Pittsburgh Penguins: One week in
One week into the shortened NHL season, the Penguins are 2-2-0. And they look like a team that should be 2-2-0. Winning the first two games of the season against two divisional opponents was big, but when you lose to two teams that you should beat? It is almost like those first two wins didn’t happen.
The Penguins as a team has had some problems. For example, there is very little chemistry on all the lines and the penalties they have been taking have been pretty atrocious. The so called 1st line with Crosby, Kunitz and Dupuis started to show flashes of chemistry in the fourth game but it is apparent that they are not clicking like they had a few seasons ago. Malkin and Neal seemed to continue where they left off in the first couple games, but it seems as though they lost something since the game against the Rangers. Its likely due to the fact that they haven’t had a steady line-mate to build any chemistry with. Sutter has looked good, but it seems like he is trying to do more than what he has been brought in to do. He needs to relax and stick to his game, and the goals come with time. Sutter’s line was probably the only line that seemed to have something going for them. Unfortunately, it was broken up in game 4 because the staff gave up on Tangradi and moved Kennedy up to the second line.
Fleury and Vokoun have been everything the team has needed them to be, they have made the saves they have needed to make, but have been left out to dry too many times. Which brings me to the Defense. Letang is looking good, but jumping up too often on the offensive attack, Orpik has been a steady constant (which is good). Niskanen has over performed so far, but how long can that last? Despres looked decent, like a young player should look. Engelland has been solid and Love Joy had a decent against the Jets but seemed to get full of himself throughout the game and started jumping up when he shouldn’t have.
Finally, the biggest problem I have noticed is the fact they refuse to slow down and take control of the game. They allow it to be back and forth, up and down the ice, that’s how mistakes happen, especially when you haven’t had enough time to practice with your team and linemates. Keep it simple, slow down the game and cycle the puck once in the offensive zone.
Neal has three goals in 4 games, looking to continue his pace from last season. Crosby seems to have found his legs and has been doing everything he can to help out this team, be it crisp passes or scoring goals. Fleury and Vokoun, as stated above have been the only real solid thing on the team so far, they just need help up front. The Powerplay until the game against the Jets has been working really well. If they continue to utilize the players as they have it will continue to be successful. You can’t forget the two wins against the Rangers and Flyers even though the last two games were as bad as they were.
What to Expect
Since Bylsma has become the coach of this team, it has always been difficult for change to take place, Bylsma sticks to a system and continues to use it even when its apparent it isn’t working. This time I don’t see it as being a problem with the system, but more a problem with the drive the players have. The first 20 minutes of each game the Penguins have been dominant, but after that they sit back, get out played and out hit. You can say it is because they did not have a real training camp, but I would call BULL. They get wreckless by making poor passes and bad decisions with the puck.
I expect for them to play very different from here on out. They see their faults, they know what the problem is, and even if Bylsma wants them to keep the games at a fast pace, you will begin to see them making better decisions when attempting to make plays, which will lead to less turnovers.
What I would like to See
I want Kunitz back on that Neal Malkin line. It was one of the best lines in the league last season and the fact that it is not together right now is beyond me. Why not go to something that has proven to work in the past and experiment with Crosby’s line? Sid, Kunitz and Dupuis before this season haven’t played together on a regular basis in over 24 months, so why mess up a Great line in the hopes another will be good?
Letang needs to be pulled back a bit. I am a huge fan of Letang and I know he has great hockey sense, but without a solid line mate he needs to understand that jumping up as much as he has is not a good idea and he needs o remember he is a defender first.
Set lines and stick with them, let them build some Chemistry. Besides the Crosby line no other trio has been together for an entire game. Tangradi may not be the answer for Malkin or Crosby, but 3 games is not enough time to build any kind of chemistry with a line, especially since Tangradi hasn’t had a shot like this yet until now. Sutter, Kennedy and Cooke looked good, so keep them together, why change something that works to hopefully put a band aid on a mistake You (the coach) made in moving Kunitz with Crosby?
So what do you think?
I know it has only been four games, and in no way am I pushing the panic button, but the things I pointed out need to be addressed or this team will underachieve once again.