TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Is the “Neutral Zone” ruining the NHL’s product again? As obstruction has poked it’s head back into the league, the NHL has a diminishing product once again when it comes to highlighting the skilled players. Down seasons or not, the Crosby’s, the Malkin’s, Tavares types should be 100 point players every season in their prime. It’s the way the game is being played, not the players as the reason we’re going to have the NHL points leader under 100 points for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. Since the 2004-2005 lockout, no Art Ross winner has had under 104 points.
The way teams are able to defend the neutral zone again similar to how the game was played prior to 05-06, is ruining the offensive side of the game and with obstruction back, coaches are able to game plan so much easier in trapping in the neutral zone with a 1-2-2, 1-3-1 and even 1-1-3 type neutral zone traps becoming more and more prevalent, even from teams like the Penguins under Mike Johnston that have properly adjusted with the rest of the league.
The way teams can defend the neutral zone so much more effectively with trapping systems due more obstruction being allowed, it has made the Penguins a better defensive team but it has also taken away from their strength of being a skilled, offensive team.
2. Are the Penguins an elite defensive team? Statistically, yes, right now they are, but this post-season is going to be so fascinating for them because we’re going to find out whether they’re a deceiving defensive team or not. The Penguins are not built to match up against big, physical teams over a seven game series and the Kings exposed those type of weaknesses Saturday night despite the Penguins coming out on top. Do the strong defensive numbers lead to post-season success or will their stout defensive play in the regular season end up becoming deceiving? Going to be fun to watch in April/May.
3. A key for the Penguins going into the post-season is finding the right fit for Daniel Winnik and Brandon Sutter. Beau Bennett’s struggles in tight, close checking games continues to be problematic and why he’s unlikely to be someone the coaching staff would trust in that spot over the course of a seven game series. An example, 0 shots, 0 shot attempts against the Kings on Saturday night from Bennett. You need a productive third line to win in the playoffs but first the Penguins have to find the right three together. Having to constantly mix and match your third line right winger is rarely a good thing. Stability will be needed there come April.
4. Edge rusher Pernell McPhee getting $40 million over 5 years with $16 million guaranteed, is the first domino to fall in setting the market up for the likes of Jason Worilds, Brandon Graham and Derrick Morgan. Worilds has been expected to get a deal in the neighborhood of what McPhee got with Graham and Morgan in the $6 million a year range, though, some NFL types have speculated that Graham could nab a deal that surprises a lot of people and it appears that will happen. The Eagles, Titans, Browns among those in the mix for Worilds and if his price were to drop to around 5 years, $30 million with around $10-$12 million guaranteed, the Steelers have had intentions to re-enter the mix, but only under those type of circumstances. Pretty quiet from their end on him right now.
5. Neither side is going to confirm this in public, but the Steelers granted Troy Polamalu’s agent permission to what is being described as “seeking a trade” in legal NFL terms, but is truly a situation where Polamalu is being permitted while under contract with the Steelers to see what opportunities might be out there in the event that he is released. If nothing is out there for him, retiring will happen.
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