MORNING PENS BUZZ
*The Penguins begin a stretch of three games in four nights, starting tonight in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. The Leafs who match up well against the Penguins, defeated Pittsburgh 5-2 on Jan 23 in the Penguins home opener. The Maple Leafs with a record of 15-10-0, 30 pts, have the look of a potential playoff team and right now are 5th in the Eastern Conference. Expect a sloppy defensive game as the Penguins come in averaging a league high 3.54 goals per game and the Leafs can skate and put the puck in the net, ranking 6th in the NHL averaging 3 goals per game.
Pittsburgh in back to back situations this weekend return home to host the New York Islanders Sunday night. The big game is Tuesday night at home against the Boston Bruins, a game many should be looking forward to and a possible preview of an Eastern Conference Finals clash. The Penguins play 10 of their next 13 games on home ice.
*The Penguins wanted to go with a more veteran lineup vs the Philadephia Flyers Thursday night and following Friday’s practice, head coach Dan Bylsma brought up Simon Despres lack of consistency again, hinting at that as pretty much being the reason as to why he hasn’t ran away with a regular spot in the lineup. “The consistency in his game is really where he needs to improve,” Bylsma said of Despres. I think the consistency issues Bylsma continues to hint at is BS.
*24 Games in, I doubt Penguin management envisioned Marc Andre Fleury having a 2.64 goals against average and Tomas Vokoun having a 3.32 goals against average. Fleury’s play has been better than the numbers indicate but still. The Penguins enter today’s action 23rd in the NHL in goals against, giving up 2.96 goals per game .
Who have been the Penguins three biggest disappointments and surprises at mid-way point of the season?
Tanner Glass – 0 points and a minus-8 rating. A good character guy in the locker room and leads the Penguins in hits but he’s invisible most nights and rarely makes an impact like role players in the past such as Mike Rupp and Max Talbot would make. You knew when Rupp was on the ice and Glass just seems to go through the motions out there.
Tyler Kennedy – Has played better in the past couple games but is a turnover machine, momentum killer in the offensive zone, and there’s no reason to go into detail of how bad Kennedy has been some nights.
Tomas Vokoun – Some nights you question whether he’s been an upgrade over Brent Johnson this season.
Beau Bennett – Bennett proving he is NHL ready is the biggest surprise in the organization this season. His development accelerated greatly from the summer to January and he has emerged as a regular contributor at the NHL level.
Chris Kunitz – The overall play of Kunitz has been among the best in the entire NHL. His impact isn’t a total surprise but it’s the type of goals he’s scoring as he’s finding the soft spots and scoring James Neal type of goals.
Paul Martin – Martin’s emergence to being the defensemen he was in New Jersey three to four years ago is also among the biggest surprises for this season but the biggest surprise might be his ability as the Penguins power play quarterback, an area he wasn’t counted on to have the type of impact he’s having.