Flower blooms in Penguins game for potentially the last time
For perhaps the last time ever the Flower bloomed in a Penguins game. The 39-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury suited up and started against the Penguins last night. His career status is up in the air and this may have been the last time he got to share NHL ice with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.
It was a special occasion with Fleury being honored for his 1,000th game as well as passing Patrick Roy on the all-time wins list. It was an incredibly well done ceremony made extra special by the Penguins being the team in town, no doubt an intentional and proper choice.
Fleury was given a silver goaltending stick just like players are given a silver stick for their 1,000th game. It is probably the very last time a goaltender will be given this award. With the way the position is these days with load management even a terrific goaltender who can stay healthy year after year won’t touch those numbers.
Given how high the emotions were running last night I felt like you were going to either get Fleury on top of his game or the one where there’s a different goalie finishing the game. The good Fleury showed up. He stopped 34 out of 36 shots including a barrage from the Penguins when they had their goalie pulled.
Fleury finished with a .944 save percentage.
The Penguins didn’t play a bad game last night, but it is similar to a lot of games they’ve played this year. Good enough to win, but didn’t make enough plays to do so. And this comes on a night where they actually got a goal out of Reilly Smith as well as a power play goal. That’s like playing with house money this year.
Evgeni Malkin hasn’t been playing his best brand of hockey over the past few weeks. In fact, the aging curve may have finally shown up for one of the Penguins two megastar centers. Despite that, he still remains a good player. His most common linemates this year have been a Drew O’Connor not suited for top six minutes and a Reilly Smith who completely disappeared for 30ish games. He still has some juice left in him as his takeaway and assist showed last night
I know Malkin-Rakell wasn’t jumping off the page earlier this season, but you need to put talent with him. Rakell is a perfect example of a third wheel player. When you already have Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, and Rust you need to fill the niche role of the third wheel. Rakell isn’t going to drive a line and the bottom six offensive skill is vacant. Rakell needs to be in the top six. That’s the bed the Penguins made when they extended him and it is the one they should be lying in.
Sidney Crosby passed former linemate Mark Recchi on the all-time goals list last night. It came on a tremendous shot pass from Erik Karlsson on the power play (how about that). Classic #SidDownLow goal
The Penguins had some bad luck when a puck bounced out of play prior to the Wild scoring their third goal. The authentic reactions of the players told the story. I fully believe the puck hit the netting. Unfortunately, for the Penguins the technology to prove it actually happened was lacking. Instead of taking a goal off the board it ended up counting and then put the Penguins on the penalty kill thus wasting another two minutes of potential attacking time. It wasn’t the main reason they lost the game, just another factor in what has been a season of what ifs.
No time for the Penguins to feel bad about themselves as they will be in Winnipeg tonight to try and follow up on their victory over the Jets earlier in the week. The Jets are currently on a five-game losing streak so I imagine they won’t be peachy. The Penguins will need to have their legs going to compete.
Thanks for reading!