Trying to figure out what is wrong with the Penguins is like trying to figure out why people search for the closest parking spot when they go to work out. Ray Shero probably gave up his pension fund for the two new defensive players that were going to be the answer to all of the Penguins problems. He also filled in the offensive gaps with a few wingers that were going to be a big improvement. Analysts everywhere had the Penguins winning the cup, if only That was good enough. All the Pens have now is the big question What the heck is going wrong?
Let’s start with the goaltending. First off, if you thought that Brent Johnson was going to play the whole season at the pace he played at the first 7 games, well then your picnic basket may be short one peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Same goes for if you think that Marc-Andre Fleury is going to continue to play at the horrid pace he started out on.
One thing the Penguins may want to up the ante on is a new goaltending coach. Even though Fleury has been to the finals twice, his numbers have never been stellar. He was a number one over all pick after all. Some of the best goaltending Fleury has played was after he had a long term injury a few years ago and spent time down with the WB/S Penguins working with their goaltending coach. When he came back up he all the sudden was way better at moving the puck, controlling rebounds and playing angles. Maybe it’s time to give Gilles Meloche a full time scouting job.
As for the Penguins defense and the aforementioned money they dished out on two big defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. Michalek is looking better each game, but must have brought along some of the bad Phoenix mojo, the Pens have only won 1 of the seven games he has played in and he has the worst plus/minus per game than any other Penguin defender. Martin has looked good and has been getting the most ice time.
A must mention is Kris Letang’s stellar play, he has found himself leading the Penguins in all important defensive stats.
One of the big fails last night was the pairing of two “young in experience” Penguins on the blue line. Alex Goligoski and Ben Lovejoy just did not gel. Because Goligoski tends to press and roam, he needs and experienced defenseman along side, not Lovejoy. If you didn’t notice, Coach Bylsma benched Goligoski last night after Gogo’s poor decision along the boards late in the game.
This is probably not the best time to say this, but that’s never stopped me before. Ben Lovejoy is the Penguins 6th defenseman. He has paid his dues in the Penguins minor league system. Two years ago he was best over all plus/minus in the entire AHL, last year he had the best plus/minus on the Penguins defensive core even though he only played 12 games. Pairing Lovejoy with an experienced defenseman like Brooks Orpik and having Brooks teach him to throw some checks could pay huge dividends in the future. The Derek Engelland fight tour was fun, but there is a reason he only saw 8 minutes ice time each of the last two games he played. it’s time for hockey.
The offense is looking better, the powerplay is slowely starting to put up numbers. Let’s face it, the Evgeni Malkin at wing worked as well as Michael Jordan’s baseball career. Malkin looked like his old self last night, and having Asham and Cooke on his line sure opened the ice up for him. Jordan Staal will be welcome addition once he’s healthy, but I believe that by the time he gets back, it will be too late to try the Staal centering Malkin experiment.
Crosby is still Crosby, no worries there. Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke are looking as good as ever. Mike Comrie is looking a bit soft, and the 0 goals in 14 games? Comrie and Eric Godard are the only Penguins on offense that have not put the biscuit in the basket. Godard who hasn’t registered a shot on net has had only 32 minutes of ice time and 14 in the penalty box, oh and zero shots on goal.
The coaching staff needs to get the team to play an entire game. Bucking the trend, the Penguins have played their best games on the second night of the two games in a row nights. The second game in two nights generally means a team has to play a smarter game the second night because of the tiredness of the players. The team can win, but they are pressing too hard, over skating their positions and gripping the stick too tight.
Maybe doing that army training at the beginning of the season to create team unity or maybe fixing the team could be as easy as a required karaoke night out on the town to create some bonding. Having a goaltender make a save after a defensive mistake definitely wouldn’t hurt. I’m not giving up yet, but the Penguins need a big dose of Fleury now more than ever. Is he finally ready to start the season?