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Insider Only Off Day Buzz: Is Gibbons on the top line sustainable?

OFF-DAY BUZZ
Aside from having Evgeni Malkin’s line on the ice with less than a 1:30 in regulation when the Penguins were holding a one goal lead, Dan Bylsma made all of the right adjustments in Game 1 after the Penguins fell behind 3-1 in the second period.
Among them was immediately taking Kris Letang off the top power play unit and limiting Letang’s ice time in the third when Letang played under 4 minutes in the period. Letang was a train wreck in Game 1 and something about playoff hockey seems to just bring the worst out of him. All you had to do is watch the tape from the Philadelphia series in 2012 and the Boston series last spring.
Bylsma taking a hard stance with a star player is a rarity, so you have to give him a lot of credit last night for seeing the obvious. “Kris is a guy that is targeted,” Bylsma said today. “There are certain guys on the opposition that you’re looking to put a dent on and go after and get a forecheck on and be physical, and Kris is one of those {guys},” Bylsma said……”I didn’t like the response from Kris on the penalty he took on {Boone} Jenner there and I think he got the message. Whether it was a voice, or not playing or a talk, he got a message.”
The noticeable adjustment from Bylsma in the second and third period was removing Beau Bennett from the top line and putting him on the third line with Brandon Sutter and Lee Stempniak. “It was a formidable line,” Bylsma said. “I liked what Beau brought to the third line.”
Is that line here to stay?
Bennett, Sutter and Stempniak all showed immediate chemistry and the line made the Penguins more difficult to defend last night as the Penguins had three lines being a scoring threat over the final 30 minutes of the game.
There is certainly some intrigue of keeping the three together but that’s where things get problematic. Brian Gibbons had an excellent game and he continues to show that he can play at this level but he was playing over his head last night and Gibbons on the top line is not sustainable over the course of a long series and playoff run.
Does strengthening the third line by playing Bennett and Stempniak together and giving Crosby a less talented right winger make the Penguins a tougher team to defend? Maybe for a few games but not when you start playing some real contenders.
The speed element from Gibbons is something Bylsma continues to believe is a big asset to the top line.

“Sid’s a player that likes and needs his linemates to force the other team with their speed and with getting on defensemen and being able to read off of that and read where the puck is going to go because of that speed,” Bylsma said today. “You see that with Pascal, and you certainly see that with Brian Gibbons as well.”
“Flat-out, straight away speed, I don’t know where Brian would rank in the league, but I think he’s the fastest guy on our team,” Bylsma said”
TIDBITS
— Nick Foligno has been ruled out for Game 2. All signs point towards a Game 3 return….R.J. Umberger is said to be likely to play in Game 2 but nothing official from Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards until tomorrow.

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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