Friday Morning Pens Insider Buzz
When Sidney Crosby returns to the lineup, the plan is to go back to Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin playing together on the second line, which is the organization’s long-term plan, but those close to the team I’ve spoken with have the sense that head coach Dan Bylsma is going to be tested to stick with that plan.
The reason for that is Bylsma’s drawn to the Cooke-Staal-Kennedy unit. Sense is Bylsma won’t stick with Staal and Malkin through any struggles they might have and will quickly go back to Cooke-Staal-Kennedy.
A topic I’m going to explore in the next couple days with input from evaluators around the league is whether the three center model is the way to go this season now that the Penguins are a much improved team defensively that is on par and likely better than their Stanley Cup winning group.
*One of the biggest concerns coming into the season for Pittsburgh was replacing Sergei Gonchar’s production on the backend.
Those concerns are long gone, at least when it comes to the production from their top-2 offensive defensemen.
Kris Letang has exceeded everyone’s expectations and has collected 40 points (7G-33A) on the season and a +20 rating.
Alex Goligoski has had his ups and down but he’s 5th on the team with 26 points, tied for 4th with 9 goals, tied for 1st with 20+ rating and leads the team with 4 game winning goals.
The Penguins have a combined 110 points from their defensemen this season. Last season, Penguins defensemen combined for 186 points.
*Speaking of Sergei Gonchar, what a disaster the Gonchar signing is going to become for Ottawa, if they decide to go into full rebuilding mode and move assets such as Chris Phillips and Mike Fisher for draft picks/prospects which according to executives is a possibility.
Gonchar, 36, has two more years left on his contract with a cap hit of $5.5 million. He has 5 goals and 15 assists this season and a minus-15 rating.
Be an extremely tough contract to move.
*Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury (Crossing Arms) tried to downplay himself mimicking Carey Price as the buzzer sounded in Wednesday’s 5-2 win. “The puck was at the other end,” Fleury said. “I didn’t think the camera would be on me, too. It was for my teammates….. I goof around a lot. Maybe not like that, I guess.”