Fleury The Only Penguin To Silence Doubters

Well, it’s been a long time away, but with the Pens first game of the year in the books, and a performance worthy of nothing by praise by the rookie #29 Marc-Andre Fleury, I’ve gotta come out of hibernation. For those of you who only saw highlights of the game, unless you saw 46 seperate highlights for each save, you missed out big time. Actually you’d probably only need to see 30 highlights the way some of the shots came in “flurries” (that was bad). Most of the hockey world doubts the Penguins have a chance at doing anything this season, and many people disagree with the idea of signing fleury and exposing him to the NHL behind such a weak team. Fleury may have silenced those doubters for now, but the rest of the team sure gave credence to what has been said by many others.I wouldn’t close the book on the Pens yet though. First though, a standing ovation from my computer chair to Fleury for standing on his head and keeping the Penguins in the game. I am a definite Sebastien Caron doubter, and everything that I don’t see in Caron, I see in Fleury. He looks lightning fast, he looks so sure of what his move will be at all times. Sometimes when plays develop it’s like in his mind he has the set of possibilities of how the play will happen, and as soon as he sees which it is, he is already moving into whatever position to make the save. He is down and up so quick, and always alert. There was no point that the game looked to fast for him, it seems like he sees the game in slow motion kind of like Jean-Claude in Sudden Death as Brad Tolliver…sorry, terrible movie, but it was the Pens, and it was on tonight. He is good with his stick around the net, but I’d like to see him look a little more sure when handling the puck behind the net. Overall, I was impressed and pleased.

The rest of the team, despite mustering only 11 shots, and giving up 49, has some positive things to build on. Physical play seemed at a higher level than years, and….umm….well that’s about it. Koltsov looked like he is going to play very strong this year, he went hard after loose pucks, finished his checks, and looked confident with the puck on his stick. Matt Bradley was a pleasant surprise, as I didn’t expect much out of him, and Malone and Murley looked OK for game #1.

Mario and Straka were virtually non-existent, and Morozov was horrible. I couldn’t have been more unpleased with Morozov. I was really hoping that he would shine this year, after such a fast start last year before his injury, but I thought he looked bad. My biggest criticism is of the old guys in the line up. Just what was Buchberger doing with an ‘A’?? He looked slow, out of place, and like I thought he would, he took a stupid penalty. Reid Simpson took an AWFUL penalty that likely cost the Pens a chance to be in the game (along with Orpik’s, both 5 minutes). Eastwood won some draws and Pk’d alright, but I just don’t get it. You have Mckenna who everyone keeps talking about being injuried, so presumabley, he’ll be put in the lineup when he comes back, and that leaves four guys that really have no place on a rebuilding team, maybe five with Holzinger. Now I realize that you need some veteran players on the team, but I just don’t like any of these guys being up on the team when Kraft and Abid are scratched. Granted, I didn’t see preseason, so I don’t know, maybe those two earned being scratched, but I just don’t like rebuilding without those two playing.

I may be a little bit biased toward Kraft and Abid because I think the organization has been giving Kraft Aubin-like treatment and Abid because we gave up Hrdina, one of my favorite Pens for him and I thought he looked really strong (future PF) last year, but I just don’t see what place those five guys have on this team all at once. Veterans are important, and time will tell if these guys (Eastwood, Buchberger, Simpson, I’m not including Mckenna and Holzinger as “veteran guys”) fill that bill, but you can’t just plug in any guy with double digit years experience, and I don’t know that any of these guys will be it.

For all the things that Eddie O was hoping to happen, ex. winning the race to loose pucks, giving up less shots, creating oppurtunities with speed advantage, and having more defensively responsible fowards, the guys didn’t remember much of that after the drop of the puck. It will be interesting to see how the come out tomorrow night against a team much better than LA in Philly, and for Caron and Fleury’s sake, I hope they figure out what they need to do to create some kind of offensive pressure. I would have liked to have seen more guys just throw the puck to the net, even in situations where there was no real chance at scoring. Cristobal Huet?? He’s 2-0 now against the Pens. A guy like that, you have to test him, you have to make him at least break a sweat for a shutout. Seeing defenseman jump in occasional was a welcome sight, and seeing some solid forechecking at times was nice, but no one seemed to look toward the net. I could tell the team was playing a system if in no other way, through the fact that no one player stood out to me through the neutral zone. The only way I really noticed guys was through their forechecking and back checking.

Look for the Pens to come out with some fire tomorrow against the Flyers. No one in the locker room better feel very good about wasting Fleury’s exceptional debut. I hope to see a couple performances even close to the one to night from Fleury, because I hope to see him as a Penguin all year long. Hopefully the rest of the team shows up for Caron tomorrow….most of this article was probably me rambling, but I am feeling pretty bitter after seeing MA’s performance wasted…It’s good to have hockey back!!

On a side note, I truely hope the Penguins trade J.S. Aubin rather than throw him around on waivers down to the minors all year long. They’ve slapped him in the face enough throughout his career, I just would like to see him get a chance somewhere where the management will treat him fairly.