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Insider Only Morning Pens Buzz: Returns of Malkin, Hornqvist unlikely to fix the Penguins growing issues defensively

nhl_a_penguins11_2001 MORNING PENS BUZZ

Kris Letang and Paul Martin look taxed, Derrick Pouliot is a disaster in his own end and is being counted on to play a second pairing role along with Ben Lovejoy who also isn’t a second pairing defenseman, Rob Scuderi looks finished, Christian Ehrhoff if he ever makes it back for an extended period plays scared…..
There’s only so much that the returns of Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist this weekend are going to do for a floundering Penguins hockey club.
Marc Andre Fleury has hid a lot of areas for the Penguins defensively this season and issues that are going to be a major concern in a seven game series, continued on the backend vs Carolina and the group got no help from the forwards as the Penguins were a mess with their transition defense.

If the Penguins forwards are going to cheat in the offensive zone and not commit to their own end and provide back pressure, the Penguins are going to have night’s like they did vs Carolina as the Penguins are a team that boasts two below average second and third pairings right now. They have to play fundamental sound defensive hockey to hide that group and since the Edmonton game they haven’t got it on a consistent level.

Another area of concern that’s not going away is how the Staal line was able to absolutely dominate along the wall in the offensive zone against the Penguins ‘D’. St. Louis also exploited the Penguins the same way Tuesday night and the Penguins just aren’t built to contend with big, strong forwards that can work the wall and the cycle in around the net.
Improving your transition defense is much easier — stop being lazy. Improving how the Penguins defend along the wall and in around the net isn’t going to happen — it’s a personnel problem.
The blueprint is there for any good coach come playoff time to see how to exploit the Penguins in their own end.

LITTLE DESPERATION
A hockey club that has no identity is going to look lost and that’s the Penguins right now.
“This time of year you want to be playing the right way,” Sidney Crosby said. “We need points. There’s not enough desperation for the importance of these games. Especially when you’re missing guys. We all need to dig down and be a little bit better. We can’t accept an effort like this against a team that’s out of the playoffs.”
Most teams that go on to win the Stanley Cup enter the playoffs “playing the right way” and not playing constant inconsistent hockey and .500 type hockey.
When the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, they entered the playoffs 18-2-3 in their final 23 games.
In 2009-2010, Blackhawks went 15-7-3 in their final 25 games, In the the lockout shortened 2013 season, Chicago went 15-5-2 in their last 22 games and won a second Cup in four years.
The Cup Champion Kings in 2011-2012 went 13-4-3 in their last 20 games, last season they went 16-6-2 in their last 24 games, en route to a second Stanley Cup in three years.
In 2010-2011, the Bruins went 15-6-3 in their final 24 games.
The 2007-2008 Red Wings were 12-3-1 in their final 16 games

The 2006-2007 Ducks were 13-3-4 in their final 20 games.
The list goes on and on.
You can’t just decide you’re going to flip the switch when the playoffs start and everything will be alright.
With eight games remaining, the Penguins must first find an identity and go from there.

ATLANTIC DIVISION
1. Montreal Canadiens, 100 Points, 7 GR
2. Tampa Bay Lightning, 99 Points, 7 GR
3. Detroit Red Wings, 90 Points, 9 GR
METROPOLITAN DIVISION
1. NY Rangers, 101 Points, 9 GR
2. NY Islanders, 93 Points, 7 GR
3. Pittsburgh Penguins, 91 Points, 8 GR
WILD CARD
1. Washington Capitals, 90 Points, 8 GR
2. Ottawa Senators, 85 Points, 9 GR
_____________________________________
3. Boston Bruins, 85 Points, 8 GR
4. Florida Panthers, 82 Points, 8 GR

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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