Tag Archives: Mike Sullivan

COLUMN: This Season Feels Different

Somehow, we are less than a month away from the puck being dropped on the 2017-18′ season. I guess that’s what happens when you go to the Stanley Cup Finals and don’t spend two extra months watching other teams play like another Pennsylvania team does.

Every season has its headlines and it’s new waves of prospects being ready to embark upon their NHL rosters. Players depart from teams and head to greener pastures when their contracts expire. Some chase the shiny silver heavy trophy-like specimen that many call “The Stanley Cup”.

For the Penguins, the beginning of the 2015-16′ season felt like a new era. The Penguins had acquired Phil Kessel on July 1st in a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Penguins fans spent the better parts of July, August, and September painfully awaiting the chance to see number 81 fly around the ice in a Penguins sweater. They spent the early part of the season spiraling and it seemed by mid-December they were out of it. Mike Sullivan was hired and the rest is history. The WBS guys began filling roster spots. Fun, exciting, rejuvenating times for hockey in Pittsburgh.

Last season began with no doubts. The Penguins and fans felt invincible. With practically the same roster and one of the best coaches in the league currently, it seemed the Penguins were easily going to breeze through the league and repeat. Then Kris Letang had neck surgery and missed the rest of the season. There was goalie controversy. The Washington Capitals were the league’s best team. It seemed nothing could go the Penguins way…until it did. The Penguins repeated.

So bring on 2017-18′.

They’ve got Matt Murray as their new permanent starter. They’ve got Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese just a call away. They made some adjustments to a roster that couldn’t possibly maintain this playing style for a third straight potential run at a Stanley Cup. Letang is back and cleared to participate in hockey again. They don’t even have a third-line center. And, yet, this still feels like the first time…even though it doesn’t.

I sit here and think about how it’s even fathomable to think that Matt Hunwick, Ryan Reaves, and Antti Niemi are supposed to replace guys like Marc-Andre Fleury, Trevor Daley, Chris Kunitz and Nick Bonino. Then I counter that with the fact that Letang, one of the biggest reasons the Penguins won the Cup the first time around, is back and refreshed and ready to anchor the Penguins’ defense even after they won the Cup without him last season.

I sit and think how Fleury, a Pittsburgh idol for years, has transitioned into life on the West Coast with the Vegas Golden Knights. Then I counter that with how Murray might be just that much better, even without the shining-bright personality. He’ll let his play speak and not his smile.

I ponder how the Penguins are going to get by without a legitimate third line center to start the season. Then I remember that Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby played some of the best hockey we’ve ever seen from them simultaneously over the past two seasons and instantly forget the third line center “problem”.

Let’s face it. There aren’t many holes with this team. Yes, the third line center issue might worry you. But, when has Jim Rutherford ever given you reason to doubt that he will fill that void?

The Penguins can get by early in the year with a rotation of their bottom two centers, whomever they choose to fill such roles. The market is too high right now to buy. The Penguins will hold a playoff spot all year. They can buy when teams are really trying to unload players mid-season and at the trade deadline.

There is a reason this season feels a bit different. In recent years, you couldn’t say that you guaranteed the Penguins would make the Finals, let alone win them. I still don’t think that’s the case. The roster does look a bit weaker.

Just remember, Sullivan has yet to lose a playoff series. He’s a smart coach who knows how to use his players. If you don’t produce, you don’t play. He’ll find a role player that does exactly what he wants.

The biggest reason this season feels different, though, is because of the business-like approach they’re going to have.

There are some players on this current team who have things to prove. That’s usually when the best comes out of them.

Carl Hagelin had one of the more disappointing seasons on the team last year. He scored the Cup clinching goal, but it was only one of two points he scored in the entire playoffs.

Conor Sheary, a 20-goal scorer last season, signed a three-year extension with the team at $3 million per year. Many people scrutinized this move as he’s been benched at some point in the playoffs the past two seasons.

