Sometimes I have the tendency to be particularly verbose in my postgame recaps, mostly because right after Penguin games, I’m scrambling to crystallize my own thoughts on the game while simultaneously also conveying those half-thoughts and using my spare hand to respond to angry dad-texts. As an example of this verboseness (verbosity? Virtubosity with Denzel Washington?), I’m already rambling in this intro paragraph that I started with the intention to convey that for once, in my Recap of Pens/Lightning Game 6, I actually wouldn’t have to ramble on forever, because it was an exceedingly simple loss to analyze.
Now that I’ve wasted all this time describing how little time I’d have to waste before summarizing this game, let’s summarize this game in two easily digestible Dairy Queen Mini-sized fail desserts:
- Penguins Power Play goes 0-for-5, plus a (very) missed Penalty Shot.
- Fleury gives up 4 goals on 21 shots (Dwayne Roloson stops 27 of 29).
There ya go. Pretty much a perfect storyboard for a movie about this Penguin team losing a game, which would be a really boring idea for a movie for a number of reasons (though they could bill it as a Miracle reboot and call it Plausible?)
There just aren’t words to describe the Pens’ power play anymore, which is now 1-for-30 in the Tampa series. We could maybe try to attach two swear words to one another to form one giant unstoppable Devastator-like expletive, then scream that and we’d be on the right track. There’s no easy solution, either, as the Penguins aren’t even committing the two token “angry fan” power play mistakes: They’re not not-shooting the puck (they’re trying to shoot, they just don’t often control the puck long enough to shoot and when they do it gets blocked or deflected wide), and they’re not failing to get traffic in front of the net (Kunitz and Neal were both doing this, it just didn’t matter while the other four players were constantly running a suck-a-thon around the perimeter).
The Penguins did get some fortunate calls today (the Ohlund hooking penalty on Neal was shaky, as Neal appeared to grab his blade under his arm), but Ryan Malone took two awful penalties, almost headshotting Dupuis and intentionally cross-checking Letestu into Fleury, and the Pens didn’t even begin to make Tampa sweat for either lapse. And we don’t need to speak of the Conner penalty shot attempt here, this is a house of God.
As for Fleury, I said before the series that he was gonna have to play out of his mind for four of the seven games for the Pens to win, adding that I didn’t foresee that happening, but my lack of confidence completely reversed itself after the Pens won Games 3 and 4 without Fleury having to completely stand on his head. He’s only really had to steal one game in the series so far (Game 1), so I thought for sure that even if the Pens’ play regressed after Game 4, that Fleury could still step up and snag one of the remaining three games and that would be that. After across-the-board Penguin meltdowns in Game 5 and to a lesser extent in Game 6, Fleury’s now left with just one game left to repeat his Game 1 performance. To be clear, Fleury wasn’t “bad” in Game 6 — plus Michalek didn’t do him any favors on the Downie go-ahead goal — he just didn’t play anywhere near as dominantly as he’s going to have to for this undermanned Pens team to knock out a desperate, healthy Tampa squad.
So the question remains: Will Fleury pull a Red Wings Game 7, or a Canadiens Game 7? I expect the reality to be somewhere in between, but regardless of the Pens’ very evident defensive lapses in the last two games, Fleury has now allowed 8 goals on his last 35 shots — if he improves on that, it doesn’t guarantee the Pens will win, but if he doesn’t, it definitely guarantees that they won’t.
All in all, I’m not confident heading into Game 7. If I had to bet, I’m thinking about 60-40 Tampa, just as I was heading into the best-of-seven series. But no matter what happens, I am very, very confident in one thing: It will NOT be the most pathetic Game 7 in recent Penguins history…