Penguins Playoff Update: Time for a Cool Change (or Two) – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Playoff Update: Time for a Cool Change (or Two)

Being tied 1-1 with Tampa Bay after two games is hardly reason to push the panic button. And I’m certainly not advocating any kind of sweeping changes. But I have a couple suggestions for coach Dan Bylsma that might help the Penguins’ cause.

First and foremost, I’d bench Chris Conner in favor of Eric Tangradi. It’s nothing personal. Conner’s a gritty little guy who works his tail off each and every shift. But aside from pushing his sweat glands to the limit, he simply doesn’t produce (two goals over the second half of the season). Considering his small stature and the fact that he’s easily muscled off the puck … well, we’re not talking about the second coming of Martin St. Louis.

It’s true that Tangradi hasn’t exactly burned up the track, either. However, despite limited playing time he’s displayed good instincts and a nose for the net. He enjoyed arguably his best game in the black and gold on February 11–until Trevor Gillies tried to deposit his head into the 10th row of seats.

The reason Conner dresses over Tangradi is speed. But wheels don’t necessarily make for a better hockey player. Guys like Rico Fata and Konstantin Koltsov could skate like the wind. The last time I checked, neither was on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Tangradi is part of the team’s future. Conner isn’t. It’s time to give the kid a chance.

Along the same lines, I’d like to see Deryk Engelland return to the defensive mix. While Brooks Orpik has made it his personal mission to thump every Bolt in sight, the Lightning forwards are a little too comfortable around the Penguins’ net.

I guarantee Ryan Malone won’t try to crawl inside Marc-Andre Fleury’s jersey after every whistle with “the King of Engelland” patrolling the blue line. I doubt if Vinny Lecavalier would be as anxious to shed his gloves–as he did in the opening moments of Game 2–if he knew he might have to tangle with Deryk.

Engelland brings more than a touch of nasty to the table. He’s a “fox hole” guy–an outstanding leader who’ll sacrifice himself for the good of the team. He’s one of the Pens’ best defenseman at getting his shots on net. While it’s true Deryk has a little trouble with his turns, Bylsma can limit his exposure to the likes of St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. The pluses outweigh the minuses.

Of course, this move’s a little problematic. Who do you sit? I watched Matt Niskanen closely in Game 2, and he played really well. He’s an excellent skater, handles the puck well in tight quarters, and makes intelligent reads. Ben Lovejoy was terrific down the homestretch, although he looked a bit ragged in the first two games of the series.

It’s a tough call. But the Pens need Engelland’s grit, especially in front of the net.

*Be sure to check out Rick’s book, “Total Penguins,” at TriumphBooks.com. A complete and comprehensive book on the team’s rich and colorful history, it’s filled with season-by-season summaries, player profiles and stats, bios on coaches, general managers and owners, photos from the “Post-Gazette” archives, and much, much more. A must have for any true Penguins fan. 

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

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  1. PenguinSteve-O's Gravatar PenguinSteve-O
    April 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I agree on all counts. They are setting up shop in front of MAF way to much. I prefer Tangradi over Engelland to be playing in game 3 if I had to make a change.

  2. shoot87's Gravatar shoot87
    April 17, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I agree with matt out and Deryk in, he’ll move some bodies out of the way and do some checking in the corners. And maybe Paul Martin can work on stopping the puck with his stick.
    Problem with the PP my eight year nailed it with the 5 on 3 the other night– SHOOT THE PUCK AT THE NET, SHOOT IT

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      The power play’s a mess right now … no chemistry at all. You’d be hard pressed to find a pee-wee team that looks more disorganized with the man advantage. Frankly, I’d be tempted to use regular line combinations instead of trying to load up. That includes using the fourth line, who’ve been the most productive unit over the past couple of weeks.

      • shoot87's Gravatar shoot87
        April 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

        Funny you should say that my son played Novice Rep here in Canada and their PP looked better some games, they don’t need to load up just need players who shoot on the net

  3. PJ's Gravatar PJ
    April 17, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Actual quote from Ryan Malone recently.

    “If I had a pierced nipple, I’d have to put some tape on it.”

    This has nothing to do with this article…just wanted to get it out there.

    • PenguinSteve-O's Gravatar PenguinSteve-O
      April 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink


      • PJ's Gravatar PJ
        April 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

        St Pete Times 4/17

  4. TANGER58's Gravatar TANGER58
    April 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Here is to a better game 3!!!!! Whoever plays.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink


  5. SK 128's Gravatar SK 128
    April 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Niskanen was a -1 last game had 1 shot and almost three minutes of powerplay. Lovejoy’s +- was even he didn’t see any powerplay time yet had more shots. Lovejoy also had PK time. Considering Lovejoy and Letang were the only two defensemen not in the negatives and he’s more versatile, I go with him. Engelland earned the right to play all season.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      In Niskanen’s defense, I don’t always view +/- as an individual stat, but as more of a team stat. But whoever sits, I agree that Engelland’s earned a shot. I think he adds some intangibles that the other guys lack. The Pens just seem a little more sure of themselves physically with Deryk in the lineup.

  6. Jean Pronovost's Gravatar Jean Pronovost
    April 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    I would dress Engelland over Niskanen, and instead of Tangradi, I would actually consider Comrie over Conner. I know Comrie doesn’t set the world on fire, but his main skill is being able to distribute the puck from the half wall, and right now, the Pens don’t seem to have a guy as capable of doing it as Comrie is.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 17, 2011 at 1:52 am | Permalink

      Good point about Comrie … especially with the Pens’ three best setup men (Crosby, Malkin and Jeffrey) on the shelf. However, due to the Pens lack of size up front, I’d still like to see a bigger body like Tangradi out there.

    • PenguinSteve-O's Gravatar PenguinSteve-O
      April 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      I hope Comrie never plays another minute for the Pens. Going to the game and watching him close up made me sick just watching him try to play at a high level. Conner has at least a small chance for a breakaway, getting the puck in the corner or actually scoring.


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