Down 3-1 the Penguins played like a desperate team in the third period but it wasn‚Äôt enough as the Boston Bruins won their 10th straight game beating the Penguins 4-2 Thursday night at Banknorth arena. The Bruins may not be the most talented team in the league but they have bought into Claude Julien’s system and they know how to win games. They win games by driving to net, winning battles in the corners and clearing the front of the net.
All things the Penguins are struggling at and maybe the Penguins don‚Äôt have the personnel to improve in those areas. The Bruins 29-5-4 lead the NHL in points and also lead the NHL in goals with 141. While the Penguins have been struck with injuries this season, the Bruins have had their fair share of top contributors being sidelined. Among them currently injured are forwards Patrice Bergeron, Marco Sturm and defenseman Andrew Ferance.
The Penguins can‚Äôt use the injury excuse any more. They have to start worrying about the standings as the Penguins are 7-11-1 in their last 19 games
Effort was there but……
The Penguins responded Thursday night with a strong effort but they are not a confident team right now. You can see it in some of players body language. That has me a bit worried.
Power play woes continue
In the Penguins last five games, they are 0-for-21 on the power play, including a 0-for-5 effort against the Bruins Thursday night. Against elite teams like the Bruins, you need to capitalize on the power play. Sergei Gonchar was an important component to the Penguins power play but there is enough top tier personnel that this power player¬†should be in the 22%-25% range.
Ryan Whitney has played well since returning from off-season foot surgery but he hasn‚Äôt been able to jumpstart the Penguins lackluster power play. That shouldn‚Äôt come as a surprise. The Penguins main issue has been their inability to possess the puck, most notably winning battles along the boards down low. Jordan Staal has failed miserably to replace Ryan Malone‚Äôs physical presence in front of the net on the power play. Ruslan Fedotenko has picked up his play the past couple weeks but he‚Äôs not effective enough as that “Ryan Malone” type of player the Penguins miss on the power play.
One solution the coaching staff should look to is using Petr Sykora in the slot more (not in front of the net, but in between the hash marks and top of the faceoff circles). Move him around some and use that middle as a decoy and the opportunity for some one-timers in the slot. Throughout his career, Sykora has been very effective in that role.
Therrien reshuffles lines.
Pascal Dupuis-Sidney Crosby-Petr Sykora; Ruslan Fedotenko-Evgeni Malkin-Miroslav Satan; Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Letang; Max Talbot-Dustin Jeffrey-Tim Wallace
I didn‚Äôt have a problem with Michel Therrien switching Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan. Satan is clearly not working with Crosby and Therrien‚Äôs wants to see how he performs with Malkin. I am not a fan of Playing a defenseman upfront, especially Kris Letang who personally I feel is one of the Penguins top three defensemen.
Playing a D-man upfront may be a common theme based on Michel Therrien‚Äôs post-game comments. Dustin Jeffrey is one of the Penguins rare callup‚Äôs that is seizing his opportunity. The Penguins have been very impressed as have rival NHL scouts, according to sources. Max Talbot continues to struggle. He is not 100% but he needs to find his role with this team in a third line role.
Honeymoon over for Boucher?
It has been widely speculated that Michel Therrien is very high on Philippe Boucher. In Thursday‚Äôs morning skate, Boucher was the 7th defensemen in the rotation which caught some of my sources by surprise. Word is Therrien has not been pleased with Boucher’s play since the Christmas break and he told Boucher that privately. Seems like he‚Äôs trying to light a fire under him.
Gill/Eaton see ice time diminish
Hal Gill (11:59) and Mark Eaton (12:23) each saw under 10 minutes of ice time at even strength. The Penguins were trailing in the game which played a factor in that but both struggled tonight. Gill’s biggest asset is his penalty kill ability which will likely keep him in the lineup. Ryan Whitney (30:07) led the Penguins in ice time
Eric Godard missed a third consecutive game with a knee injury. Godard practiced today and skated during the Penguins morning skate and I‚Äôm told he could have played but the coaching staff wanted to hold him out another game. Godard will be available on Saturday.
Tyler Kennedy went through a full practice for a second consecutive day and is likely to return to the lineup on Saturday.
Mike Zigomanis missed his 14th consecutive game. I‚Äôve been hearing some talk about Ziggy‚Äôs long term status of Zigomanis that isn‚Äôt good. Waiting for some confirmation and should have a update tomorrow.
Aaron Ward thriving in Boston
Defenseman Aaron Ward’s play has been an under-rated part of the Bruins success this season. Ward has always been a steady NHL defenseman but playing alongside Zdeno Chara, Ward is having a career year. Chara and Ward complement each other very well and they have been a tough physical tandem to go up against. During the home and home series against the Penguins, Chara and Ward were matched up against Evgeni Malkin not Sidney Crosby¬†for the most part.¬†I found that interesting.
Ovechkin climbing the leader board: Ovechkin (52 points) had a three point night and is within 8 points of Evgeni Malkin.
Winter Classic needs to stay in a Baseball venue.
Thursday‚Äôs outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks was an excellent game from top to bottom and was a much more entertaining game than last years Winter Classic. The ice played a strong factor in that but the Wings and Hawks are two talented teams that don‚Äôt like each other. Great intensity from both teams. What also made this game a success was this years game was held at a baseball venue not a football venue. The seats were closer and due to that there was a better atmosphere. Football stadiums are too big to host a hockey game.
Who should host the next game? The New Yankee stadium would a logical choice as would Fenway Park in Boston. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are strongly vying for a chance to host a game between the cross state rivals. The Penguins prefer PNC Park over Heinz Field. I‚Äôm not a big fan of playing at a neutral site like Beaver Stadium.
more to come
Photo courtesy of Dan4th