Inside Analysis: Post-Minnesota Observations
The Minnesota Wild’s acquisition of Chuck Kobasew drew the most headlines in Minnesota but the acquisition of 22 year old forward Guillaume Latendresse has paid the most dividends.
Latendresse had a four point against Pittsburgh, out dueling super star Sidney Crosby (2g, 1a) and leading the Wild to a 4-3 victory over the defending champs.
At 6ft2 – 230 lbs, Latendresse has the speed and size to be a force in the offensive zone and he’s one of the main reasons for the Wild’s turnaround in the second half of the season. Latendresse is the type of winger that would be a great fit alongside a Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher acquired Latendresse on November 23, 2009, trading left winger Benoit Pouliot to Montreal
*Pittsburgh went 0-for-6 on the power play and their power play remains a nightmare but another area of concern is their blueline.
Gap control in the neutral zone, positioning and ability to clear the front of the net have plagued the Penguins over the past month.
On the Wild’s game winning goal, they took advantage of a Kris Letang – Alex Goligoski pairing as Letang had bad gap control in the neutral zone and Goligoski was beat in front of the net on a 2-on-3 rush.
What was concerning is that following the goal, the coaching staff kept Letang and Goligoski out on the ice together and the Wild came right back with a prime scoring chance.
Pittsburgh’s focus right now is adding a top-6 winger but they have not ruled out making upgrades to their blueline.
The Penguins are monitoring one defenseman very closely.
That defenseman is Nashville Predators blueliner Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis, 26, has a cap hit of $2 million and due to his impending free agency, Hamhuis will be shopped at the trade deadline, if the Predators and Hamhuis are unable to strike a long-term deal.
Hamhuis is strong in his own end and has been on the radar of Penguins GM Ray Shero since last winter when the Predators were listening to offers for Hamhuis.
The Predators will likely look for immediate help upfront or offensive caliber prospects in return.
The Predators willingness and asking price will tell the story whether the Penguins will become serious bidders. They would like too…..
Orpik will be sidelined for at least a week
Brooks Orpik returned to Pittsburgh on Monday to under-go further evaluation on what is being described as a lower body injury.
Word coming out of Penguins headquarters is that Orpik will be sidelined for at least a week, pending results of Monday’s tests. Everything is still up in the air.
McKee’s play has fallen off
One player management is looking to step up is Jay McKee. McKee has taken a step back in the past 4 weeks and was a minus-2 against Minnesota and had zero blocked shots.
McKee has been very inconsistent in his own end of late. A source in St. Louis says, his play began to tail off in the second half of last season.
Lovejoy over Skoula
Martin Skoula has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff after being benched in Thursday’s 7-4 loss to Philadelphia. Ben Lovejoy was called up not to sit in the press box and that was proven tonight as Lovejoy was in lineup, despite not participating in the morning skate.
The 25 year old defenseman was a minus-1 in 13:10 of ice time.
Lack of power play points not slowing down Crosby
Sidney Crosby only has 14 power play points in 46 games but that hasn’t stopped him from moving on up in the points race.
Crosby’s three point night gives him 56 points on the season which ranks 3rd in the NHL. Crosby is 6 points behind Henrik Sedin.
Meanwhile, Crosby is on pace for his first 50 goal season of his career and is tied for first in the league with 29 goals.
Fleury shaky in goal
Marc Andre Fleury continues to make a brilliant save on what seems to be a game-by-game basis but he’s been providing the Penguins with subpar goaltending since mid-to-late December.
Fleury is 2-7 in his last 9 games and is not in the top 30 in save percentage this season. A stat Fleury doesn’t like being associated with.
Fleury has stolen a number of games for Pittsburgh this year but right now his rebound control and positioning have not been good.
A key to Pittsburgh getting out of their funk will be Fleury picking up his play to make up for other areas.