Brian Dumoulin, also signed to a long-term extension this offseason, wants to prove that he isn’t just good when Letang is his defense partner and that he’s worth the money he’ll be getting paid.

Justin Schultz, the final long-term contract signee, wants to show he wasn’t a one-hit wonder and has truthfully resurrected what Edmonton almost ruined.

Derrick Pouliot, a former first round draft choice, has yet to put together a solid resume in the NHL. He plays fantastic in the AHL and looks like a dumpster fire when given NHL minutes.

Reaves, a perceived tough-guy, wants to disprove that notion and show that he was worth the first round pick and Oskar Sundqvist that was given to St. Louis in exchange for his services.

Murray wants to prove that he can handle a season’s worth of workload. Many have said that his success is only because he’s kept fresh for when it really counts.

Crosby and Malkin want to assure their legacy and prove they’re the best duo in the modern-day NHL.

The list could go on and on.

When there is competition or a chance to prove yourself to people, it usually brings out the best in that individual or team. I don’t think there is a scary team in the Eastern Conference than Pittsburgh. The Western Conference always has a few teams.

You may say there isn’t much left to prove when you’ve won two straight championships and the target is on your back. Ask these Penguins if there isn’t something to prove.

Incase you are unaware, the Flyers will no longer have a team on the Stanley Cup if they don’t win this upcoming season as a new ring will need to be placed on the Cup following the year. There would be no better way to knock the Flyers off of the Stanley Cup than to put the Pittsburgh Penguins’ name on there for a third straight time.

Damn, it’s been a long time since 1975.

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KesselMania

How far will people go to find a narrative?

In the past few weeks, several Pittsburgh Sports Media figures have been doing their best Toronto impression and have attempted to make a case for as to why Phil Kessel should be traded.

Back to back Stanley Cups along with proven statistics that show his exceeding worth to the Penguins apparently aren’t enough to show to the hockey world that Kessel belongs in Pittsburgh.

There have essentially been two main stories that have crawled through the woodwork this offseason that “prove” that a Kessel trade should be considered, that his statistics are slowing down and his value isn’t worth the $6.8 million he acquires per year and that the leaving of former assistant coach Rick Tocchet will affect Kessel’s relationship to the Penguins. Let’s take a few minutes to debunk both those myths.

Last year, Phil Kessel notched 23 goals in 82 games which was topped by 58 players that scored 24 or more with the Penguins’ own Sidney Crosby scoring 44.

Out of those 58 players, the average cap hit is $4,207,052.22. While that may seem like an overpayment to some, please keep in mind that that number is including player on entry level contracts and bridge year contracts that certainly are outliers. So when that is considered, the $6.8 that Kessel costs the Penguins is certainly a fair value.

On top of this, one of the things that I have seen and loved from Kessel is his outstanding playmaking ability.

While his “quarterbacking” of the powerplay in Kris Letang’s absence absolutely drove me up a wall, his raw ability to see the ice is unparalleled. This led to Kessel having a whopping 47 assists, a number that was bested by only 10 NHL’ers last season.

The average cap hit of those ten players is $5,560,833.03.

Again, while this does fall under Kessel’s cap hit, there are two entry level contracts in that top ten, just for fun, if we take out the two contracts, the average cap hit increases up to $6,719,791.62, which is obviously about Kessel’s paygrade.

Finally, looking at overall points, Kessel had only 17 players score more than the 70 points he notched.

The average cap hit of those 17 players, while again still including the outlier contracts is $5,694,951. Take all three of the average caps hits that include the entry level deals and find that average leaves us with a cap hit of $5,154,278, just $1,645,722 under Kessels’ current cap hit against the Penguins.

Now one might wonder as to where he makes up that extra money. That would in the playoffs.

Without a shadow of a doubt, he makes up for all of it in the playoffs. In 71 playoff games, Kessel has an outstanding 66 points with a tremendous 31 goals and 35 assists in what is often considered the hardest hockey to play all year. The 66 points in 71 games leaves Kessel with a .929 ppg in the playoffs putting him eighth amongst all active players.

