The Penguins were no match for the defending Stanley Cup Champions as the Blackhawks put on a clinic in a 5-1 win at Soldier Field on Saturday night.
A dominant possession team with excellent depth, the Penguins were chasing the Blackhawks all game. Even when the Blackhawks were up just 1-0 through the first thirty minutes of the game, it felt like it was already a 4-0 game in the Blackhawks favor and it would soon become a blowout.
You never try to over-analyze outdoor games but you really got to see how poor the Penguins bottom-6 depth is upfront when matched up against an elite team and the issues on the blueline are likely not going away.
Did the Penguins have one true top-4 defenseman in the lineup last night? Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik are declining players who play at the ability of third pairing guys not top-2 pairing d-men anymore…… Robert Bortuzzo is a No 6/No. 7 guy, Simon Despres is a mess right now who has no confidence……Olli Maatta is on his way to being a top-4 defenseman but still is just 19 years old…..I guess you could say that Matt Niskanen is playing at the ability of a top-4 defenseman this season.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if we played this game inside or outside or if there was snow or no snow,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said of his hockey club. “They were better and more prepared to play, whatever the conditions were. Our team wasn’t good enough. Our team wasn’t at the level we needed to be, and they were. And you saw that pretty much right from the get-go in this game.”
Bylsma is spot on there in how the Blackhawks were just the superior team from the get-go.
In a game that had snow storm conditions at times, logic would say that it would be an easy game to defend. Not the case for the Penguins who gave up 11 odd-man rushes in the game. That’s on the system there, can’t put all the blame on personnel.
A good argument can be made that the Penguins record is deceiving and that they really aren’t built to win a Stanley Cup right now, even with the Eastern Conference being a very winnable conference.
Is Ryan Kesler the fix? That’s debatable. The Penguins three center model did squat in the post-season when Sidney Crosby, Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin were all off their entry level contracts, starting in the 2009-2010 season, as the Penguins never advanced past the second round and it became much harder because of the cap to surround the type of depth around the three that the Penguins were able to do when all three were still on entry level contracts at periods from 2006-2009.
The Penguins have three primary needs right now:
1. A third line winger that has size and is hard to play against. Think Nikolai Kulemin
2. A top six winger to play with Sidney Crosby
3. A steady defensive top-6 defenseman.
The Penguins won’t be able to address all those needs but if they strike out on Kesler, they could make moves that make them more deeper such as being to acquire a third line winger for example in addition to a defenseman. These are scenarios being explored by management. While Kesler is Plan A, they have a Plan B and Plan C.