Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is standing up for a couple of players drawing criticism amid the team's earlier than expected playoff exit.
Rutherford joined "Starkey and Mueller" on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Friday and took the opportunity to defend captain Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury.
"Well, the obvious, he didn't have the production that he usually does," Rutherford said of Crosby. "But as we know in sports, different times, different games, different series, things change and players don't perform the same way year after year."
Crosby had one goal and eight assists in the Penguins' 13 playoff games. After the Penguins took a 3-1 series lead over the New York Rangers, he failed to register a point in the final three games - all losses.
"He's a guy that is under the microscope all the time, every move, and he's the best player in the game, and of course people expect a lot from him. But that's in the past now; we have a new season coming, he'll continue to be the best player, and I'm sure when he gets to next year's playoffs he'll be just fine."
As for Pittsburgh's goaltender, Rutherford says he's not as bad as some suggest.
"The one thing I'll say about Fleury is this past season was the best season, the most consistent season he's had over several seasons, probably over three or four seasons," he said.
"Other than a couple of goals in the Columbus series, I thought his playoff series performance was fine, his regular season was fine and from an ability point of view he's a very, very good goalie.
Many have questioned Fleury's play, but Rutherford isn't concerned.
"Going back a couple years, I think the mental part of the game was difficult for him, and certainly it seems that whatever he did in last offseason has strengthened his position, and I see him as a guy that'll build off of last season and be as good or better next year."
Fleury's 2.37 goals against average during the regular season ranked him 15th in the NHL. His .915 save percentage tied for 14th.
[H/T Pro Hockey Talk]
Feature photo courtesy of Reuters/Seth Wenig