For those wondering, the average cap hit of those seven players above him is $8,103,571.43….which is almost 2 million dollars more than what Kessel costs the Penguins per year. If you think Kessel’s overpaid or his value to the Penguins is decreasing, get out of my face.

The second mind-numbly dumb point that the Pittsburgh Sports media is trying to make is that because of Tocchet’s departure from assistant bench boss, Kessel is now all of a sudden going to be uncoachable.

This thought that Kessel is uncoachable is honestly laughable at this point. The reason he’s torn through so many coaches throughout his career is that he played on the Maple Leafs for all but two years of it. And Leafs fans will agree, it was like a carousel of coaches there for a majority of his tenure and it had absolutely nothing to do with him, he was bar none their best player.

And he’s done nothing but produce since he’s been shipped to Pittsburgh.

Sure the goal totals are lower than expected but when you’re coming down the wing with the stallion that is Evgeni Malkin down the center, you’re not scoring all the goals on that line.

And as I mentioned earlier, his assists numbers and playmaking ability is among the top tier of the league. So even if Mike Sullivan has a “problem” with Kessel, guess what, too bad, get over it, the guy can flat out play.

And I do think Sullivan sees how Kessel is in the locker room and something tells me a guy like Sully really sees the value in that. There is no evidence to suggest that there is or ever was a rift between Sully and Kessel so I have absolutely no idea why it’s being made as if there is one.

Kessel is and will continue to be a premier player in this league. He’s worth his cap hit and will continue to be as the salary cap should increase as the years go on. I’m for one glad that I can proudly say, Phil Kessel is a Pittsburgh Penguin.

COLUMN: The Non-Move That Won The Pens A Cup

Let me start by saying that Sidney Crosby is deserving of the Conn Smythe. I do believe it should’ve gone to Evgeni Malkin but Crosby was just about as equally deserving.

But let’s make no mistake about it, had it been possible to give the Conn Smythe to a split tandem of Pittsburgh goaltenders, there’s no doubt in my mind they were the club’s most valuable players.

Without Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins don’t beat Washington. They probably squeak by Columbus with an average backup goalie because they were simply the better team. The game seven shutout of Washington in the second round was about as disheartening to a fan base as the inevitable Fleury trade will be for this one. He carried that momentum two games into the Ottawa series, then things went south.

A bad nine minutes in game three, where he allowed four goals on nine shots, will soon turn into the final outing that Fleury had as a Pittsburgh Penguin. Let me remind you, Fleury is considered the back up.

So, when the starter got his chance, he wasn’t going to look back.

Matt Murray was very good over the final four and a half games of the Eastern Conference Finals. He faced barrages from the Senators and battled tooth and nail with embattled Senators goalie Craig Anderson for a victory in seven games.

Murray took on the Cinderella story from Nashville. He opposed Pekka Rinne, a leader for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Finals, and thoroughly played better. The Penguins made Rinne look silly on several occasions. Although it seemed that mid-series that the Predators had figured Murray out, Mike Sullivan‘s confidence didn’t waiver. He stuck it out with Murray who repaid the coach with, not one, but TWO shutouts in the final two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Murray is still considered a rookie. He is the only player in NHL history to win two Cups as a rookie. While this comes on sort of a technicality, it doesn’t downplay the magnitude of him spearheading two Stanley Cup championships. Who’s to say the Penguins would or wouldn’t be in this situation today had Murray not hurt his groin in the pregame of the game one of the Blue Jackets series?

But that wasn’t the case. Fleury stepped in and did an admirable job. One that Tristan Jarry simply wouldn’t have been able to do.

Credit Jim Rutherford for that one.

As trade deadline day approached, an unsettling feeling grew within the stomach of Marc-Andre Fleury. He was drafted by the Penguins in 2003 and has played his entire career to this point with Pittsburgh. The rumors ran rampant that he’d be moved to another team as his trade value seemed to be plummeting ever so quickly after his truthfully horrible regular season.

