The Penguins lost 3 games over the Thanksgiving holiday without superstar Sidney Crosby and when is someone going to step up. The past three games have been the Evgeni Malkin show and that’s it. Let’s give credit to players when it’s due and Mark Recchi deserves some praise. Recchi called out his teammates following the Buffalo lost on November 17th and he has stepped up his game a notch. Ray Shero has done a solid job improving this team but is having too many role players going to hinder the Penguins chances at returning to the playoffs for the first time in 5 years. Most likely it will.
Ryan Malone is expected to return as early as this week and he will be given a chance to be on of the top 2 lines. Malone out with a broken forearm for 4 weeks was a disappointment in the early going recording 0 goals in 7 games. Part of that can be contributed to the fact he was playing center the first 4 games instead of being on the left side but Malone must step up his game or he will be on his way out. Teams including Boston, Atlanta, Toronto and Ottawa have been linked to having interest in Ryan Malone.
Disappointments thus far: Colby Armstrong and Nils Ekman. Armstrong playing alongside Malkin and Crosby has 0 goals through 22 games. Armstrong had 16 goals in 40 games last season and many were penciling him in for atleast 25 – 30 this season. Armstrong brings a lot to the table and i would take him on my team any time of the day but he is hurting the first and second lines by not producing. A third line of Moore and Armstrong could benefit the club more than Armstrong being on the top unit. Nils Ekman is one of those players that drives you nuts. He has great speed and hands and makes plays but rarely scores. I’ve watch him over the years and it’s astounding that he has never scored more than 20 goals per season with the skill he has. Ekman also needs to pick up his game or he will on the way out with Malone.
Sergei Gonchar has been culprit of Penguin fans for his play last season and at homes games this season you’ll hear fans lashing out about Gonchar’s play. Sergei is the same player he was in Washington; Pittsburgh fans. Gonchar is not only effective offensively which is what the Penguins are paying him for but he has also stepped up his defensive play. He is playing great two way hockey and Wednesday night’s game against Boston was one of Gonchar’s best games of the year despite not scoring a goal. Gonchar was jumping up in the playing which is exactly what the Penguins need to jump start their offensive woes. Gonchar has also lined up against the others teams top units including Saturday night against Jagr’s line. If Gonchar wasn’t making 5 million a year, he wouldn’t be the Jason Kendall of the Penguins. Pittsburgh would respect what Gonchar brings to the table and at 5 million per in today’s NHL is not that bad of a deal for a player like Gonchar.