Friday, December 19, 2008

Fleury Returns; Pens Post Impressive W

Even though Dany Sabourin has been excellent in relief of Marc-Andre Fleury, there was something very, very reassuring about seeing the Flower back between the pipes last night for the Thrashers game. And he didn't disappoint, either. Fleury put together a 28 save night, and on two of the three goals he allowed, the blame wasn't with him, but with deflected shots. Now, Fleury certainly had a few moments where you could tell it had been a few weeks since he'd been in net, but having a legit number 1 goalie in net again clearly got this time a bit fired up, as they unleashed a 6 goal night on the unsuspecting Thrashers.

It was also evident that they were in a lot better shape after 4 days rest than they were after getting whipped by the Flyers in their last game. Granted, the NHL schedule, by nature, will force teams to go through stretches like that one, but given the Pens' injury status at the time, it was just a case of bad timing for our favorite hockey club. The offense was very crisp last night, as Geno continued on his tear with a 4 point night, Sid chipped in with a pair of assists, and the offense's role players continued to chug along with solid productivity.

A big part of those role players has ben the minor league call-ups this season, and they continue to impress me (and obviously the Penguins as well) with their work. The elite-type prospects are basically gone from the Pens after a few years of either dealing them away or drafting players that were too talented to spend time in the minors, but guys like Jeff Taffe, Tim Wallace (who has been a very nice addition considering I had never heard of the guy until about a week before they called him up), Ryan Stone, John Curry, and Alex Goligoski (who has a ton of talent, but has been playing better than I think even the most optimistic people in the Pens organization could have imagined) have all proven they can be contributors on good teams like the Penguins, and while certainly some of these guys figure to lose playing time and in some cases even their roster spots as the Pens get healthy again, I feel infinitely better about the organizational depth than I did a few months ago.

The Pens are off today and return home to face the Maple Leafs tomorrow night and begin a stretch of 9 games in 16 days where they are confined to the northeast, including 5 home games. With the Flower in net, Whitters and Mad Max figuring to return in the very near future, this team figures to get a lot better in a hurry, and this stretch with no big trips could be a very productive one for the Pens.

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