<![CDATA[When the Pens go down 3-0 to the Sabres on home ice, jam levels can hit critical mass. The takes get hot. It's a 5:00 Sunday game against a terrible team, so obviously the players didn't take it seriously, the coaches didn't have them ready, and before you know it, the starting goalie is being pulled. But then comes that moment when you realize Dan Bylsma is coaching the other team…
This was a textbook Dan Bylsma performance. Get up early, the other team adjusts and makes a run, Dan shits his pants. It’s been years since the Penguins fanbase has identified Bylsma having no idea how to make adjustments, and clearly nothing has changed except he has lost more hair. When he somehow finds his team ahead on the scoreboard, he has no idea how to close things out. When he’s players start deviating from the gameplan, he has no idea how to get them back on track. At this point, Sabres fans should see the writing on the wall: Bylsma is the most overrated coach, maybe ever, in the NHL.
It was 3-0
Ryan O’Reilly, Brian Gionta and Jack Eichel each scored in the first period thanks to a bad turnover, a bad turnover from the goalie while killing a penalty, and Jack Eichel being really good. Going down 3-0 in the first might be bad news bears if the Pens are playing any other team, but the Bylsma factor was looming.
The Pens would start getting serious in the second, and though Anders Nilsson eventually would lose this game, it was probably still the best game of his life. The fact he got the Sabres out of the second with the lead was a minor miracle in itself. But when you’re a goalie in Buffalo, you know how these things go.
First it was Justin Schultz getting the Pens on the board…
Right place at the right time. Story of Shultz’s resurrection. Then Schultz makes a lovely feed to Malkin to make it 3-2…
Too soon to say Schultz is going to eclipse Niskanen money? Every point he registers is literally the sound of a register at this point. Guy is going to get seriously paid by someone this offseason. And you know what? He deserves it. What a 180 to his career. He’d be smart to stay where the grass is green, but money is greener than grass. The Pens should empty their wallets if that’s what it takes to keep him.
The MAF Factor
Before the Pens would begin their comeback, Mike Sullivan turned to Marc-Andre Fleury to start the third. Fleury responded admirably, making 27 saves in relief, but here’s the thing: He’s still your backup goalie. The minute Fleury has a moment like this where he saves the day, his supporters are calling 911 on Matt Murray, while his haters will call it a one-off and denounce his career or how he’s handle this role. Fleury is not a superstar and he is not a bum. He’s somewhere in between there — in fact he’s been pretty average his entire career. He is, without question, the most polarizing average goaltender in Penguins history. Maybe that’s the problem, he’s just so average. People either love or hate the smile and jovial attitude. They either love or hate the average on-ice play. He’s the John Cena of goaltenders — everyone has an opinion on him. This time he was the hero. Won’t be long before he’s the goat again. Way she goes.
You knew it was only a matter of time. The Sabres came out flatter than your sister. The Pens were pushing but Nilsson was doing everything he could to bail out Bylsma. It has to be embarrassing for Sabres fans to realize this is their reality.
Jake Guentzelvania tied it up with a questionable deflection…
The stick looks high but where the puck hits is below the crossbar. The apex of the story is the ruling on the ice was a goal, so the chances of it being overturned were non-existent. The goal stood and the game was tied.
What a player Guentzel has turned out to be. The guy just knows where the puck is going to be and you can’t teach that. Pens struck gold with this guy.
With less than three to go, Schultz had his name called again. This time he fed Conor Sheary on the back door for his biggest and best play of the night…
Ball game. Western Canada is up next.