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Old 03-25-2007, 04:53 PM   #1541
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Well, I have nothing to say, except I swear that all I was doing was showing concern over the team's scoring problems. It was nice to see/hear the team finally break out of their slump in a big way, and I hope it continues!
Hey - we all have different ways of viewing a win - doesn't make any of us right or wrong - just a difference of opinion. If we were deemed experts, we'd be making the big bucks coaching an NHL team instead of sitting behind a computer screen. All teams hit scoring slumps, no matter what sport. Right now as we wind down the regular season, though, and are jockeying for position, I'm happy with the wins. I have no doubt Therrien and crew will have them ready for the playoffs and they'll continue to wow us as well as the naysayers.
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Old 03-25-2007, 05:06 PM   #1542
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It's amazing what a team can do when they put forth the full effort. Thankfully Therrien is not making excuses for this team or we woudln't even be talking about the playoffs.

Nice win today.
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Old 03-25-2007, 05:42 PM   #1543
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It's amazing what a team can do when they put forth the full effort. Thankfully Therrien is not making excuses for this team or we woudln't even be talking about the playoffs.

Nice win today.
That's something that has held us back previously with excuses. Therrien has not made excuses for this team, and they're doing well.
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Old 03-25-2007, 08:25 PM   #1544
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Hey - we all have different ways of viewing a win - doesn't make any of us right or wrong - just a difference of opinion. If we were deemed experts, we'd be making the big bucks coaching an NHL team instead of sitting behind a computer screen. All teams hit scoring slumps, no matter what sport. Right now as we wind down the regular season, though, and are jockeying for position, I'm happy with the wins. I have no doubt Therrien and crew will have them ready for the playoffs and they'll continue to wow us as well as the naysayers.
Don't get me wrong, I am happy with wins however we can get them, especially at this time of year when the team's trying to nail down a playoff spot as well as gain home ice advantage. I just thought it was an inopportune time for them to hit a goal scoring slump, but after today's game (which I just watched the recording of), I can see their confidence coming back to them. Playing Washington on Tuesday shouldn't hurt that either with their sieve-like defense. And I have no worries whatsoever about Therrien having them ready to play in the playoffs. They will be ready, and they will be a very difficult team to beat.
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Old 03-26-2007, 12:02 AM   #1545
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Penguins blow past Bruins in 5-0 shutout
Penguins take advantage of a rare easy game in late March for a victory that pushes the team into a first-place tie in the division


Monday, March 26, 2007
By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Penguins have been learning what hockey at this time of year is all about.

What it's like to fight for every square centimeter of open ice. To compete for loose pucks like an angry badger. To work so hard along the boards that the ads rub off on your uniform.

That's standard-issue stuff in late March.

Occasionally, though, there is a game in which the outcome does not teeter on every shift. When the stress level is considerably lower than usual, if only because the stakes are for at least one of the teams.

A game like the Penguins' 5-0 victory against Boston at Mellon Arena yesterday.

"It was a fun game to play," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "It wasn't too tight."

That was particularly true after the Penguins scored on four of their first 10 shots, at which point the game became only slightly more intense than a quilting bee.

For a team like the Bruins, whose elimination from playoff contention is nothing more than a mathematical formality at this point, falling behind by four on the road is ample reason to shift one's focus to what kind of food will be served on the flight home.

And so it was that, after the Penguins ran their lead to 4-0 little more than a minute into the second period, the rest of the afternoon was not so much a game as a dress rehearsal for the half-dozen that remain.

And the Penguins, to their credit, continued to perform efficiently long after the outcome was decided.

"We know they're out of it," right winger Mark Recchi said, "and we were trying to make sure we kept doing the right things."

The Penguins (43-23-10) did enough of those to climb into a tie with New Jersey for first place in the Atlantic Division, although the Devils have a game in hand. They also moved to within two points of Ottawa, which is fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots to record his fifth shutout of the season and Crosby snapped a three-game scoring drought with two goals and an assist. That gives him a 111-104 lead over San Jose center Joe Thornton in the NHL points race.

"He was on fire," Bruins coach Dave Lewis said. "Sidney's been an amazing player to watch."

Crosby got his first goal when he knocked a Sergei Gonchar rebound out of the air and past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas during a power play at 16:14 of the first period, his second at 4:29 of the third, off an inadvertent set-up by linemate Colby Armstrong.

