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Insider Only Morning Pens Buzz: On the (Power play) last night’s difference marker, Cooke, Martin, Tangradi, Malkin & Scouts Take

Pens Morning Buzz

Power Play the difference maker in 3-1 win: Following last night’s 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars, the Pittsburgh Penguins enter Saturday’s action tied for first in the NHL with 23 points, posting a 10-3-3 record at the 16 game mark. The Blackhawks (10-4-3) also come into tonight’s action with 23 points.
Against Dallas, the Penguins dominated play in the first period, outshooting Dallas 13-5, yet they trailed 1-0 after one period. The Penguins won 11 of 14 offensive zone draws in the first period but Dallas did a good job of limiting the Penguins to low percentage shots.
Last night’s game was the type of game where the Penguins needed their power play to be the difference and they came through big in that area as James Neal netted two power play goals, scoring his 10 goal of the season with 2:04 left in the second and giving the Penguins a 2-1 lead, 7:19 into the third period for his 11th goal of the year.
Neal’s 5 power play goals are tied for 1st in the NHL and he ranks 2nd in the NHL with 11 goals and 2nd in the league with 68 shots. Neal has scored in all seven home games this season.
The Penguins are 7th in the NHL on the power play, clicking at 22.7% (15-66), an improvement over last year when they were 11-for-77 through their first 16 games in 2010-2011.
The team attributes their improvement to better zone possession in carrying the puck up, quicker movement and their improved front net presence as Chris Kunitz has been excellent as a passing option and net-front presence in the slot/crease area. That’s an area he’s excelling at and has been a big reason for the Penguins early success.
The Penguins have scored two power play goals in a game, 5 times this season and 3 times in their last seven games.

Cooke lures Souray into key penalty:

Matt Cooke added a penalty shot goal in the third period to cap off the win but it was his play minutes before that which stood out. Cooke who has transformed his game, ranking just 8th on the team and 167th in the NHL with 20 hits, is still playing an agitator role, just not as noticable. Cooke drew a Sheldon Souray penalty in the third period by getting under Souray’s skin in front of the net, leading to Neal’s game winning power play goal.

Nightmare season for Paul Martin from a “statistical standpoint”:

Entering his second season in the Penguins system, the Penguins were not expecting any type of slow start from defenseman Paul Martin.
Martin was a minus-1 vs Dallas, giving him a team worst minus-9 on the season, which is the 4th worst mark among all defensemen. Only Jan Hejda (-12), Keith Ballard (-11) and Joni Pitkanen (-10) have a worst plus minus than Martin.
Martin though was not at fault for Nystrom’s goal last night as Kris Letang fell a sleep and lost track of Nystrom who drove to the net for an easy goal.
The Penguins I’m told feel those type of goals against have been more of the norm when Martin is on the ice, contributing to his awful plus/minus mark.
When signed, some pundits and even fans thought playing in the Penguins system would lead to increased offensive numbers for Martin.
It appeared that way when Martin opened last season (2010-2011) with 7 points in his first 12 games. However, since November 3, 2010, Martin has collected just 22 points in his last 88 games (including regular season, playoffs) and Martin hasn’t scored a goal since December 4, 2010, a span of now 72 games (including regular season, playoffs).

Scouts Take: Pens Most Improved Player:

I polled five scouts on Thursday on who the Penguins most improved player is this season.

Three of the five picked defenseman Deryk Engelland who garnered praise for shoring up his “positional” play defensively and when to pick the right spots, but scouts feel the most improved area for Engelland continues to be his ability to join the offensive attack, and pinch in the corners, an area he struggled at last season which led to him being a healthy scratch in the post-season.
Engelland is tied for 1st among Penguin defensemen with a +3 rating, 1st among defenseman in hits with 32, and tied for second in blocked shots with 24.

Tangradi Game Report:

Eric Tangradi’s stat line last night: 7:00 Ice Time (0:51 PP Time), 1 Shot, 1 Hit). Tangradi had some good moments being effective at times on the forecheck and in around the net, but even after last night, I still don’t like the callup, as I mentioned yesterday, regarding a short-term callup to play on the 4th line.
“He’s {Eric Tangradi} playing strong down low, protecting the puck and a physical presence, and {he} really has improved his puck management in the neutral zone, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said on Friday about why Tangradi got the callup over others.
Every NHL game Tangradi plays, more scouts and pundits question him ever being an ideal top-9 player in Dan Bylsma’s system. The Penguins sources say, still view him as a player in their long-term picture, leading to the decision to call him up, which is said to be more about just “rewarding” him confidence wise for his play in the minors.
In the end, I still feel Tangradi’s best asset to the organization is going be as a trade chip.
Tidbits
*With his knee feeling better, Evgeni Malkin is getting more pucks to the net, something he has to keep doing more consistently. Malkin led the Penguins with 6 shots on goal vs Dallas and has collected 20 shots in his last four games.
*The Penguins, as expected, intend to keep Dustin Jeffrey in the minors until next week. In two games with the Baby Pens, Jeffrey has 1 assist, playing top-6 minutes. The Penguins expect to evaluate Jeffrey’s situation following the weekend.
*Pittsburgh limited Dallas to 20 shots and go into tonight’s action, 4th in the NHL in goals against, giving up just 2.06 goals per game.

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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