By: Casey Johnston (@PensNationCasey)
Goalie Tandem Still Strong
Since the end of the Olympic break, the performances of Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff may cause one to question this goaltending tandem going into the playoffs. Zatkoff giving up four goals against San Jose and Fleury giving up 10 against Montreal and Chicago would be cause for alarm under most circumstances. However, the last five games have not been normal circumstances. Having a two-week break in hockey is not the norm. You can cry out “excuses!” all you want, but it’s true; a two-week period where most of roster is not playing hockey and not practicing is abnormal. Things that follow, good and bad, should be considered an anomaly. Against Montreal and Chicago, Fleury posted save percentages of .828 and .875. In seven games before the break he posted a save percentage below .900 once. Since those two games his save percentages have been .947 and .935. Who do you think the real Fleury is right now, the one who gave up 10 regulation goals in two games, or the one that has posted save percentages above .920 24 times this year? A bad slump notwithstanding, Fleury and Zatkoff are a big reason why the Penguins have a 14 point margin on the second place-New York Rangers in the Metro Division. They should have earned the trust of the fans by now.
Stempniak Fitting In
It took three games into his tenure as a Pittsburgh Penguin, but Lee Stempniak may have found his home on the wing of Sidney Crosby. Stempniak came to Pittsburgh having not registered a point in his previous four games. He did not score in his first two games with the Penguins. Last night, he registered two assists, one primary and one secondary, on both of Chris Kunitz’s goals. While the 16:03 TOI that Stempniak had last night are too few to tell if he’ll really last on the top line, he has to be a better fit than Brian Gibbons. There will be plenty of hockey in the next month before the playoffs, but so far Stempniak is the Penguins’ best option going into the mid-April.
Closing Out the Season Series
The Penguins have the opportunity to sweep the season series against the Capitals tonight. If it happens, this will be the second straight year that the Penguins have swept the season series. The Capitals have not won a game against the Penguins since January 11, 2012. In the next seven games, the Penguins would outscore the Capitals 28-14. In that span Sidney Crosby has play six games and registered 14 points. Evgeni Malkin has 12 points in his last six games against Washington. It’s only the regular season and it means nothing in April, but given the Penguins’ success against the Capitals the last two years, does a playoff matchup worry you?