TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. 1. The dead puck clutch and grab era is back and it isn’t like this just happened over the last week. The way teams are allowed to interfere in the neutral zone has been ruining the NHL all season but there might not be a series that portrays the new clutch and grab era more than Penguins – Rangers so far.
Other series especially out West, you’re seeing fast paced, high tempo offensive games and teams able to still play entertaining games. The Chicago Blackhawks for example, they are so fast and play with such a high compete level, the clutching and grabbing isn’t a factor at all for them.
The Penguins – Rangers series just hasn’t been the case, despite the Rangers having a skilled team with speed that scored the third most goals in the NHL and Pittsburgh having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Maybe it’s the crap players surrounding Malkin, Crosby as another reason it’s so evident and why this series has been tough to watch compared to other series.
“When I came into the league [in 2005-06], you knew that everything was going to be called because the league was promoting a certain style of play,” Sidney Crosby told Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
“Now, I don’t know. … Maybe they’re trying to slow the game down to help the defensemen because players are so fast and forecheckers are in on the puck so quickly. “But clearly the standards have changed. I kind of thought that if they were going to let certain things go, it would have been the battles in front, where they might not make calls unless obvious scoring chances were erased,” he said. “But it’s not just there.”
This is where the league is heading and that’s just how it’s going to be. What the Penguins have to figure out moving forward is how to develop a team able to win a Championship with the game evolving back to the clutch and grab era of the early 2000’s.
This isn’t an elite team anymore.
Right now the Penguins are a team that just tries to play a vanilla type of game and keep the score close.
Interesting enough, the way the game is being played in this series that limits offense, it has likely helped the Penguins be more competitive than they should be the Rangers.
For how critical I’ve been of Mike Johnston’s system from a breakout and offensive standout, he has made the Penguins a better defensive team from a structure standpoint. The problem is it just led to less creativity offensively and a team with no identity.
2. Since the 2011-2012 season, the Rangers have won six playoff series. During that span, there’s one trend in that almost all of their playoff series they’ve won have been long, stretched out ones that go six to seven games.
2012 Playoffs (Series Wins): Seven games vs Ottawa, Seven Games vs Washington
2013 Playoffs (Series Wins): Seven Games vs Washington
2014 Playoffs (Series Wins): Seven Games vs Philadelphia, Seven games vs Pittsburgh, Six games vs Montreal
When the Rangers lose, it’s usually a quick series, losing to Boston in five games in 2013, and Los Angeles in five games during the Stanley Cup Final last summer.
The Rangers have a history of letting teams stick around and if you’re a Penguin fan, that’s something to hang your hat on going into tonight’s game.
If the Rangers reach another gear from Monday, tonight won’t be a close one.
3. Buy-out talk is surfacing again for Rob Scuderi. I’d put the brakes on any buy-out talk as it’s unknown how the front office is going to shake out. Those leaking that info might not even be here. Does Jim Rutherford plan to buy-out a player or two, yes, word is that’s his intention but he’s unlikely to be the GM next season or if he is, no guarantees ownership would sign off on a buy-out anyways. If Mike Johnston is back, there would be a strong push to keep Scuderi around.
Regarding Scuderi, buying him out this summer would cost (dead money) the Penguins $1.292 million against the cap in 2015-2016, $1.792 million in 2016-2017, followed by $917,000 cap hit for the following two seasons.
For next season the Penguins would get a $2.083 million cap savings and a savings of under $1.6 million in 2016-2017 to go with the $917,000 cap hits for 17-18 and 18-19 when Scuderi wouldn’t even be under contract.
The sense among some NHL types is the Penguins best option would be to just play the final two years out, even with the cap potentially coming in around $68-$69 million next season.
One NHL executive looked at it like this:
Use the cap buyout charge ($1.292 million in 2015-2016) for Scuderi and add the cap charge for his potential replacement, and it’s likely only going to be a savings for around $1 million at the most.
Not worth it according to some and I’d lean in that direction also.
4. Schedule analysis in April is kind of pointless but it’s fun. The one thing that stands out with the Steelers daunting schedule is the quarterbacks they face. You have Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco twice, as always, Philip Rivers, that’s seven games against elite level quarterbacks, and even after that the Steelers have matchups against the likes of Carson Palmer, Nick Foles, Colin Kapernick, and Alex Smith.
This secondary is going to be tested on a week by week basis and there’s no facing Geno Smith, Blake Bortles, Zack Mettenberger, and the Mike Glennon’s like last season.
5. Is Mark Melancon just a player in denial right now?
“What is my drop in velocity,” Melancon asked reporters last night.
Two or three miles per hour,” one reporter replied.
“Yeah, I don’t attention to that, I’m more worried about results.”
Melancon pitched into November due to the Japan series, so who knows maybe he has a tired arm, but the odds are stacked against in the velocity suddenly ticking back to 91, 92 mph.
Melancon was tracked at 88 last night and 87 in a previous outing.
The Pirates had a short hook on Jason Grilli last season and will likely again this year with Melancon. Tony Watson will get the first look.