Rutherford surprised everyone and stuck to his guns saying that it’s never a bad thing to have two goalies of the caliber that Murray and Fleury are. Rutherford wants to keep both goalies. It’s practically impossible at this point.

The impending Vegas Golden Knights franchise will be drafting in a few weeks to assemble their team for the upcoming year and Fleury is undoubtedly on their radar. After his playoff performance, he’ll be on a few other teams’ radar.

As I mentioned before, the Penguins don’t beat Washington without Fleury. It doesn’t happen. He was spot on against Alex Ovechkin and outdueled Braden Holtby with no reason to look over his shoulder.

Rutherford not moving Fleury is a credit to Rutherford’s intelligence as a general manager. It’s a huge reason why the Penguins repeated as Stanley Cup champions and why they have a legitmate shot to win yet again in 2018.

Pens In Need of A Bounce Back

Not often will a team that played one of it’s worst games of the season come out victorious. That’s exactly what the Penguins did Monday night. If the Penguins want to win Wednesday, they will absolutely have to be better.

They went 37 consecutive minutes without a shot on goal and were sloppy in their zone entries. They allowed Matt Murray to be tested more often than they would’ve preferred without a doubt. So where do they go from here?

This Mike Sullivan led team does not lose consecutive games. It’s in their DNA to avoid being unacceptingly horrific in two straight contests. They just won’t accept it.

Sullivan kept reiterating the lack of pushback from his team in his postgame conference after game one and how the Penguins were unable to do so when the Predators went on attack.

“When you’re playing a team like Nashville that has a balanced attack, you’ve got to have some pushback. I don’t think in the second period we had any pushback.”

He’s right.

As the Penguins somehow tip-toed out of a shotless second period, the first in the franchise’s history, only allowing one goal after a three goal onslaught in period one, it became increasingly clear that the Penguins couldn’t cling to the lead much longer. The Predators then tied the game accordingly until Jake Guentzel, a near scratch before Monday, and buried a laser in behind Nashville goalie, Pekka Rinne, who was absolutely abysmal in that game.

It’s very likely the Penguins won’t see this bad of a Rinne and this lackluster of a Predators team the rest of the series. They will need to be better and, if they are, the Penguins should be in the driver’s seat comfortably heading into Nashville.

Credit Mike Sullivan For Making Changes Even When Unpopular

Coach Mike Sullivan might only have near the same amount of time behind the bench as a head coach as Connor McDavid has playing in the NHL, but he’s shown the wisdom of a tenured coach like Joel Quenneville or Mike Babcock. Just like what these 2 men already obtained, Sullivan is trying to join them as a multi-time Stanley Cup winning coach.

Make no mistake about it, Sullivan has earned his stripes and is just as responsible for the Penguins getting this far as any player on the ice.

Years of being an assistant coach taught him how to be a general right there, commanding respect even when he does something unpopular that might get questioning from some fans, even if its the right move.

Inserting Matt Murray in goal for games 4 and 5 put him under fire by many (though I agreed with the move) but that’s exactly what the Pens needed, a spark that would turn into a fire. You can’t argue with the results since the move, a must win on the road followed by a 7-0 blowout, Sullivan created some change.

There could of been many 2nd guessers based on how great Marc-Andre Fleury had played so far these playoffs, but Sullivan stuck to his gut and went with his guy Matt Murray. None of the nay sayers are saying anything now.

It goes much further than just the goalie situation, Sullivan has evolved the team from game to game and series to series, shuffling lines around without hesitation to make the Penguins squad better. That meant sitting guys who have been staples of the team we have come to know and love. Now sometimes the moves he made were forced because of injury, but that doesn’t mean he’s pieced together some wonderful things.

