Puck Daddy - NHL

The carcass of a Stanley Cup runner-up is usually picked clean by now, but there's been curiously few blame games played involving the Pittsburgh Penguins after they lost to the Detroit Red Wings.

Most of the criticism has fallen to Evgeni Malkin, but it's been more curiosity about injuries than outright culpability. Perhaps the sense of inevitability that Sidney Crosby and the Penguins will return to the finals at some point has drained the desperation that accompanies a championship defeat. Perhaps the looming decisions this summer regarding Pittsburgh's free agents, and next year's free agents, have overshadowed any reviews of what could have been.

More likely, however, is that it quickly became apparent during the finals that the Red Wings were the superior team playing superior hockey. When the Penguins broke through, it was due to Detroit's complacency or lack of discipline. Game 5 is a classic not only for the litany of sports legends born from it, but because the odds seemed practically insurmountable for Pittsburgh at that point in the series.

So it's a little jarring to see blame heaped on any single Penguins player for the loss in the finals; especially when that player had 205 saves against the Red Wings and the game of his life in Game 5. But MSG's Stan Fischler, through an unnamed source, faults Marc-Andre Fleury:

Let's not get carried away with the Marc-Andre Fleury phenom stuff. One prominent goalie coach tells us that if anyone cost Pitt the series, it was the Pens' netminder. "He started the series badly and that's how he ended it-with two terrible goals in Game Six. The second [rebound] goal was bad and he had no business letting the puck go through his legs before he eventually knocked it in on the winner. By contrast, Chris Osgood made the saves that he had to make." The bottom line on Fleury is simple; his consistency is missing.

There's no question that Fleury's rebound control sucked for much of the series, and that he made Roman Cechmanek look like Marty Brodeur whenever he played the puck. And that "sit and score" goal in Game 6 officially replaced Tomas Holmstrom's rump as the butt of all postseason posterior jokes.

But he "cost Pitt the series?" Seriously? With a save percentage at .900 or above in Games 2-6, facing that many shots? With his Conn Smythe candidacy clearly announced? All due respect to the Maven, who's the only hockey journalist to witness both Jacques Plante's rookie season and the discovery of fire, but we disagree quite vehemently.

H/T Kukla's.

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