MORNING PENS BUZZ
Tomas Kopecky’s hat trick led the Florida Panthers (6-9-4, 16 pts) to a 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins (13-7-0, 26 pts) Tuesday night and it was a game the Penguins had no business being in after giving up four power play goals and falling down 4-1 before the mid-mark in the second period. Chris Kunitz (8), Dustin Jeffrey (2), Paul Martin (4), and James Neal (18) scored for the Penguins and Sidney Crosby had two assists in the loss. Marc Andre Fleury made 12 saves taking the loss after replacing Tomas Vokoun in the second period who gave up 4 goals on 22 shots.
The Penguins showed great battle scoring three second period goals to tie the game at 4-4 going into the second intermission and this looked like a game they were suddenly going to take against an inferior Panthers team, but the Penguins who sometimes just crave offense too much, were plagued by just a horrible gaffe by Kris Letang who looked like a forward going in on the forecheck for a puck deep in the Panthers zone that lead to a 2-on-1 breakdown the other way and Tomas Fleischmann (5) scored the game winning goal at 3:29 of the third period.
That lack of structure from Letang there is the type of red flags that continue to give me some concerns about this team come playoff time.
The Penguins have to fix those type of glaring bad habits by playing a better structure game, and the bad habits of undisciplined play are still not going away. The Penguins had nine penalties in the game, including seven Panthers power plays and a lot of these penalties are lazy stick plays.
“We’re taking too many penalties and too many unnecessary penalties stick penalties,” said head coach Dan Bylsma.
What’s going to cure the undisciplined play? I think it’s going to be sitting players during the course of a game who continue to take these undisciplined and lazy penalties, but Bylsma won’t sit any notable players like a James Neal who has taken his share of bad penalties, that’s for sure.
“Most of the penalties were penalties, and they were probably the result of the way we were playing,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We have to do a better job of staying out of the box. That’s pretty clear and besides that, we didn’t really deserve to win, even without taking those penalties.”
VOKOUN’S PLAY BECOMING A CONCERN
Yes, the Penguins were undisciplined early in the game and gave up four power play goals before the nine minute mark in the second period, but they needed their goaltender to be their best penalty killer and Tomas Vokoun (3-3-0, 3.21 GAA, .891 sv%) wasn’t. For the third straight game, Vokoun looked very shaky in the net. His positioning was a strength in his first four starts but the last three starts he’s been taking bad angles, hasn’t been handling the puck well (was suppose to be a strength) and his rebound control has not been good.
Right now he looks like a goaltender with no confidence and an aging goaltender at 36 years old. These last two games Vokoun has looked just as bad as Brent Johnson did for the Penguins last season. The goaltending change for the Penguins at 8:54 of the second period following the Panthers fourth goal of the game was huge for the Penguins in getting them back in the game as Vokoun wasn’t going to give them a chance. With Fleury in the game, the penalty kill regrouped and killed off two more penalties in the second period to keep the game from getting out of control.
Bylsma, though, came to the defense of Vokoun. “It was an onslaught on Tomas,”Bylsma said. “He saw the power play repeatedly and the 5-on-3 went in. It was more of a situation where the team needed a change rather than the goaltender needed a change.”
MORE BUZZ ON REASON PENS SIGNED MARK EATON
There’s a chance Mark Eaton comes in and looks like the defenseman he was last season in New York, a bad one, and doesn’t make much of impact on the Penguins blueline this season. The Penguins are well aware of Eaton being a player on the downside of his career but what really played into the decision of adding Eaton is the projected costs to add a veteran defenseman at the trade deadline.
I’m told the Penguins don’t feel a top-4 defenseman is going to be available that fits for them from a need aspect and price they would be willing to pay, and the Penguins project the cost for a third pairing defenseman is going to be a second round pick, a source says. In a deep draft they want to hold onto high picks (would be willing to move one for right player) and they saw the opportunity to add a depth defenseman they know well for nothing compared to adding one on April 1st for a high draft pick.
Player Notes: Sidney Crosby’s two assists, tie him for the league lead with 30 points at the 20 game mark…..James Neal’s 13 goals are tied for second in the NHL…..What a season Chris Kunitz is having, he has 23 points and a +11 rating in 20 games….Paul Martin’s 4th goal of the season vs Panthers moved him into a tie for second among defensemen in points with 15…..The Penguins have scored a power play goal in 12 straight games.