Tuesday’s Penguins Buzz
Evgeni Malkin points/60 (5v5) over the last five years:
With 67 points in 57 games, Malkin is giving Sidney Crosby a strong run for the team scoring race as the two are neck and neck in points and points per game, Crosby averaging 1.19 points per game (1st in NHL), Malkin 1.18 points per game (2nd in the NHL).
It’s been several seasons since when Crosby and Malkin both played full seasons that near the end of the season a topic of discussion was ‘who’s having the more dominant season.’
This is finally one of those years as Malkin is putting together his best season since 2011-2012.
Many hockey people think this is finally Washington’s year, I’m also in that boat, but if the Penguins get around .925 save percentage again this post-season from Matt Murray like they did last spring and the Penguins get this Evgeni Malkin throughout the playoffs, good luck to the rest of the East.
— A topic of discussion surrounding the Penguins is whether Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel should keep playing together when the playoffs roll around.
From the first day Mike Sullivan stepped foot behind the Penguins bench he told Jim Rutherford he believed in balance and wanted to put Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel on separate lines. Balance was a big reason the Penguins won the Stanley Cup last season.
What the Penguins coaching staff can’t be locked into is a mindset that how they won last season is how they’ll win again in April, May.
“It’s not like we’re locked into balance,” Sullivan said this week. “Based on the complement of players that we have available to us on any given night, we look at the group and say, what gives us the best chance to win?’ Some nights, it might mean loading the top six, depending on who we have available to us. Some nights I think it means we create the balance. It might involve what our opponent looks like. ”
Sullivan’s comments is what I think we’ll see when the first round begins. Much of it might revolve around the opponent.
There may always be this desire to see if the HBK line can rekindle their magic when the post-season gets here and that’s understandable, but the HBK line more likely than not already peaked last spring.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Evgeni Malkin is playing his best offensive hockey in years with Phil Kessel on his wing in a more full-time role, the best winger he’s had since James Neal departed following the 2013-2014 season.
When Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are on the ice together, the Penguins have a Goals For percentage of 74%, controlling possession at a 53% clip. Not surprising, Malkin loves playing with Kessel and his ability to get Malkin in goal scoring areas.
Phil Kessel has played over 415 minutes with Nick Bonino this season and the Penguins have a 42% Goals For percentage when the two are on the ice together with a possession rate of 45%. The HBK line in fact has produced just 5 goals this season and it’s underlying numbers are below average in several areas.
Until Malkin and Kessel start faltering together, Sullivan has his answer on who Kessel and Malkin should be playing with.
Sheary a $4 million a year player on next contract?
[Sheary, Dumoulin represented by agency that gets RFA’s big contracts]
NHL sources say in early December Conor Sheary’s agent Lewis Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"