Penguins Update: First Impressions – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: First Impressions

I know it’s early. Really early. And there’s a ton of hockey to be played this season. However, if first impressions mean anything, I don’t like what I saw from our Penguins on opening night.


Sure, we had our moments during the 3-0 loss to Dallas. Evgeni Malkin made a supernatural power move out of the corner, only to be denied by Stars goalie Antti Niemi. And the black and gold fired off 37 shots–including six by celebrated newcomer Phil Kessel. But numbers can be deceiving. Most of those shots came from the perimeter.

Therein lies the rub. The Pens can’t seem to get to the prime scoring areas. Down low…between the circles.

How many second-chance opportunities did we have? Precious few. In most cases it was one and done. Just like last season, when the offense evaporated faster than the Salton Sea.

A root cause? The Pens struggle mightily to win puck battles in the offensive zone.

Oddly, they boast several skaters who should thrive in the trenches. Chris Kunitz for one. Bullish rookie Sergei Plotnikov for another. Too bad Kuny’s effectiveness has waned. And Plotnikov seems a step behind. Indeed, only Patric Hornqvist was consistently strong along the wall. That’s not enough.

Coach Mike Johnston’s fully aware. According to reports, MJ emphasized battle drills in training camp. The lessons didn’t take.

Personnel-wise, the Pens have few viable options. They seem loathe to promote Oskar Sundqvist, the rangy Swedish center. Former first-round pick Tyler Biggs has the bulk (6’2” 205) to be an effective cornerman but lacks a scoring touch. Free-agent Eric Fehr will help, but isn’t due to come off the shelf for at least a month. Ditto hustling Pascal Dupuis.

It could be a long wait.

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  1. jim's Gravatar jim
    October 10, 2015 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick…News Flash… Simon Depres just signed a 5 year, 18.5 million dollar contract extension .The article says they are extremely pleased with his solid physical play and his offensive out put last year …. especially during the playoffs…Obviously. You normally do not give a player that kind of contract for that amount of money unless your are 99% sure he is going to be a winner.
    Question…How many 6 foot 4 inch, 225 pound,first round d men, aged 24 years old, do we have on our roster in 2015 ?
    The article also said that Rutherford was pressured to make the trade for Lovejoy. Question..Who can pressure a GM into making a trade he does not want to do ? Probably the guy that hired him.
    Funny how little things come back to haunt us.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      October 11, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      I did see that Anaheim locked up Despres long-term. Our loss definitely is the Ducks’ gain. No matter who pushed for the deal on our end, it’ll go down as one of the worst in Penguins history. And I’m not a Lovejoy hater. It’s just that—as you pointed out—you don’t part with a mobile 6-4, 225-pound, 24-year-old defenseman who can move the puck and hit.

      Rapidly climbing my worst-trade list? David Perron for a first-round pick. In fairness, he did make a couple of nice plays after moving to the Malkin line last night. But over his last 14 regular-season games going back to last year Perron’s a minus-9 and has 1 assist. How this guy ever scored 28 goals in a season is beyond me.

      Just to balance things, I did see some positives in last night’s loss to Arizona. Plotnikov came alive after moving to the third line and made a couple of really nice plays. Perron showed a pulse after moving to Geno’s wing. Even though Kevin Porter’s not my favorite player, he seemed to mesh with Cullen and Sprong, who continues to impress in limited duty. And, at least from the second-period on, I thought the Pens competed much harder and got to the prime scoring areas.

  2. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    October 10, 2015 at 11:43 am | Permalink


    Love the Salton Sea reference! And, here we go again. I’m not sure I buy into this mantra that the league is getting smaller and faster when game after game they’re the smaller team on the ice.

    They’re were some good things in Dallas, and it is only the first game. But they looked like the same old Penguins in spite of all the hype. I’d also like to understand why Sprong rode the bench in the third when for the rest of the game he was one of their better forwards. Still some prejudice against rookies? Let him play. You gave him the nine game window, now let him open it or send him back. Down three goals you’ve got nothing to lose. And, Sid… Shoot the damn puck. That’s what you get paid for.

    A few more more brief comments. I’ve always been a Scuderi fan, but it’s time to go. And, you can’t be a quick transition team without the muscle to consistently win puck battles. What I wouldn’t give for the second coming of Troy Loney.

    I remember beaming and heart palpitations early last season when I actually saw this team driving the net down the middle. Or was I dreaming?

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      October 10, 2015 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Hey 55 on Point,

      Great to hear from you again. And I couldn’t agree more with your comments.

      You can’t play puck-possession hockey if you can’t possess the puck. Amen to your comment about Troy Loney. Heck, Rick Tocchet could suit up and be (by far) the best cornerman on the team.

      I was hoping last season was an aberration and that Chris Kunitz would regain at least some of his effectiveness in traffic. But sadly, I think Kuny’s decline is for real. And I agree 100% about Sprong … and Scuderi. I feel so badly for Scuds because he’s so maligned these days. But he just can’t get ‘er done anymore. It’s time to bite the bullet and let him go, even if it means eating the $6.7M left on his contract.

