Penguins' Fleury speaks his mind
TribLIVE Sports Videos
As the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs stretched into the final, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was often asked to recall his rookie season, when he appeared in 21 games and earned four of the club's 23 victories.
Certainly, Fleury never expected this season — one that began with the upstart Penguins talking optimistically about taking that so-called next step — to remind him of that miserable 2003-04 campaign, which produced an NHL-low 58 points.
Those depressing memories were on Fleury's mind Saturday night after the Penguins dropped a 3-2 decision at home to the Montreal Canadiens, leaving them 7-9-1 over the past 17 games and seventh in the Eastern Conference with 42 points as of Sunday.
"The past month has been pretty tough," Fleury said after stopping 16 of 19 shots against Montreal. "We've usually been pretty constant (with effort). That's what got us to the Stanley Cup final. That's what we need to do every game.
"We have to start with the group of guys we have. We have to go out and play hard."
Focus on that last sentence; many players did after the loss to Montreal, the Penguins' fourth in the past five games at Mellon Arena.
"We owed it to our fans," center Jordan Staal said of the Penguins' noticeably energized performance. "The last two games we didn't show up at all."
That would seem to be the problem facing coach Michel Therrien's club. Therrien spoke of his players' work ethic in unfavorable terms after homes losses to Vancouver (Nov. 22), Buffalo (Dec. 8), Toronto (Dec. 20) and a disappointing defeat Tuesday when underachieving Tampa Bay won, 2-0.
Of those opponents, only Vancouver began yesterday above .500. The Penguins are only 3-4-2 against teams at-or-above .500 since a come-from-behind win Nov. 11 at reigning Cup champion Detroit.
They are 10-9-1 since that 7-6 victory over the Red Wings. Four of those victories were against Atlanta (two) and the New York Islanders (two), teams that began yesterday 14th and 15th,respectively, in the East. Another came at Carolina on Dec. 4, the Hurricanes' first game under new coach Paul Maurice.
The Penguins have lost to five teams that began yesterday under .500 in their past 15 games.
That is fairly unacceptable trend for a team that came within two wins of a championship last season and this year is paced by two centers, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, who have spent much of the past two months 1-2 in the individual scoring standings.
"You're right to say that," Crosby said Saturday, adding that the Penguins "don't want to waste games."
They're also are seemingly weakened by fatigue. Their offseason was essentially six weeks, and they've needed to recall 10 players from the AHL over the past two months due to an injury bug that started in August when recently returned defenseman Ryan Whitney underwent left foot surgery.
The Penguins' fourth line Saturday consisted of forwards Paul Bissonnette, Dustin Jeffrey and Tim Wallace — a trio that has appeared in 18 NHL games.
Perhaps a reason Therrien gave his club an off day yesterday was to lessen any chance of more injuries.
Then again, as defenseman Mark Eaton noted Saturday, "injuries happen" and "they've not been an excuse" for the Penguins before.
The Penguins actually have a better record (19-13-4) through 36 games than they did last season (18-16-2).
"Every team goes through this," forward Petr Sykora said. "Every team that goes a long way in the playoffs at some point in the next season feels it, loses that step for a while.
"The best way to get out of it is to play smart and keep working hard. Eventually it will turn around. We have a great hockey club here. I've got no worries."
17 and under
Looking for a reason why the defending Eastern Conference champion Penguins were just seventh with 42 points as of Sunday• Since opening November with a 7-0-1 stretch, the Penguins are 7-9-1. A statistical breakdown of their recent woe:
1-goal games: 2-4-1
Losses by at least 3 goals: 3
Record against .500-or-better teams: 2-4-1
Goals for: 52
Goals against: 53
Power play: 17.6 percent (13-for-74)
Penalty kill: 78.6 percent (55-of-70)
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins forward Megna’s skill set might be perfect fit
- Inside the glass: Penguins’ Martin, Ehrhoff look comfortable together
- Penguins notebook: Carcillo hopes to give team physical edge
- Penguins notebook: Crosby sits, could be out ‘couple days’
- Penguins’ Rutherford hopes to raise Cup again
- Inside the glass: Sutter takes puck to face
- Finally healthy, Letang looking to make his presence felt as a leader
- Rossi: At start, are Pens already finished?
- Penguins’ new 3rd jersey similar to early 1990s version
- Penguins notebook: Hornqvist, Spaling will lead by example
- Penguins goalie prospects push each other amid friendly competition