Gameday #26 Recap: v. New York Islanders, It’s a Sock Monkey Trick

Now this is exactly what the Penguins needed to do against a team like the Islanders. Sidney Crosby with his fifth career 5+ point night, Chris Kunitz with his first 5 point night, Duper with 2 goals, Neal with 3 points, Letang with 2 assists, solid defensive work and underrated goaltending made this game pretty much easy from start to finish. NOW it’s not unfair to look forward to Tuesday’s smackdown against the Bruins for command of the Eastern Conference. That is going to be a huge, huge game. At least the Pens are on home ice.

Holy Cow

Holy Cow

If you ask us, the defensive composition of this game is exactly what the Pens should roll with going forward.

  • For starters, it was obvious that Bylsma was determined to use his last change to play Brandon Sutter and co. along with Brooksie and Paul-Mart against the Islanders’ top line, and guess what? It worked. The only time it didn’t work was when Simon Despres got caught at the end of a shift and blew a tire. If not for all that, the Pens probably would have gotten a shutout.
  • You want to know why the six defensemen who played yesterday are the Penguins’ best defensemen? Check out these TOI stats from yesterday’s game:
    • #2 – 18:44
    • #4 – 16:04
    • #7 – 22:15
    • #44 – 20:11
    • #47 – 18:32
    • #58 – 23:31
  • That’s a little different from Saturday night’s game which saw Engo play 14 and Despres play 12 while Paul-Mart played over 24 and Letang went for more than 30. Again, we like Engo, but he’s not a better defensive player than Eaton and he’s not a game changer like Despres, when you have both of those two in the lineup you can roll with 3 full pairings, as evidenced above, whereas with Engo in the lineup the third pairing somehow needs to be protected. (Don’t believe me, check the official boxscores here @ TOR, and v. NYI).
  • Further, although we’re all on board with the Penguins pursuing a “hockey move” to bring in a young defensive defenseman, looking at the “rental options,” guys who are pending UFAs in the offseason, there isn’t much to get warm and fuzzy feelings about. With that said, we wouldn’t be mad to see the Pens stand pat if they can’t bring in a player that will actually improve the team long term.

Don’t look now but Tomas Vokoun has only allowed one goal (on a shot that was indefensible, essentially a 2-0 breakaway) in his last 5 periods of play. We’re definitely not here to say that Vokoun is back to challenging Fleury for the starting job, but we are at the very least moving back to a position of goaltending parity, which can only be good for the Penguins as the season moves forward. Make no doubt, over these last five periods the Penguins have insulated Vokoun well, but that’s not a bad thing, playing good team defense is the surest way to help a goaltender.

The only bad news coming from yesterday’s game is that Geno is expected to miss 1-2 weeks with a non-descript “upper body injury.” As with any injured player, hopefully he’ll be back in the lineup before we have the opportunity to miss him.

Again, huge game coming up, and in case you haven’t seen it yet, it’s time to start hating the B’s.

Stud of the Week will be back! Although you shouldn’t have a hard time guessing who wins this week, his name rhymes with Kidney Ross Bee.

That’s a lot of sock moneys…

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