Armstrong, who was on the right side, had a shot at an open net, but sent the puck through the crease. When it reached the other side, Crosby was waiting and flipped a backhander past Joey MacDonald, who had replaced Thomas after the first period.

"I got a little too much stick on it," Armstrong said. "But Sid was obviously in the right spot at the right time."

Armstrong acknowledged that only after putting forth a vigorous defense of his work during that sequence, when he vowed his primary objective was to pad Crosby's personal totals.

"I had to get him involved in the play," Armstrong said, smiling. "I felt bad for him."

Crosby's second goal was the only one the Penguins got at even strength. Their first three came during power plays in the opening period, as Gary Roberts moved into Recchi's spot on the No. 1 unit, and Ryan Malone got the other while the Penguins were short-handed at 1:09 of the second.

"The [power-play] execution was there," coach Michel Therrien said. "We tried a different combination, and it worked."

The power play, which scored on its first three chances, was impressive, but so was the penalty-killing. It not only denied the Bruins on five tries with the extra man, but allowed the Penguins to get away with being short-handed three times during the first half of the opening period.

"That's not the start you're looking for, to take so many penalties," Therrien said.

The Penguins survived that stretch, though -- "Our penalty-killers were great early," Roberts said -- and Evgeni Malkin gave them the only goal they needed when he pounded a slap shot past Thomas during a 4-on-3 power play at 11:54 of the first.

The goals Crosby (two), Roberts and Malone contributed added to their margin of victory and, in the process, helped to reaffirm that the Penguins are a legitimate threat to win the Atlantic.

"We're right there," Crosby said. "We'll just keep going and see what happens."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07085/772603-61.stm
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Old 03-26-2007, 12:04 AM   #1546
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Notebook: Penguins' power-play moves pay off

Monday, March 26, 2007

? With an 0-for-15 mark on the power play in the last three games and a 2-for-25 record in the last six, the Penguins' coaching staff sat down Sunday morning and decided to make some changes. Their solution was to take slumping Mark Recchi off the first unit and put Gary Roberts with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The move paid off. Each of the three scored a power-play goal in the first period to jump out to a 3-0 lead over the Boston Bruins. "There's no doubt that the power play lately didn't get the results we were looking for," coach Michel Therrien said. "With the new combination that we tried with forwards, I thought the guys did a great job. They made the right decisions when moving the puck, when attacking the net and in traffic. The execution was there."

? Bruins goaltender Joey MacDonald, who hails from Pictou, Nova Scotia, and whose host family in junior hockey lived next door to Crosby, robbed his former neighbor in the second period after Crosby blew through three Bruins players for a shot on goal. He also robbed Malkin in the second period. "Guys from Nova Scotia don't give up on plays, you know?" Crosby said. "They know how to battle." Crosby got the best of MacDonald 4:29 into the third period, however, as the 27-year-old goaltender gave up a goal to the 19-year-old kid who used to watch him play junior hockey growing up.

? Defenseman Mark Eaton returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a sprained knee suffered on March 1 against the New York Rangers.

? The Penguins scratched defensemen Joel Kwiatkowski and Alain Nasreddine and forwards Chris Thorburn, Ronald Petrovicky and Nils Ekman. The Bruins scratched defensemen Jason York and Bobby Allen and forward Stanislav Chistov.


Digits

76 - The number of games played by Sergei Gonchar, Ryan Whitney and Mark Recchi out of 76 this season.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_499567.html
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Old 03-26-2007, 12:18 AM   #1547
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Penguins Notebook: Eaton makes mark in his return

Monday, March 26, 2007
By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mark Eaton did not return to the Penguins' lineup yesterday with a multiple-point game, or a series of crushing checks.

Fact is, nothing about his personal linescore from the Penguins' 5-0 victory against Boston at Mellon Arena --17 minutes, 43 seconds of ice time, two blocked shots, a hit, the second assist on Ryan Malone's short-handed goal and a plus-minus rating of plus-1 -- was spectacular.

Then again, not much about Eaton's game is. The Penguins count on him for solid defensive play, and Eaton produced that while working alongside Rob Scuderi in even-strength and short-handed situations in his comeback from a sprained knee that forced him to sit out 12 games.

"There was a little rust factor, but I felt pretty good, felt strong," Eaton said.

