PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Longtime NHL defenseman and current NHL on TSN analyst Aaron Ward joined The Fan Morning Show on Friday to offer his take on the Penguins and their potential playoff opponents.
In Ward’s mind, the Boston Bruins are on a completely different level from the Pens and every other team in the Eastern Conference. He’s not quite as high on the Pens due to a few major concerns that they have.
“They still have the defensive issues,” Ward said. “I mean, it’s great that Paul Martin comes back, but the fact that you’ve got Letang out of the lineup. You think of the Achilles heel of every single team. If I look specifically at Pittsburgh, I look at the defensive responsibility in their end and things that have plagued them in the past.”
He feels that their luck with finding production out of nowhere might run out once the playoffs start.
“[The Pens] survived so well for a period of time because of the depth you had in the American Hockey League,” Ward said. “We kept on laughing when we sat and watched [the Pens]- a guy would go down and guys like Gibbons would step up, and you say to yourself, okay, where are these guys coming from? Over time, getting into the playoffs, where the defensive system and goal tending is such a key to success, I think that [the Pens] could be struggling a little bit.”
He thinks it’s wrong to simply place all of the blame for the Pens’ playoff struggles under Dan Bylsma, noting that one of his players has contributed to a number of the negative parts of his résumé.
“I think this will be a shared responsibility,” Ward said. “Because I think as much as Dan Bylsma will take his own share of credit or criticism for the direction of the team and how successful they are, I think there’s a bunch of people that need to step up. Specifically, if you look at Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s had a questionable two consecutive playoffs, if you’re thinking about who has to bear some shared responsibility, this is a guy that has put himself in high regards with many of the goalies, but his performance against Philly and his performance against the Islanders just has left a lot to be desired.”
He thinks that Fleury remains the biggest concern for the Penguins entering this postseason.
“For me, my biggest question comes down to goal tending,” Ward said.
The interview can be heard here: