Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight; Beat Up Penguins Get Thrashed By Surging Flyers

Fleury was strong despite allowing seven goals.

Yah, you read that correctly. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed seven goals in just four periods of hockey, but he was good. He was actually really good. In Sunday’s game, there were at least five amazing saves that stoned the Flyers, only to let them score shortly after from poor defensive coverage. Fleury never lost his cool. Something that shows a more mature, prepared Fleury. If he can have a strong bounce back week after this weekend, then all will be fine in the Steel City.

Taylor Pyatt should be back in the minors.

He is big. That is about all I can say when it comes to a proper scouting report.

Since coming to Pittsburgh, Taylor Pyatt has played up and down the lineup and he has not found a single ounce of success. It is time for Pittsburgh to give up on this experiment and hide him in the AHL.

Megna deserves to stay, Gibbons is making a statement as well.

I must sound like a broken record on here, but I will say this again. When Jayson Megna comes up to play for the Penguins, he makes a difference.

Megna is a 6’1, 195lb, speed skater. He has good hands, a knack for going to the net, and a strong enough skill set that he won’t get lost at the NHL level.

When it comes right down to it, he is a perfect fit on the first line in bursts while being a mainstay on the third or fourth line. There is no reason at this point in time that Taylor Pyatt should play ahead of Megna.

Meanwhile, Brian Gibbons continues to carve a spot in the Penguins roster. While he is a smaller play, just 5’8, he brings great speed and decent offensive skills. The problem with Gibbons is that he is a playmaker. If Gibbons had more finishing ability, he would have been a great third line addition, but as of now he remains a decent plug and play forward.

The good news is that Gibbons will have a good chance to make the Penguins roster next season. His speed and versatility will always be a welcomed addition to a Dan Bylsma coached team.

Paul Martin and Kris Letang are needed big time.

Missing two key players from the top four of the defense is something that just isn’t easy to overcome. When those two players happen to be the best puck moving defenders on your team, you’re in real trouble.

There is no doubt that Matt Niskanen is playing great and Olli Maatta is crushing his rookie season, but Pittsburgh needs both defenders back healthy if they want to make a deep run. Their ability to skate the puck out of danger and play in all areas of the ice is something no one player on this team can replicate.

While Martin is not set to return from his injury for at least another week to three, there was some breaking news following the Penguins loss on Sunday. Kris Letang has been officially cleared by medical personnel to resume practicing in full.

There is no timetable on Letang’s return and this is certainly a surprising report, but if anything, it is a boost to a team that was worried about their teammate’s health.

Speaking of injuries.

In the same post game report, Dan Bylsma also revealed that Beau Bennett will return to practice for the Penguins on Monday. The young winger has been out since the early part of the season with a wrist injury, but appears to be on the verge of returning.

The Penguins have stated prior to this report that they would like to see Beau practice in full for at least a week before throwing him back into game play. If Beau can make his return before the end of the month he should have plenty of time to find his game for the playoffs. 

Expectations continue to change.

For the past four seasons, all we have heard about the Pittsburgh Penguins is that the regular season doesn’t mean a thing. They will be a playoff team and have a successful regular season, but they have to win in the postseason.

 So why get so angry over a regular season loss? The answer is because it was to a rival and nothing more.  This Penguins team is going to be judged entirely on their playoff success this season, not if they lost a weekend back to back in March.

Pittsburgh has worked hard, through a plethora of injuries I might add, to build a large cushion in their division so that weekends like this do not wreck their season. This is why it was not a big deal for the Penguins to sit out Kunitz and Neal for the entire weekend.

The Penguins have a 15 point lead on the second place Flyers in the Metropolitan division. With only fifteen games remaining, it is going to be very difficult for Pittsburgh to surrender that lead. The loss of Kunitz and Neal removes over 50 goals from the Penguins lineup, as well as a strong physical presence that drives the Flyers mad and gives the rivalry a sharper edge.

Losing those two players is a difficult task to overcome. Add them to the list of Paul Martin, Kris Letang, Beau Bennett, and more trusted backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun and it becomes a weekend that will rarely see success.

The good news is both Neal and Kunitz returned to practice in full on Monday. Neal was medically cleared yesterday afternoon, conveniently, to resume practice and play. Kunitz was held out for pain and precautionary purposes.

This is not to say that the Flyers did not play well, they did. They clearly outplayed the Penguins, out chanced them, outshot them, and outhit them. The Penguins never looked as though they were actually in the games and that credit again falls to the Flyers.

Pittsburgh will look to get healthy in the next few weeks as they prepare themselves for a long postseason run. They play the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.