The Penguins dominated from the drop of the puck and routed the New Jersey Devils 6-1 Wednesday night at Mellon Arena to move within six points of the¬† Devils for first place in the Atlantic division.
Sidney Crosby (30) and Chris Kunitz (23) each had a goal, assist and Marc Andre Fleury made 24 saves to move to 12-1-1 in his last 14 games.
Matt Cooke (11), Bill Guerin (20), Evgeni Malkin (34) and Jordan Staal (21) also scored for the Penguins. Brian Gionta (19) was the lone goal scorer for the Devils who have now lost six straight games.
Post-Game Analysis: Are the Penguins the best team in the Eastern Conference?
Three weeks ago the Devils were viewed as the worst possible matchup for the Penguins in a playoff series. With the Devils in the midst of a six game losing streak, that‚Äôs not the case anymore.
The Devils are struggling down the stretch, just like they did last year. The result was a first round exit as the Rangers ousted the Devils in five games.
There is some concern in the Devils locker room, according sources I‚Äôve talked to who follow the team on a regular basis.
The Devils really became a close group during the season with Scott Clemmensen. There are some older veterans in the locker room who believe it became too much about
goaltender Martin Brodeur when he returned to the lineup. There is some tension in the locker room because of that and you could tell by watching the morning skate that the Devils are frustrated and are looking for answers.
The team will never say it but Martin Brodeur is not playing well at all. The Devils are a well balanced team but they don‚Äôt dominate a game in the neutral zone like they could in the past. The Penguins were able to attack them at every moment.
The biggest difference between the Penguins new system under Dan Bylsma compared to the system ran under Michel Therrien is the Penguins show a strong emphasis on attacking and forcing turnovers in the neutral zone.
Under Michel Therrien‚Äôs system they would wait for the play to come to them
Post Game Player Reports
Bill Guerin ‚Äì Guerin notched his 20th goal of the season and he scored a goal scorers goal. Kunitz made a great pass off the boards and Guerin took one step and fired a snap shot by Martin Brodeur. If you want to be a consistent goal scorer at the NHL level, it is all about having a quick release. If Guerin waits other second he doesn‚Äôt sneak the puck by Brodeur glove side.
There has been some concern that Guerin would slow down near the end of the season but that hasn‚Äôt been the case. Guerin’s skating ability for his age and at this stretch of the season has been impressive. On a side note, Guerin was icing his hand following the game
Jordan Staal ‚Äì At the beginning of the year I said Jordan Staal needed to score 25 goals this year for the Penguins to be successful with the departures of Ryan Malone and Marian Hossa.
Staal is four goals away from the 25 goal plateau as he notched his 21st goal of the season tonight. Staal is driving to the net which is why he‚Äôs scoring more now than he was in the first half of the season.
Craig Adams – Adams returned to the lineup tonight and he gives the Penguins the ability to run four lines consistently. Adams knows his role and anytime he saw a little scrum going on, he was in the middle of it.
Tyler Kennedy ‚Äì Kennedy had an assist and recorded 6 shots on goal against the Devils. He is flourishing in a third line role and he will continue to do so in the future as long as the Penguins don‚Äôt have to use him on the first or second line role. Many fans seem to forget Kennedy is only 22 years old and team officials believe he has 20 goal potential.
Sidney Crosby ‚Äì Crosby extended his point streak to 16 games with a two point night against the Devils. Franchise players need to step up at this time of the year and Crosby is doing that.
When Crosby is playing at the level he is right now, it is hard not to name him the best player in the game. Crosby is the top possession player in the game along the boards.
Rob Scuderi ‚Äì Scuderi was a +4 against the Devils and is now a +21 on the season. Scuderi also had 2 takeaways and he is picking up his game.
Bylsma is pushing the right buttons right now, indicating last week that Philippe Boucher was going to return to the lineup last Saturday. It may be having an affect on players like Scuderi.
Brooks Orpik – Darius Kasparaitis might have been the Penguins top open ice hitter in the last 15 years but Brooks Orpik is the franchises most complete physical defenseman since Ulf Samuelsson.
Orpik‚Äôs game has taking off since last spring and it‚Äôs his positioning. He knows when to pick his battles and his exceptional skating ability for a player who is as physical as he is, has made him a candidate for Team USA in 2010. A longshot but he‚Äôs under consideration.
Kris Letang ‚Äì Letang is taking baby strides on the power play but tonight he looked confident jumping up in the play and was not scared to get a shot on the net from the left side. Letang lacks confidence at times and Sergei Gonchar has been working with Letang exclusively in practice on getting the puck to the net
Marc Andre Fleury ‚Äì Fleury made 24 saves and is now 12-1-1 in his last 14 games. He‚Äôs playing at a higher level than he was last spring when the Penguins went to the Stanley Cup Finals
The Penguins improved to 15-2-3 under Dan Blysma and are 10-1-1 in their last 12 games at home.
The Penguins went 6-1-1 on their eight game homestand.
The Penguins jumped ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes for the #5 spot. Pittsburgh travels to Carolina on Saturday.