Look at the line with center Nick Bonino being thrown along with Bryan Rust and Carter Rowney, they might have been the most dominant line in game 5, but it was Sullivan who put them together. He’s learned when to keep a nice line going and when to tweak it around for proper filling.

Josh Archibald has made a positive impact since being called upon to play his role, that meant sitting players like Tom Kuhnhackle (even before he got hurt) and Connor Sheary, guys who have helped all year. Sullivan learned early and often that you can’t please everyone, it’s about winning and not other’s feelings.

They’re not done either, there’s still some wins to go and I bet we will still see some more changes made. Whether that’s calling up another winger or dressing 1 more defenseman because of a Chad Ruhwedel injury, Mike Sullivan will get it done. He isn’t afraid to make any choice no matter the preference on the move.

No player or team does it alone, Sullivan’s made great decisions on a team that’s been worn thin by sidelined players, but he still needs the Evgeni Malkin’s and Phil Kessel’s of the world to contribute. Those great players still need the right coach, Sullivan has fit that bill so far in his 2016 and now 2017 playoff durations, though they’re not finished yet!

Series Analysis: Pens Top Caps in 7

Wow.  The Penguins did it again.

And should we even really be shocked any more?

On the 1 year anniversary of the Nick Bonino overtime winner against the Capitals last year in game 6, the Penguins once again beat their division rival to move on to the next round.  Although this time, it took 7 games.  Going into the game, many Penguins fans thought that the Caps were going to end it.  I knew that if any team was going to pull off this win, it would be the Penguins, but I really didn’t think they actually would.

Well until they did, of course.

Marc-Andre Fleury pitched a shutout, which adds to this story-book ending of the series, as the Penguins knock the Capitals out of the playoffs with a 2-0 win in Washington, and now hold a 9-1 lead in the series against the Caps.

Let’s make this clear: A Penguins’ team that was clearly concerned about losing Kris Letang for 1 game against the Capitals last year just took out the President’s Trophy winners without him.

And Matt Murray

And a banged up D-core…

Oh yeah, and they played almost 2 games without Conor Sheary and Sidney Crosby!

Not to mention that this was a Capitals team that remained healthy all year, were healthy in the playoffs, dealt for Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, and were once again the clear favorites to finally lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Until they ran into the Penguins.  Again.

The Penguins were outplayed for the majority of this series, but they found ways to win hockey games, 4 out of 7 to be exact, against an extremely talented hockey team.  So, how did the Penguins pull it off, despite blowing a 3-1 series lead and having to go back to Washington for a do-or-die game 7?  Here is my series analysis, which includes 5 main reasons as to why the Penguins were able to emerge victorious, once again:

Marc-Andre Fleury > Braden Holtby

The Capitals needed Braden Holtby to be…well…Braden Holtby if they were going to beat the Penguins in these 2017 playoffs.  In fact, they simply needed Holtby to be the better goaltender between him and Fleury.  Unfortunately, for the Capitals, this was not the case.

The Penguins generated some decent chances throughout the series, but not once outshot the Capitals in a single game.  Holtby did not have to stop a ton of pucks, so one would think that he would have had the edge over Fleury.

Well, he may have.  But the stats indicate otherwise.

Holtby had an abysmal .887 save percentage (17 goals on 151 shots), compared to his .925 save percentage in the regular season, good enough for the former Vezina winner to be yet another nominee to win the trophy for the 2016-17 year as the NHL’s top goaltender. However, it was the Penguins’ goaltender, Fleury, that looked like the Vezina Trophy nominee in this series.

Fleury kept his hot play from round 1 going into round 2, and put up a .921 save percentage (18 goals on 227 shots) in this series, including a shutout in game 7.   Although a .921 save percentage is quite good, I still do not think it even comes close to describing how well he played in this series and how many absolutely unbelievable stops he made.  One, in particular, comes to mind:

Without their top defenseman Letang, the Penguins will need him to continue to be their best player if they want a chance at moving on.  Fleury seems up to the task, as he holds a .927 save percentage in these playoffs.  If he can keep up these kind of stats behind a dangerous Penguins’ offense that leads the NHL in playoff scoring…they just might have a chance.

