Been a long time since we addressed the Penguins’ Stud of the Week. But in a week where a ton of different things happened, and when the Pens have four days off in a row, it only seem right to come back to it.
But first, some news. Surprisingly good read from Rob Rossi about the efforts the Penguins have taken to create a winning environment from top to bottom in Pittsburgh. Still surreal that Jarome Iginla is a Pittsburgh Penguin, and that he seems dead set on staying that way til the end of his career.
The Penguins became the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff berth when the Sabres beat the Devils in a shootout Saturday night. Also, doing a little math it looks like the Penguins are magic number of 2 away from winning the Atlantic Division and guaranteeing a top three seeding in the playoffs (the Rangers can reach a maximum point output of 60 [9 games left X 2 points each = 18 points, currently have 42]). Assuming the Pens are able to win the division, they are only a magic number of 2 away from clinching a top 2 seed overall in the East, the now division-leading Washington Capitals have a maximum output of 60 points (9 games to play, 18 point maximum output).
It looks like Kris Letang will be back in the lineup very soon. He participated in full team practice today and will join the team for their forthcoming road trip. The news is not so good for James Neal who has been diagnosed with a concussion. This doesn’t really come as a surprise, but he won’t travel with the team. Beau Bennett has been recalled and chances are good that he’ll get to play alongside Geno and Iggy, not too bad for a rookie. Get the Stud after the break.
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.
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.
This wasn’t a good win, but it was a win of a good team. Well, it was sort of a win of a good team, what it really was was a win earned by a few good players who rose to the occassion over the opponent. The Pens scored 7 goals but only 4 guys contributed in that way. The Pens gave up 6 goals but only 8 players ended up with a negative plus/minus. And while this kind of game won’t work in the playoffs, the Pens rose to the occasion and beat a very good team. What follows is a brief synopsis of the guys who won this for the ‘Guins. Read the rest of this entry »
Actually a ton of moves going down at the AHL level: the Pens traded Benn Ferriero, a career AHLer who signed in Pittsburgh after several highly productive years in San Jose’s system, to the New York Rangers for Chad Kolarik, a perennial 20 goal scorer at the AHL level. He was brought in to be a depth scoring option but so far has only posted 4 goals in Wilkes Barre so far. Kolarik has topped 20 goals three times at the AHL level. Don’t quite understand how this trade would work for the Rangers but it sounds like a win for the Pens and that’s all that really matters. The Pens also traded Carl Sneep to Dallas for a 7th round draft pick. Given that the Pens parlayed a 7th round pick into Tomas Vokoun last year I see this as a good trade too. Whereas the trades were situations where the Penguins were able to move expendable pieces for other assets, the Pens also made the move to sign some players in order to possibly free up other resources. The Penguins came to terms with two former players, Mark Eaton and Tom Kostopolous. Eaton was an underrated element of the Penguin’s 2009 Cup win. He was signed to a 25 game AHL-level contract.
Signing Eaton frees up the Pens to move the NHL level depth guys, Lovejoy, Bortuzzo, or possibly even Simon Despres. In fact, as I will write later, I would be enthralled with an Engelland – Eaton third pairing especially if it means that Engelland will play more.
Kostopolous is 34 years old and has been a career 4th liner. He also signed to an AHL contract and could provide a good option if the Pens end up moving Dustin Jeffrey or Eric Tangradi or another piece that fills out the 4th line. As such it seems likely that the Pens already do have some aspirations for what kind of move they’re looking for when the moment arises. Get more info on all of the minor league moves here.