What a bizarre series this is turning out to be.
You’re probably already aware, but it’s worth repeating because it’s just simply too incredible to think about.
- The team scoring first has lost all four games.
- The team holding a 3-1 lead in all four games has lost.
- All four games have ended 4-3.
This is the kind of series that drive stats people crazy. There’s no way to explain this anomaly.
It’s just simply bizarre.
Despite the Penguins blowing another 3-1 lead and losing in overtime for the second time in the series, it’s hard to solely point the finger at Marc-Andre Fleury.
One can certainly argue he shouldn’t have come out of his net in the dying seconds of the third period with his team clinging to a 3-2 lead.
It’s a valid point and of course, some of the blame should be placed on Fleury for this loss. Notice, I said “some.”
To solely place all of the blame on Fleury for the Game 4 loss is incredibly foolish and ignorant.
Let’s recap a little here.
Pittsburgh jumped out to a 3-0 lead in a span of 5:01 in the first period. Craig Adams stunned the Blue Jackets with a shorthanded goal to get the ball rolling.
Chris Kunitz and James Neal finally got on the score sheet a few minutes later. It was looking like the Penguins would run Columbus out of their own building and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
Then, for whatever reason, and for a second time in the series, the Penguins backed off.
Boone Jenner’s power play goal with 3:21 left in the first period gave Columbus a spark and the Penguins never stomped it out.
Pittsburgh was flat out dominated for much of the remainder of the contest. The Blue Jackets held a 46-25 advantage in shots when all was said and done in Game 4.
Did the Penguins play better defensively in the third? Absolutely.
However, there was no killer instinct, even with a power play opportunity in the third.
Columbus held a 32-14 edge in shots over the final 40-plus minutes of regulation and OT.
Quite frankly, that’s unacceptable.
Fleury was literally the only reason the Penguins had a lead beyond the second period, where they were outshot 18-6.
Not to mention, they got outshot 5-1 in an overtime period that didn’t even last three minutes. So, forgive me for not leading the pitchfork and burning torch brigade against Fleury.
What this team needs right now is for someone, anyone to step up and lead the way. Sidney Crosby is wearing the “C” for a reason. If he’s not going to do it, then Dan Bylsma needs to find a way to light a fire under this team.
His job may depend on it.
They’ve shown they can dominate the Blue Jackets when they put their minds to it in this series. See how they played in the third period of Game 3 and the first period of Game 4 for proof.
They’ve proven they can get pucks behind Sergei Bobrovsky by scoring six in those two periods alone. There are positives in the series, but the Penguins just need to put a 60-minute game together. If they do that, they’ll be fine in the remainder of the series.
Again, Fleury’s not the sole reason this series is 2-2 this morning.
“That’s not the story. We had a three-goal lead and a 3-1 lead and again, the second period and the [penalty kill gives] up the goal there in the second on the 5-on-3. Them coming back is a much bigger story than that,” Bylsma said.
The fact every game in this series has been decided by one goal shouldn’t come as a surprise either.
Here’s the regular season series again:
Nov. 1, 2013 – Pittsburgh 4, Columbus 2
Nov. 2, 2013 – Pittsburgh 3, Columbus 0
Dec. 9, 2013 – Pittsburgh 2, Columbus 1
Dec. 29, 2013 – Pittsburgh 5, Columbus 3
March 28, 2014 – Pittsburgh 2, Columbus 1
Note: Home Teams In Bold
Given those results, it’s not unreasonable to think that a couple of bounces Columbus’ way would have evened up the regular season series. You know, kind of like it has in this playoff series.
Regardless of what happened, the positive side is that this is now a best-of-three series and the Penguins have home ice.
“It’s 2-2. We’re not in trouble here, we’re alright. So, go home, get some good meals, relax, good practice, get back at it Saturday at home,” Fleury said.
“Two good teams, there’s been a lot more lead changes than obviously you anticipate in the playoffs. But, you kind of start from scratch now going home. Both teams need two wins,” Adams said.
That’s the proper perspective and frame of mind the Penguins need to be in as the puck drops on Game 5 Saturday night.
This result stings, but the Penguins will need to put it out of their minds quickly if they want to be on the right side of an elimination game Monday in Columbus.
Rather than blaming Fleury, might I suggest the fans take a team approach to the remainder of the series. Wins and losses come as a team, not because of one player.
Support your goaltender and support your team Penguins fans.
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