perform this year which is new from year's past where the prediction was pretty simple: "this team is going to be bad." May I present you with optimistic Jon and pessimistic Jon:
The pitching fell apart last season because Charlie Morton, James McDonald, and Jeff Karstens wore down. They were not used to throwing that many innings. Karstens was a career long-reliever who was thrusted into the rotation after an injury to Ross Ohlendorf. Now, with those three pitchers coming back in better condition, along with the acquisitions of AJ Burnett and Erik Bedard, the rotation has a chance to lead the way again!
And don't forget about Andrew McCutchen, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker. After signing a long term deal, McCutchen is ready to take a bigger step towards being a superstar. Tabata can be a solid fringe-.300 hitter, Alex Presley is a great on-base guy, and Neil Walker hits well with runners on base. The team will get more production at shortstop and catcher with the additions of Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas.
Also, the Pirates are now playing in an NL Central division with Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. That, alone, should make it a little easier for them to win games within the division.
The pitching fell apart last season mainly because the pitchers finally came back to earth. Jeff Karstens was nothing more than a 5.00+ ERA pitcher who was more lucky than good. He gave up 23 home runs of which 21 were solo shots. Karstens also had a high strand rate, especially in June when he kept 97% of the base runners from scoring. Morton showed signs of improvement but he still hasn't been able to get left handed hitters out, AJ Burnett has been terrible the last two seasons, and Erik Bedard can't stay healthy.
While Andrew McCutchen is a budding superstar, the lack of power in this lineup (thanks Alvarez) will force pitchers to pitch around him to get to Neil Walker who struck out 112 times last season. Jose Tabata cannot stay healthy, Alex Presley has zero power and is still a question mark now that teams have scouting reports on him, and the bottom half of the lineup is a joke.
The division is not quite as competitive with Pujols and Fielder leaving, but the Pirates still not as good as the Cardinals or Brewers. The Cardinals still have Matt Holliday, David Freese, Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran in their lineup. The Brewers still have Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke on their team.
This team is completely unpredictable this season. Fans have no idea who the real Pittsburgh Pirates are which makes this season a lot more fun heading in. By July will it be as fun as last year? It is impossible to say. There have been so many changes both inside and outside the organization. If I had to narrow it down to one idea it is this: the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates upgraded their staff with Burnett and Bedard, however McDonald, Karstens and Morton will regress slightly from last season. The offense is solely based on how well Pedro Alvarez hits, and the departures of All-Star players within the division just gives Pittsburgh a better chance at winning in Milwaukee.
Final Prediction: 74-88
Monday, April 2, 2012
While the hockey world is still trying to digest the aftermath of yesterday's brawl between the Penguins and Flyers -the statisticians might still be in Consol Energy Center trying to decipher the penalties- here's an alarming number from the Penguins: 29.
No, I'm not talking about Marc-Andre Fleury's jersey number. I am talking about the number of goals given up by the Pittsburgh Penguins over the last six games. In a span of two weeks, the Penguins went from 7th in the league in goals allowed, to 14th.
The reason? Not Marc-Andre Fleury. Despite the perception that Fleury has played in a ton of games this season, in actuality he has only played in three more games than he did in the 08-09 Cup run. While the Penguins have played games in bunches this season, Fleury has played in just 21 of the last 30 games which should technically give him a lot more rest than when he started in 21 of the last 23 regular season games in 08-09.
No, Fleury is not tired and he is not the reason why Pittsburgh has given up just under five goals a game in their last half-dozen contests. Has he been sharp? Not lately. His two performances against the Islanders were certainly less than stellar. At the same time, he's been hung out to dry countless times by the players in front of him.
Both the forwards and defensemen have been terrible in their own zone and it has been a problem all season. When there were issues early in the season, everyone shrugged, suggesting that the multitude of injuries -especially on defense- had disrupted the chemistry of the blue line. During the six game losing streak, the team was so devoid of goals, no one noticed the five spot put up by the Ottawa Senators.
And now, with the Penguins completely healthy for the first time in nearly two seasons, they've seemingly abandoned their post, leaving Marc-Andre Fleury on an island.
Just look at the goals Philadelphia scored on Sunday:
1) Turnover by Jordan Staal leads to a goal from Claude Giroux.
2) Zac Rinaldo shoots wide, tipped in by Maxime Talbot with no one around him.
3) Wayne Simmonds -standing completely alone in front of Fleury- slams the puck in on a cross-ice pass from Voracek.
4) Voracek blows past the defense and scores on a breakaway
5) Bad luck deflection.
6) Empty net.
Four of the six goals came off of a turnover or an excellent scoring chance; chances so good, it would take a ridiculous, over the top, highlight reel saves to keep the puck out of the net. Fleury has been doing that for much of this season but in the playoffs, he's going to need more help.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have scored more goals than any team in the league this year. But, in the process, the defense has been getting trapped in the attacking zone and the forwards have been playing like the defending side of the ice doesn't even exist. That's why they are losing despite putting up 40 shots per game.
The question is, after Sunday's game, did the Penguins finally get the message? It is hard to say. Everyone thought the "wake up call" was supposed to come after they lost back to back games to the lowly New York Islanders. But after a strong game in Buffalo, the Penguins went right back to their wild, undisciplined ways and the Flyers made them pay.
The silver lining may be that the Penguins are "saving" themselves for the playoffs. It sounds like a poor excuse but when you look at the 08-09 Red Wings, it may not be completely off-base. After all, Detroit was ranked 21st in goals allowed heading into the 08-09 playoffs and lost their final two games of the regular season to the rival Blackhawks.
Regardless, the Pittsburgh Penguins have the final three games to tighten up their play before they face one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference; a team they are 1-3-1 against this season. If the Penguins' recent play carries over to the first round of the playoffs, you may see the ticker tape parade heading down Broad Street instead of Stanwix Street in June.