Eaton, who replaced Alain Nasreddine in the lineup, showed few signs of his time off, and made a heady play while killing a slashing penalty to Sergei Gonchar early in the second period. When goalie Marc-Andre Fleury lost sight of a loose puck in the crease, Eaton backhanded it between his own legs and out of danger.

"Any time you're off for an extended period of time, there's a little adjustment to get [used] to the speed of the game and making plays out there," he said. "I just look forward to getting better."

Magic number

The Penguins' magic number for clinching their first playoff berth since 2001 is three.

Probably.

Any combination of points that they earn and/or the New York Islanders fail to earn that adds up to three will guarantee that the Penguins, who have 96, will finish ahead of New York, which would end up with 98 if it wins its remaining seven games.

However, if that total is reached strictly by the Islanders losing three points, Montreal theoretically would be able to remain alive, because the Canadiens can earn up to 96 points and still could overtake the Penguins in the victories tiebreaker, where the Penguins hold a 43-39 edge.

As soon as the Penguins pick up one more point -- or Montreal fails to get one -- they will be assured of finishing ahead of the Canadiens.

The Penguins' victory yesterday guaranteed that Toronto, which could finish with 96 points, can do no better than to match their total of 43, and the Penguins have an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the second tiebreaker, head-to-head competition.

Bottom line: If the Penguins win in Washington tomorrow and the Islanders fail to defeat New Jersey at Nassau Coliseum, the obvious becomes official, and the Penguins are in.

No quit in Ference

The Bruins didn't just get a defenseman when they acquired ex-Penguin Andrew Ference from Calgary in February. They got a conscience.

And even though mathematical elimination from playoff contention is pretty much imminent, Ference told the Boston Herald that it's imperative for the team to establish an identity -- and accountability -- during the balance of this season.

"We have a lot of new guys and a lot of young guys, and the culture that you create around the team and the identity that this team is going to have over the next couple of years, it's determined in the first few months," he said.

"Part of the culture I've experienced with successful teams is one where there is emotion and there is honesty. You're looking each other in the eye after wins and losses and not wondering if your teammate did all he could that day.

"The argument for these [remaining] games being a crossroads can be made because this is when true character shows. ... Teams with character play when they are down, 7-0, when they are just on the fringe of that playoff spot. That's when they still show up and show what they're made of."

Slap shots

In addition to Nasreddine, the Penguins scratched forwards Ronald Petrovicky, Chris Thorburn and Nils Ekman and defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski. ... Yesterday's game attracted a standing-room crowd of 17,132, the Penguins' 21st sellout in the past 23 dates and their 28th of the season. ... Boston defenseman Mark Stuart was recalled from the Bruins' AHL affiliate Friday, forcing him to miss the Providence Bruins' Mark Stuart bobblehead promotion the next night.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07085/772602-61.stm
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Old 03-26-2007, 12:21 AM   #1548
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That's something that has held us back previously with excuses. Therrien has not made excuses for this team, and they're doing well.
Last season I can understand. There were legitimate concerns with that team last season. This year is a different story. While they are young they have the talent to go far. I don't mind if they drop a game while giving the full effort while showing signs of hanging with the opposing team. But...........

When Recchi goes 16 games without a goal, that's a legitimate concern and a concern which should be the focus of attention.

When Fleury shows up one game and completely stinks in the next, that's a legitimate concern which should be the focus of attention.

When your PP completely stinks and your offensive 5 on 5 play is not much better, that's a legitimate concern with should be the focus of attention.

Against the Thrashers that completely changed. While we got out of that game with two garbage goals, we also shut down one of the more potent offenses in the league. We also controlled the puck for the majority of the game and put on a beautiful fore-check. Like I stated before, the score (and stats) were deceiving, much like with DiPietro we were playing a hot goalie in Lehtonen. What can you do? When a goalie is hot he's hot.

Against the Bruins what can you say? The score says it all. The #1 PP unit was clicking (with Recchi off of it) and our 5 on 5 play was excellent. We saw today what this team is capable of when they are clicking on all cylinders. You play like that and you will go far in the playoffs. You play the way you did in the games leading up to the Thrasher game and you won't last past five games in the first round.
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Old 03-26-2007, 02:20 AM   #1549
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Cook: Blooming Fleury is the key to success in playoffs
Monday, March 26, 2007

By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After a day when the Penguins busted out of their goal-scoring malaise in a big way, the player who should have the team and its fans most juiced as the Stanley Cup playoffs approach is not named Crosby, Malkin or Roberts.

