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Crosby was right – Fluery Needed Time.

Posted By Michael Watts On Nov 26 2010 @ 1:42 am In Pittsburgh Penguins | No Comments

A few weeks ago Sidney Crosby spoke out about the slump of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fluery.  Crosby told the media that Fluery needed to regain confidence on the ice.  At the time, Pens coach Dan Bylsma flopped between the strong starting 33-year old Brent Johnson and the playoff tested but slow starting veteran in Fluery.  Crosby told the Pittsburgh Tribune’s Rob Rossi “He’s going to have good games. It’s not like he can change overnight. He’s going to put strings of games together, and he can’t do that with one game. So, you’ve got to be patient, too, and let him get back there.”  Bylsma showed the persistence that Crosby called for, and MAF has responded with one of his trademark hot streaks. 

On November 9, Crosby said that Fluery needed to play more in order to regain his confidence, even though Brent Johnson playing the best hockey of his career.  Fluery was 1-6-0 when Crosby spoke to the media.  November 12, three days later, Marc-Andre Fluery recorded his first game of the 2010-11 campaign with a save percentage over .900, a win over Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  The win sparked a 6-0-1 streak by Fluery and the Pens.  It’s worth mentioning that he has allowed only one power play goal in that time, something that plagued MAF and the PK lines in the first ten games of the season.

The Penguins recent winning streak has been a combination of Fluery’s improved play between the pipes, the Pens getting big time performances from Chris Kunitz and Crosby, and the defense beginning to solidify.  With center Jordan Staal on the shelf for another month, the Pens needed to solidify lines and create chemistry.  With Crosby leading the way, the first line of Kunitz, Crosby, and Dupuis has been very effective.  Crosby has a much publicized 10-game point streak (9 goals, 12 assists, 21 points), but he has a point in 19 of 23 games this season.  Kunitz has an 18.4% shot percentage, a career high and double his numbers from last season (it also leads the team).  I understand Kunitz doesn’t take all that many shots, but he has taken effective shots and played well with Crosby moreso this year than any time since he came over from the Ducks.  He has also provided a checking presence along with Brooks Orpik on the first line (more on the hitting below).

The second line has been so inconsistent it has been hard to keep track.  Talbot and Cooke are the current line mates for Malkin, but the return of Jordan Staal next month may be able to stabilize that line.

Some Notes:

- Seven defensemen have laced up their skates for Pittsburgh this season.  Letang (+10), Goligoski (+7), Orpik (+4), and Martin (+3) are in the positive for plus minus. 

- Fluery’s 30 save shutout was the first time he has recorded a shutout with more than 30 saves since March 25, 2009 against Calgary (31 saves).

- Miss Sergei Gonchar yet?  The power play general took his talents to Ottawa over the offseason.  While Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski, and Paul Martin have taken more of the blue line shots with Gonchar out of the picture,  the Penguins have a 14.56% conversion rate on power plays this season. Ottawa has an 18.06% conversion rate on the power play. 

- The penalty kill lines’ efforts have been remarkable this season.  The Pens have allowed three goals (94.23%) while on the PK on the road, a major reason the Pens have been so effective away from the Consol Energy Center (8-3-1 on the year).

- Rob Rossi wrote a great article about how role players adapt to the playing style of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby – http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/penguiuns/s_711064.html [1]

- After a blazing start by Mark Letestu, the 25-year old center has cooled down considerably.  Letestu has 13 and 12 shifts in his past two games, season lows.  In his first seven games this season, he had seven points.  He has added only three assists in the Pens most recent 16 games.

- The Pens are second in the NHL in hits.  Pittsburgh has 624 hits (Cooke – 71, Orpik – 63, and Kunitz – 62 ranking in the top-15 of the NHL), second only the Rangers 678 hits. – Source: penguins.nhl.com

Up Next:

Senators – Nov. 26, 2010 – 1:00 PM Start at the Consol Energy Center – Ottawa has 21 points (10-11-1) this season.  The Pens have only three power play goals in their eight losses.  Ottawa has allowed six power play goals in the last five games, a 1-4-0 stretch.  The Senators are currently healthy, while the Pens are missing only Jordan Staal.  Former Pen Sergei Gonchar has 14 points for the Senators (second best on the team), and Daniel Alfredsson has taken the offense reigns for the Sens – 8 G, 10 A, 18 P this season.

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