MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN
It’s still early.
So, where are we now with the Penguins’ coach?
One week ago today we may not have been on an official Mike Johnston watch, but the Saturday Night Debacle in New Jersey was fresh on everybody’s mind and it had reached the point where he was being asked about his job security.
We’re one fourth of the way into the season.
The Penguins have 12 wins. That means, by my calculations, that they’re on pace to win 48.
The last time they won the Stanley Cup, in 2009, they won 45.
But Sidney Crosby still stinks.
He still only has 11 points in 20 games.
Did I mention that it’s early?
Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks is leading the NHL in scoring right now with 32 points. That puts him on pace to score 128.
That would be 40 more than he’s ever scored before.
His 13 goals have him on pace to score 51.
Kane has never scored more than 30.
Chances are pretty good that Kane is going to cool off.
That’s not to say that Crosby doesn’t have to pick up the pace. He has points in each of his last two games – a goal and an assist – but that’s all he has in his last five games and he’s sitting on 11.
Geno Malkin is doing what everybody has been waiting for Crosby to do and it started with his four points against the Minnesota Wild last Tuesday.
But that game was also a good example of why you have to look beyond the points. Crosby had no points against the Wild but the only difference between his game and Malkin’s that night was Malkin’s highlight reel goal that began with him passing it to himself between his legs.
Crosby played with the same intensity, made countless passes on to the sticks of Pascal Dupuis and Patrick Hornqvist, but they weren’t able to cash in.
If they had, Crosby would have been credited with what is known around the NHL as an “assist.”
Malkin also had a goal on a one-timer from the right circle. He was standing all alone, teed it up and let it rip. Crosby wasn’t given any opportunities like that.
There’s a long way to go.
When the season ends, you will see both Crosby and Malkin near the top in scoring.
Players who score 30 to 40 goals don’t score every other game or every third game. They score in bunches and when the season ends they’ve averaged a goal every two or three games.
Rick Nash of the Rangers only has five goals after scoring 42 last season and he got three of those Saturday night.
And, by the way despite Nash’s poor production, the Rangers are 15-3-2 and on pace for 60 wins and 128 points.
Chances are pretty good that they’re going to cool of, too..
The Penguins play five of their next seven on the road and four of those are out West.
When they come home they have games against the Kings and Capitals.
Let’s see where everybody is at Christmas.
THE AFC HAS COME BACK TO THE STEELERS
–If I had told you that the Steelers would lose Le’Veon Bell and two starting offensive lineman for the season and have to play several games without Ben Roethlisberger before the bye, would you have thought they’d have the fourth best record in the AFC after it?
That’s where they are right now at 6-4.
Only New England, Denver and Cincinnati have better records.
I’ll bet you penciled in an L next to Seattle when the Steelers’ schedule came out in April and they are five and a half point underdogs for their game out there on Sunday.
Seattle is always a tough trip and it’s a little surprising to see that the Steelers don’t plan to leave until Saturday afternoon.
That one o’clock start is going to feel a lot like 10 in the morning.
And the Seahawks’ defense – especially the secondary – isn’t going to be as cooperative as the Browns’ was when Ben Roethlisberger came off the bench to become AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Those audibles become a lot tougher for Roethlisberger in front of the 12th Man.
On paper this still looks like a Steelers loss.
STEELERS SCHEDULE OF FACING ELITE QB’S NOW NOT SO DAUNTING
—It’s amazing how injuries can change things in the NFL.
Instead of getting Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco in their last third of the season, the Steelers could very well be getting Brock Osweiller, Matt Hasselback and Matt Schaub.
Schaub will play for Flacco who blew out his ACL and MCL on Sunday.
Flacco’s pretty tough. He finished the game and next Monday he’ll miss the first start of his career.
So, the AFC has come back to the Steelers and nine wins may be enough to get them into the playoffs.
Their four games after the bye against what looked like four Super Bowl contenders – Seahawks, Colts, Bengals and Broncos – all look a lot more winnable for the Steelers now than they did before all of their injuries.
Depending, of course, on who does and doesn’t get hurt between now and Christmas.
Did I mention that it’s early?