      Laughed when I read your comments about driving down the middle of the ice. I have the same vague recollections … 🙂 I think it’s symptomatic of an older team that’s maybe lost some of its hunger and edge. Subconsciously, you start looking for the easy way to do things. And easy is carrying the puck down the wing. Which, of course, is exactly what the other team wants us to do.

  3. October 10, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    My first impression was that Dallas had a great breakout plan with lots of stretch passes giving them odd man breaks and breakaways.

    The Penguins passed back and forth on defense and waited until Dallas was able to set up their trap forcing the Penguins to take crappy shots.

    Tonight the Pens play an Arizona team that played last night.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      October 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      Great observations. The Stars really opened us up at times with the stretch pass.

      Man, I hope I’m wrong. But right now I’m feeling like we’re SOP (Same Old Pens). And I’m not referring to the Stanley Cup champs of ’09 … 🙁

  4. October 10, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Not the report I want to hear.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      October 10, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Sorry Sandi.

      I wish I could be more upbeat. But our Pens still have a lot of issues. I truly hope I’m wrong, but I agree with Jim (see post below). I think we’re going to stumble out of the starting gate. A month from now we could be talking about a coaching change …

  5. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    October 10, 2015 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Size matters Rick ! So does skill level. If you want to really be depressed,may I suggest you go to the NHL.com site and look at the rosters of the various teams in the Metro division, and then if you have time the other 12 top teams in the NHL.They all have bigger and younger teams than us.Some by a wide margin. Every elite team has big,fast, power forwards and large d- men.Plus several future stars in their minor systems. We do not have that luxury !!
    This is why we only get perimeter shots. No physical net presence.
    My fear is that we built our team on the wrong “Blueprint”. Win now at all costs! Over pay 4 or 5 stars to put fans in the seats plus 3 or 4 old guys for nostalgic reasons. Have a slick marketing team to tell everyone how good we are. Down play our many faults. Come playoff time,blame it on the Coach and the GM, and pray for next year.Then to find out that the Owners want to sell. ??? This 2015 Pens team is a direct result of ownership and their past 5 years of failures.Not the Coach, not the GM.Them !
    In our first games in October,I think we play Ottawa,Toronto,( twice),Arizona,
    Dallas,( twice),Nashville. Not real tough competition.We should,if we were a true elite Cup contender, supposedly having the BEST two players on the planet, devastate these teams. With the defense corps and small forwards we have, my belief is we are not going to.
    In the past the Pens were always great at the PK and pretty good on the PP.
    I think based on the team we have this year we are going to need to do a lot of work on the PK. That will be our Achilles heel.
    Plus in 50- 60 games from now when our small team has been pounded by the larger,younger teams…How many injuries will we have ? Where will the replacements come from ??

    Hope I am proven am wrong. Lets go Pens.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      October 10, 2015 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      Once again, I couldn’t agree more. Especially with your comments about following the wrong blueprint and the slick marketing team.

      A by-product of having a marketing guy (David Morehouse) running the team?

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        October 10, 2015 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Good point Rick about Morehouse. I did not know that.
        I really thought with all the levels of management in the Pens organization,they actually knew what they were doing. After all we have a GM,an Assistant GM or two,an Associate GM,a couple of cousins to the GM,a Coach, and assistant Coach or two,Martin??? ( the coach in waiting when MJ gets wrongly blamed for all the mess and somebody has to go, and Rick T. is smart enough to stay put and wait his turn until after Martin gets canned as well) …..
        You get my point. It is only a hockey team…..
        Were not running U S Steel …..or the White House.
        No wonder the ticket prices are high.
        Nice discussion Rick….Keep it up.

  6. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    October 10, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I’ve been saying it for a while too small upfront!! And when we guys that had size they were not given a chance too play with the “Big Centers” Now we have smaller players Kunitz, Dupuis, Perron.
    I know the NHL is a game right now for smaller and fast skaters but you need size to help win, shots from the top of the circle just don’t cut it, you need players to score the “garbage” goals.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      October 10, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      Hey Pen’s 4ever,

      With all of the upgrades over the summer, I was really looking forward to the start of the season. Then came Thursday night and a letdown. Heck, I felt like I was watching last year’s team. And not the one that started 22-6-5…the one that went 4-9-2 down the stretch before getting bounced from the playoffs by the Rangers.

      Same problems, same difficulties, same shortcomings. It’s like nothing’s changed.

      I agree with your assessment. In a way, the Pens have developed an odd form of organizational arrogance. They think they can win without a certain type of player. I’m not even talking about tough guys like Arron Asham, Deryk Engelland and Mike Rupp, although Lord knows we could use a player or two of that ilk. I’m referring to honest, blue-collar types—the Tyler Kennedys and the Max Talbots–who went out and competed and got their fingernails dirty game in and game out. Guys who played with passion and fire.

      Aside from an occasional flash from Hornqvist, Letang and Malkin, I don’t see any of that. It’s like management/ownership went out of its way to build a squeaky-clean, homogenized team.

      Well, they’ve succeeded …


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