Penguins’ Stars > Capitals’ Stars

Simply put, throughout the series, the Penguins star players stepped up to the plate.  The Capitals’ stars didn’t, especially when they needed it most in game 7.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was, in my opinion, the Capitals’ best player this series.  He needed to be a factor if the Capitals were to win this series, but he should not have been their best player…

Alexander Ovechkin had a few goals, sure, but none of them were game-changers.  He made mistakes in his defensive zone that cost his team goals more often than not, and played in a 3rd line in the final 3 games of the series, receiving less ice time than 6 other Capitals’ forwards in game 7.

Nick Backstrom had his moments, but didn’t really stick out at all to me.

TJ Oshie was largely just kind of there for this series.  He generated chances and was often causing mayhem in front of the net, but he did not contribute much offensively.

Justin Williams, Mr. Game 7 himself, was “out-Mr.-Game-7-ed” by Penguins’ forward Bryan Rust, and was largely invisible for the entire series.

John Carlson was…wait, who is he?

On the Penguins side, Crosby was about as good as it gets when he was healthy. Evgeni Malkin didn’t play his best hockey throughout the series but generated good chances, put up decent stats, and stepped up when Sid was out. Phil Kessel scored a few important goals for the Pens and continued to impress in the playoffs. Jake Guentzel continued his production and still leads the NHL playoffs in goal scoring. Nick Bonino came in clutch again in game 1 to give the Penguins the win.  And somehow, someway, Rust scored again and leaves Washington, DC with another elimination game game-winning goal in his back pocket.

Simply put: the Penguins’ big named guys outplayed the Capitals’ big named guys when it mattered most.  Period.

Quick Strike Ability

For the majority of this series, the Penguins were badly outplayed.  Ironically, one of their better games, game 3, was one of the games they would lose.  Regardless, the Penguins truly were not the better team for probably 80% of this series.

They were outshot 227-151, and often times the Capitals were able to have multiple shifts in a game where they would have the Penguins completely pinned in their zone.  The Penguins were not able to do this often to the Capitals.  And yet, they were able to win the series.

I think this was mainly due to the Penguins quick strike ability.  It seemed as though many of the Penguins goals came after an extended shift for Washington when it seemed like they were going to get a goal.  All of the sudden, someone has a breakaway or the Penguins have a 3 on 2 the other way and score.

The Penguins shooting percentage was 11.26% in this series, which is incredibly high.  I really do not think Holtby played an awful series.  His stats were not good at all, but I honestly think the Penguins simply scored at will when they needed to and generated high-danger scoring chances and capitalized, unlike the Caps.

The Penguins Are In Their Heads

The Penguins own a 9-1 series lead over the Washington Capitals, and Ovechkin has yet to see an Eastern Conference Final.  Oh, and every Stanley Cup the Penguins’ have won in the Crosby era involve the Penguins going through Washington.

Need I say more?

Mike Sullivan

The Penguins, somehow, took a 3-1 series lead into game 5, but it certainly did not feel like a 3-1 series lead.  The Penguins even took a 2-1 lead into the 3rd period of game 5, before allowing 3 goals in the 3rd and losing 4-2.  The Penguins then came back home for a game 6 with another chance to wipe out the Capitals, and were just straight up man-handled.  The Caps put up 5 straight goals to open the scoring, and the Pens would lose 5-2 as Guentzel and Malkin put up meaningless tallies in the games’ waning minutes.

The series then shifted to Washington for game 7, and it just screamed 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Canadiens all over again.  The Penguins had the 3-1 lead coming off of a Cup win the previous year, but just became too fatigued and did not have the drive, heart, or energy to finish it off.

Except the guy behind the bench isn’t Michel Therrien or Dan Bylsma.