His name is Marc-Andre Fleury.

That's how significant his performance was yesterday in the Penguins' 5-0 win against the Boston Bruins.

The shutout -- Fleury's fifth this season -- speaks for itself. He stopped all 29 shots. It's pretty hard to do better than that.

But the timing was more encouraging. Fleury pitched the shutout a day after backup goalie Jocelyn Thibault had a tremendous game in a 2-1 win against the Atlanta Thrashers. It was Thibault's third consecutive superb outing, prompting coach Michel Therrien to be asked, in so many words, if he still was 100 percent certain Fleury is his No. 1 goaltender.

"I like Marc-Andre," Therrien said, smiling.

It was the perfect answer for a couple of reasons.

What isn't there to like about Fleury's game?

And what choice does Therrien really have even if there is some little thing he doesn't care for?

It's a beautiful thing for the Penguins that Thibault is playing so well. Fleury could tear a groin in practice today or in the game tomorrow night at Washington and be lost for the season. All teams need a solid backup.

But barring an injury, Fleury has to be the guy. Thibault is a free agent after the season and might not be here for the long haul. Fleury is the Penguins' future. They need to throw him head-first into the playoff cauldron -- it will be his first experience under that kind of intense pressure -- and live with the results, good or bad. He will be a better goaltender for the experience. The team will be better for years to come because of it.

Don't lose sight of this:

It's not just about this season with these Penguins.

That's hard to wrap your arms around because the team has had such phenomenal -- not to mention unexpected -- success. It has moved into a virtual tie again with the New Jersey Devils atop the Atlantic Division. It's understandable to think it could have a lengthy stay in the playoffs. It might even be legitimate.

But the Penguins aren't as good now as they're going to be next season and the season after and the season after that. To be as good as they think they can be -- to get to where they are a Stanley Cup favorite every year -- they need Fleury.

That's why Therrien's answer to that tricky goaltending question Saturday was so right on.

The last thing the Penguins need now is for Fleury to be looking over his shoulder for Thibault.

"I think I have trust from [Therrien] and the staff," Fleury said when asked about Therrien's endorsement. "There's a comfort zone there, I think. There's a little more there each day."

This is a two-way street, of course.

It has to be a two-way street.

It's wonderful that Therrien believes in Fleury, but Fleury has to keep playing well to justify that faith. A shutout never hurts. It gave Fleury a 7-2-1 record since the shrewd Therrien publicly chastised him and benched him for two games in mid-February after he completed a lackluster two weeks by fishing out six goals in a loss to the New York Islanders. Even in his subsequent three losses -- 1-0 to the Devils, 4-3 in a shootout to the Devils and 3-1 to the Islanders -- he was strong.

Fleury gave all the credit for this latest win -- his 36th of the season, a total that ranks high among NHL leaders -- to his penalty-killers, who were terrific, and his defensemen, who also were very good. "It was awesome. It seemed like every rebound, they cleared it. They blocked some shots. It was just a good game for us."

Especially for Fleury.

"I've felt comfortable with him since day one," Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "He's been there all year for us. He's done a great job leading us ...

"I just think he's playing with so much confidence right now."

Fleury will need to draw on every bit of it, come the playoffs. His track record in big games has been rather spotty. There were bad goals and bad games in the World Junior Championships, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs and the American Hockey League playoffs.

All eyes always are on the goaltender in the postseason, but that will be especially true with Fleury this season.

"I've moved on from it," he said, shrugging, of his big-game struggles.

So far, Fleury has taken the Penguins with him.

They'll go as deep into the playoffs as he carries them.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07085/772600-87.stm
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Old 03-26-2007, 07:30 AM   #1550
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Don't get me wrong, I am happy with wins however we can get them, especially at this time of year when the team's trying to nail down a playoff spot as well as gain home ice advantage. I just thought it was an inopportune time for them to hit a goal scoring slump, but after today's game (which I just watched the recording of), I can see their confidence coming back to them. Playing Washington on Tuesday shouldn't hurt that either with their sieve-like defense. And I have no worries whatsoever about Therrien having them ready to play in the playoffs. They will be ready, and they will be a very difficult team to beat.
Understood. Therrien's cutting and pasting of the lines helped in that regard, as has been said by others in this thread. I'm getting greedy now - not only do I want to see them get into that #4 slot so they can have the home-ice advantage, I would love to see this young energetic team take the Atlantic away from the Devils!
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