By Mark Madden
Beaver County Times
April 25, 2011
It's a belated Easter basket full of refreshing hockey notes! I suspect Penguins fans are all a bit hard-boiled after Saturday's debacle...
-- Panic may have been prevalent in certain quarters after the Penguins' 8-2 defeat by Tampa Bay Saturday, but not in the home locker room. This is a veteran team. The Penguins lead the series 3-2, are 2-0 at Tampa and have a decided edge on defense and in goal. No need to be rattled.
-- The Penguins dominated the better part of the first period, but their finishing let them down. It's happened before. It might happen tonight. No secret there. The Penguins have to sweat blood to score goals. When the defense and goaltending disappear, so does their chance of winning.
-- The save percentages of Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson occupied Mr. Blutarsky territory, but the defense hung both goalies out to dry. Steven Stamkos' first goal was a microcosm: Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek were both near Stamkos, but neither physically intervened and both were on the wrong side. Stamkos' body wasn't challenged. His hands did the rest.
-- The last thing the Penguins wanted was for Stamkos, Simon Gagne, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis to get in a groove at the same time. That moment arrived Saturday. The Penguins had better hope it's fleeting.
-- It's hard to imagine the Penguins' defense and goaltending imploding again anytime soon. But it's likely that the Penguins will continue to scratch and claw for minimal goals. Their power play stinks; that's a lock. So the Penguins must keep winning close games. Sometimes you lose a coin flip.
-- Memo to James Neal: Once is not enough.
-- It's difficult to question Dan Byslma, who should be a lock for NHL Coach of the Year. But Eric Tangradi's size contributes more on the power play than Chris Conner's speed does five-on-five. Anything that pumps even a little life into that wretched man-advantage unit should be embraced.
-- Under Bylsma, the Penguins are 0-5 trying to close out playoff series at home. What's that mean? It means they had better win tonight at Tampa.
-- Sidney Crosby was spotted at the Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy comedy show at Consol Energy Center Friday. I wonder if his doctors knew? Cornpone humor for simpletons can't help a bruised brain.
-- If you think the local media's daily updates on Crosby produce information of any significance ... you might be a redneck. Two steps remain: Cleared for contact, cleared to play. Any "news" besides that is the status quo.
-- The Penguins racked up 106 points, second-highest in team history, despite having Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal in the same lineup exactly twice all season. Imagine when everybody is healthy and producing.
-- I've never seen a team sabotage its goaltending like Philadelphia. Rookie Sergei Bobrovsky was No. 1 all year. The Flyers pulled Bobrovsky when he struggled in Game 2 against Buffalo. They should have gone back to Bobrovsky for Game 3, but journeyman Brian Boucher started. Boucher blew up in Game 5. Bobrovsky's confidence is surely shredded, so now Michael Leighton is back in the picture. Leighton was last spring's playoff hero, but he spent this season in the minors. Idiots. If Bobrovsky was good enough to start all year, one bad game shouldn't have buried him.
-- Goaltending in general is at low ebb this postseason. Two of the three Vezina Trophy finalists (Nashville's Pekka Rinne, Vancouver's Roberto Luongo) entered last night's action with goals-against averages more than 3.50.
-- Hate to say it, but this might be the Capitals' year.
-- Note to Consol Energy Center ticket-holders: Lack of a free T-shirt shouldn't kibosh the whiteout. WEAR SOMETHING WHITE. Most of you don't seem to be making fashion statements. The only runway you could walk is the pavement outside Goodwill. WEAR SOMETHING WHITE. Be a fan.
-- Road warriors: Penguins 2, Tampa Bay 1 (OT). Snack on danger, dine on death.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).