Marc-Andre Fleury's performance isn't cutting it.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are on quite a warpath in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. The only thing that can slow them down now is players not pulling their weight.
The Penguins haven’t marched through the playoffs uncontested. John Tavares and company gave them a run for their money. More recently, Craig Anderson, Erik Karlsson and the Senators’ defense proved to be a problem for the Penguins in Game 3.
As the Penguins look to take down the Senators and move past the second round, here are three Penguins who aren’t quite carrying their weight thus far.
The Penguins showed Tanner Glass that if he can't do his job, he'll sit.
In five games in the 2013 postseason, Glass scored as many goals as he did in the 48-game season. Granted, that’s only one. That’s still impressive, though, right?
Then why has he only played five of nine playoff games?
Part of the reason is Glass doesn’t get paid to score goals. It’s nice, but it’s not what head coach Dan Bylsma puts him on the ice to do.
Rather, Glass’ role is that of a depth grinder alongside the likes of Craig Adams. He’s supposed to win puck battles, hit hard and wear down the opponent—those last two being crucial in postseason play.
After leading the Penguins in hits in the regular season with 2.6 per game, it seemed he could be trusted to do that. In the five playoff games he’s played, though, he’s only averaged two hits per game.
Glass is needed to complement grinders like Adams, Matt Cooke and Brenden Morrow. Simply put, he hasn’t been doing that.
Fleury just before giving up a goal to Islanders winger Kyle Okposo.
Out of nine playoff games, Tomas Vokoun has started the majority. As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s true.
And it’s not hard to see why. Bylsma decided to give Vokoun a shot in Game 5 vs. the Islanders after Fleury gave up six goals in a losing effort in Game 4.
Vokoun has started four more games since then. Of those, he only dropped a double-overtime decision in Game 3 against the Senators. Even then, he still played a near-perfect game.
During the 33 games he played in the regular season, Fleury allowed an average of 2.39 goals against and had a .916 save percentage. His postseason 3.40 goals-against average and sub-.900 save percentage are not Stanley Cup material.
A combination of rest and the determination that comes with having to watch the game from the bench might be enough to push Fleury past this slump. Until then, the Penguins will continue to ride their hot goaltender.
The Penguins need James Neal to make an impact—especially on the power play.
Special teams are a difference maker in the playoffs. James Neal is a power-play stud. By proxy, Neal should be a difference maker.
That’s not the case.
Sure, Neal has missed some playoff action due to injuries. Regardless, he’s been playing with superstar linemates like Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla. His production should be better than a goal and two helpers in seven games.
What’s more concerning is that he hasn’t registered a point on the man advantage. Neal led the NHL in 2011-12 in power-play goals and led the team this season, too, despite missing eight games.
Neal wasn’t necessarily expected to score on the power play at that pace during the playoffs. Malkin always takes his game to a new level in the postseason, as does Crosby, so it wouldn’t have been shocking to see him assist more than score on the man advantage.
Instead, the effectiveness of the Penguins’ power-play unit has been quickly diminishing. It shined against the Islanders and was even instrumental in taking Game 1 against the Senators.
However, the Penguins have only converted on one of 12 opportunities between Games 2 and 3. Their 27 percent effectiveness is good enough for second in the NHL among playoff teams, but the unit can’t continue to thrive if its best player isn’t pulling his weight.