Home Stretch

Well, well, well. Here we are with 65 games in the books and just 17 regular season contests remaining.

The Penguins find themselves in recently uncharted territory. That is, looking up at a few teams above them in their own division.

Pittsburgh stands third in the Metro division with 85 points, trailing both the NY Islanders (88) and the NY Rangers (87). Overall, though, they are fifth in the Eastern Conference. Not a bad spot, just not one they are accustomed to.

Trades over the past weeks and months continue to change the personnel of the Shero/Bylsma era. Presently, there are eleven, that’s right eleven, new faces on the 22-man roster from last year’s team.

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First Glance

I can’t tell if I’m just caught up in a little early season hype, but I’m beginning to warm up to these Penguins.  And, more than a little.

When Jim Rutherford was announced as the new General Manager on June 6th of this year, let’s just say I wasn’t totally psyched up about it.  In fact, I can vividly recall giving a low, guttural, “UGH!”

But since that time, I’ve got to hand it to the old fella.  He’s quietly gone about his business and made some fairly shrewd moves.

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Shero Out, Bylsma Still Here For Now

The Pens held a news conference today at 11:30am announcing that General Manager Ray Shero has been fired. Coach Dan Bylsma, for right now, is safe.

Our guess is that they either A) hire a GM who will fire Bylsma himself after a reevaluation of the coaching staff or, B) keep Bylsma for 1 more year until Mike Babcock becomes available after his last year coaching the Red Wings. Babcock has already been known to hint that he wants to coach Sidney Crosby, so the shoe might actually fit.

If option A is chosen, the Pens will make it look like upper management didn’t do a dump and change. If option B is chosen, they could be potentially setting themselves up for another disappointing year followed by a possible brilliant move.

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2nd Round: Pens and Rangers

As the second round begins, the Pittsburgh Penguins host their Metropolitan Division rivals, the New York Rangers.

All-time, the Pens are 4-0 in playoff series against the Rangers dispatching them in 1989, 1992, 1996 and 2008.  In those series, Pittsburgh holds a 16-4 advantage.

This is the Rangers 56th playoff appearance (217-236) as they chase the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1994 and fifth overall.  New York leads the all-time regular season series at 115-111-32, but Pittsburgh owns a 31-17-9 mark since the ’05-’06 season.  New York reached the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season and eighth of the past nine.

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How do you spell relief? F-L-E-U-R-Y

In the aftermath of the Game 4 collapse, rampant finger-pointing ensued.  The list of candidates was deep.

Fleury, Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Bylsma.

All of them.  Some of them.  They all had a part in what was later described as lacking the battle level required in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  But in a town desperate to recapture Cup success, Fleury is the easiest and most visible target.

Fleury misplayed a puck late with Columbus deploying the extra attacker in the waning moments of the third period.  A quirky bounce and newly-enshrined Penguin killer Brandon Dubinsky found the back of the net at 19:36 completing the three goal comeback and tying the game.  Just 2:49 into the overtime, Nick Foligno fired a wrister from 55 feet past Fleury sending the Nationwide Arena into pandemonium.

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