Sullivan and his coaching staff should receive a ton of credit for this game 7 win and series win.  The Penguins, after being dominated at home in embarrassing fashion, had a practice that was almost entirely X’s and O’s, as stated by multiple sites/sources.  The coaching staff knew what they needed to adjust against Washington, and clearly, they pushed the right buttons, as the 2-0 final game 7 score indicated.  Sullivan said after the game that this was the best game for the Penguins this postseason, and it’s hard to disagree.

This team felt the pressure of game 7, but they fed off of it, rather than let it get to them like this team had in the past, and I attribute that to Mike Sullivan.  He has changed this team and their mindset, and makes it extremely difficult to ever count these Penguins out.

Sullivan is now 6-0 in playoff series as the Penguins’ head coach, and you can bet he wants to be 8-0 after this year.

He’s not done, and these Penguins aren’t done either…

Bring it on, Ottawa.

COLUMN: It’s Go Time

It’s Wednesday. Tonight, the Penguins will look to win their fourth game of the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Ottawa Senators all while avoiding becoming the first team to allow the Capitals to get to the Conference Finals for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era.

But this isn’t even about that.

The narrative that the Capitals don’t win the big games is there. The narrative that Ovechkin will never win a Stanley Cup is there. The “Penguins blew a 3-1 lead” narrative would be there.

It’s not even about those.

It’s about how the Penguins respond. As a team that has been pegged as one of the most resilient teams in the NHL, what gives with the two flattest performances in a long time in games five and six? The stars have gone cold and the fans have gotten colder.

Here’s a narrative for all of you: How many of you actually believed at the beginning of this series that we’d breeze through the Capitals in five games? I can guarantee not many of you did. I didn’t.

I had “#PensIn6” at the beginning of the series and that, to me, was best case scenario. Here we are. The NHL’s two best regular season teams in a game seven for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. I don’t think it gets much better.

Of course, panic sets in because Washington was able to win two straight games and have all the momentum going home to Washington. But how do you define momentum?

“The impetus gained by a moving object,” is the non-physics definition of momentum. If you watch a hockey game, you’ll know that both team’s are moving objects. There is no physical object moving from game to game aside from time.

And it’s go time for the Penguins.

The Sidney Crosby‘s and Evgeni Malkin‘s of the world need to get going. The Phil Kessel‘s of the world have yet to show up to the playoffs. Luckily, Marc-Andre Fleury has absolutely stolen three wins in this series. It’s time the team wins for him.

It’s inevitable that this is Fleury’s last ride in a Penguins’ uniform with the emergence of Matt Murray and the looming expansion draft. I would hate for that pathetic 5-0 loss to be the final time Fleury plays in PPG Paints Arena while donning a Penguins uniform.

Mike Sullivan will need to be better, too. Go back to what worked. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Whatever the hell that game was on Monday night, that was broke. So it needs fixed.

And there is a simple fix.

Take Conor Sheary OFF of Crosby’s line. Take him so far off that he’s witnessing the game from the press box. Put Guentzel back on Crosby’s line where he leads the NHL in goals for the playoffs. They were together for all of a few shifts last night and managed to score a goal in the waning minutes. Guentzel scored, Crosby assisted.

And by all means, shoot the puck.

Watching the Penguins power play on Monday was abysmal. The constant passing and looking for the perfect shot drive me crazy. Braden Holtby has not been good in this series at all. The Penguins are not putting shots on him. He’s had 3 different instances where he’s faced less than twenty shots and has given up two or more goals in each game. He’s 1-2 in those games.

If the Penguins just throw shots at him like the Pirates give up home runs, then the Penguins will win that game. Mark my words.

It’s go time, Pittsburgh. Let them hear you in Washington. Keep the dream alive. But just remember, if the Penguins do lose, it’s nearly impossible these days to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

The Penguins are 5-0 in game seven’s on the road in franchise history. They’ve done it in Washington twice. Tonight, the Penguins need to be immortal and do so again to avoid becoming a part of a very familiar meme…