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Are the Penguins Jelling at the Right Time? – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Are the Penguins Jelling at the Right Time?

Maybe it’s too early to ponder that question. There are a lot more games to be won before the Penguins can dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup.

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Yet there are reasons to believe. Remember Game 3, when the Pens were reeling from an overtime loss and Columbus had them in an early hole? Instead of folding like a cheap suit, our boys stung the Blue Jackets with a third-period rally. Same thing following Marc-Andre Fleury’s Game 4 gaffe. The Pens rebounded to play arguably their best hockey in weeks.

Resilience, poise under fire, and mental toughness. All are hallmarks of a champion. The Penguins displayed each of these qualities during the opening round of the playoffs.

As veteran leader Rob Scuderi suggested, “This team’s personality is starting to show.”

Granted, the Pens squared off against Columbus, not Philadelphia or Boston. But the hungry young Blue Jackets came at the Penguins hard and provided a stern test. The black and gold passed with (mostly) flying colors.

Secondary scoring was supposed to be a problem. Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter tallied three goals apiece. Craig Adams, Beau Bennett, Brian Gibbons, and Lee Stempniak chipped in as well. Even without consistent production from their stars, the Pens averaged nearly four goals a game.

A lack of size and toughness was another concern. While the Blue Jackets out-hit the Pens by a whopping margin (306-180), the black and gold never backed down. Their net-front presence improved at both ends of the ice as the series progressed. And they did a good job of avoiding post-whistle scrums and retaliatory penalties.

What about defense and goaltending? Paul Martin (8 assists, plus-7) was terrific. So was Matt Niskanen (2 goals, 8 points). Brooks Orpik (plus-5) played inspired hockey before he was knocked out with an injury. And what can you say about Fleury? Aside from the costly Game 4 bobble he was cool and consistent.

There are positive signs from behind the bench, too. In his sixth postseason as head coach Dan Bylsma appears to be evolving. He sifted through a boatload of role players to find the most effective bunch. When the Pens didn’t play up to expectations he called them out and made them accountable. Contrary to his “one-plan Dan” reputation, he switched to a more defensive posture when the occasion called for it. He used timeouts prudently and effectively. Bylsma even made a concerted effort to keep Sidney Crosby away from rugged Brandon Dubinsky.

This isn’t to suggest that the team doesn’t have issues. The Penguins must do a better job of playing with a lead. Likewise, they need to avoid overly fancy play and stick to a simple north-south game. The penalty-killing must improve. And the big guns have to produce.

The Pens have a brand-new series to work out the kinks.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
 
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

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6 Comments

  1. 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
    April 30, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Good stuff, Rick. I did see some moments of “jelliedness” in round one, which took me back to the team we were watching before February. It was good but I’m not sure it’s enough. They tried to lose game 6, but caught a break and ran out of time. If Columbus had started their push a few minutes sooner we might be watching game seven tonight. I can’t see them getting away with that against the Flyers, and probably not the Rangers, either.

    I suppose I’m pulling for the Rangers if only because their offense can leave the building quicker than Elvis, but I think the Flyers are intent on playing the Pens in the next round. Who could blame them? In that case, my hope dwindles to very long odds. Perhaps some one can quickly invent glasses for Fluery that magically make the opposing team look like the Capitals.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 30, 2014 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      Hey 55 on Point. Always enjoy hearing from you.

      Without trying to sound too mystical, I just got a vibe or feeling from watching them, especially during the last couple of games. For lack of a better way to describe it, it’s like the Pens are gaining some new-found confidence and discovering (or rediscovering) that they can be a pretty darn good team.

      Like you, I’m concerned about the Rangers. If we had played Philly, my fear was that we would’ve been too emotional (and careless). Plus, the Flyers’ strengths line up so well with our weaknesses.

      Against the Rangers, the opposite is true. I’m afraid they’ll put us to sleep with low-scoring hockey. Although we’ve had some success against Henrik Lundqvist, he’s been tough on us at times, too.

      Anyway, it should be interesting. Oh, I like your idea about the Caps-vision glasses for Fleury. Maybe we can get Rick Nash to wear an Ovechkin jersey. After all, Ovy’s not using it … :)

  2. RiniJG's Gravatar RiniJG
    April 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Can we hope? I agree. From the middle of game 5 and all of game 6, they seemed like a different team. Only time will tell. LETS GO PENS!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 30, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      Hey RiniJG,

      You saw the same things I did. And let’s not forget Game 3. After a rocky start, I thought they played a heck of a game.

      You’re right…only time will tell.

  3. April 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I love the Pens, but they are too inconsistent to make it all the way…even thru the second round.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 30, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      I hear ya, Sue Ann.

      There certainly is lots of room for improvement in the Pens’ overall game. And the Rangers, with their disciplined style of play, have the ability to frustrate us in ways the Flyers could only dream of.

      Still, I see signs that the Pens are finding themselves. I’m reminded that our first two Cup champions back in the ’90s barely made it out of the first round before catching fire.

      We can always hope … :)


            

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