Morning Pens Buzz
Pittsburgh’s 3-2 never ending shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens has led to head coach Dan Bylsma taking some heat for letting Cal O’Reilly shoot before Chris Kunitz in the third round of the shootout when Pittsburgh had a chance to win the game. The criticism is just people nitpicking in my eyes but things are becoming so tight in the Eastern Conference that every point matters at this point in the season.
The No. 6 Penguins (30-19-5, 65 pts) are just four points ahead of 8th place Ottawa and trail No. 4 Philadelphia by just two points for possible home-ice in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils who are a bad matchup for the Penguins have climbed back into the hunt for a top-4 spot in the conference.
For teams like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Jersey who all appear on a collision course for the No. 4 – No. 5 seed, things are shaping up in the East where the best spot for the Penguins is going to be the No. 6 seed and face the southeast division winner who could very well end up having the least amount of pointsÂ and a favorable matchup. Pittsburgh has 29 games remaining.
1. New York Rangers ( 33-15-5, 71 pts)
2. Boston Bruins (33-16-2, 68 pts)
3. Washington Capitals (28-21-4, 60 pts)
4. Philadelphia Flyers (30-16-7, 67 pts)
5. New Jersey Devils (31-19-3, 65 pts)
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (30-19-5, 65 pts)
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (28-20-6, 62 pts)
8. Ottawa Senators (27-22-7, 61 pts)
Struggles to score goals
The Penguins have scored two goals or less (not counting shootout goals) in four straight games and are 1-3 during that span, getting points in two of four games. A trend in fact is starting leaguewide where games becoming tight scoring contests are the norm.
The Penguins have scored three power play goals in their last four games but have just 12 power play opportunities in their last five games.
Martin, Michalek system players?
Pundits and even fans wonder what is wrong with Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. They are now over a year in a half into their Penguin careers and neither player has lived up to their contracts.
Some scouts I’ve spoken with believe the two were system players with their previous teams coming from tight defensive systems in New Jersey and Phoenix respectively, indicating they were guarded by the those teams defensive structures. That’s one side of the argument but it’s hard to buy into that. Where the Penguins might have blew it in my opinion was signing the same type of defenders.
Pens Trade Deadline Buzz: Will team commit to blueline?
Penguins GM Ray Shero is making feelers on the trade market for a depth forward and possible top-6 forward but sources say the team is not yet committed on whether they will go all-in for a top-6 defenseman due to the expected cost and team not seeing it as a dire need.
There isn’t a ton of cap available and the Penguins currently have around $3.5 – $4 million in cap space as the team continues to operate under the assumption that Sidney Crosby is likely to join the team for their stretch run, as early as March.
The Penguins will be hard pressed cap wise to address all of their needs and the big mystery is whether they see the blueline as a true weakness. This is a team enamoured in puck moving defensemen and some close to the organization believe the team doesn’t see a tough defenseman who clears the front of the net as a top priority like others do.
However, the rumblings are out there and if the Penguins go all in for a defenseman and it’s not being ruled out, look for Tampa Bay’s Pavel Kubina to emerge as a top target. Kubina, 34, carries a high cap number of $3.875 million but fits what the Penguins lack, providing size (6-foot-4, 258lbs) and toughness in around the net.
Kubina has primarily worked as a top pairing of late for the Lightning, averaging nearly 20 minutes of ice time this season and has logged over 22 minutes of ice time in 9 of his last 15 games.
Kubina is a +4 with 11 points on the season. Boston, Chicago, and New York are among teams with strong interest.
The Penguins have been scouting Kubina, in addition to Dominic Moore for the Lightning.
Lightning scout Greg Malone knows the Penguins system extremely well which bodes well for the two teams being a possible match.
— Canadiens winger TravisÂ Moen showed last night why the Penguins are high on him. He can skate well and provides size, grit and some skill. There would be no concerns about him fitting into Bylsma system.
— The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Vinny Prospal to a one year extension worth $2.5 million, taking him off the trade market.
— Pittsburgh is expected to provide an injury diagnosis on Tyler Kennedy by tomorrow.