LINE PRODUCTION FROM SECOND LINE
Evgeni Malkin had a triumphant return Sunday afternoon vs the Jets with 2 goals and 1 assist, leading the Penguins to a thrilling 6-5 win.
While fans were introduced to a 1980’s brand of hockey and the Penguins lit up a backup goaltender, the key development yesterday was the production of the second line.
At even strength, the line of Jussi Jokinen, Malkin and James Neal combined for 4 goals and 3 assists and were not on the ice (together) for any goals against.
In limited time together this season as a trio, the line has been among the most productive in the league. The Jokinen – Malkin – Neal line has combined for 16 goals which ranks in the top-15 in the NHL among line production. These are goals combined when the three have been on the ice together.
While Jussi Jokinen’s inconsistencies are a concern, with the way James Neal is going, the Jokinen – Malkin – Neal line could become the Penguins best line down the stretch with Sidney Crosby having no right winger for now.
BY THE NUMBERS
It’s been a struggle for some key veteran defensemen since returning to the lineup from injuries:
*In four games since returning to the lineup on December 29th, Rob Scuderi has been on the ice for seven even strength goals against.
Scuderi in his first 11 games to the season (Oct 3 – Oct 26), he was on the ice for just five even strength goals against.
He’ll come around but something to watch as he is 34 and not the defenseman he was four years ago.
Brooks Orpik numbers at even strength are better, being on the ice for five even strength goals against in five games since returning on December 27th but Orpik continues to show some signs of concern and he was a disaster Sunday afternoon.
I’m a Orpik guy but it remains up for debate if he’s as good as the coaching staff thinks he is at this stage of his career.
If there’s one player to be concerned about getting worn down by the post-season it is Orpik with the Team USA coaching staff planning on him playing a big role at even strength and on the PK in the Olympics.
With the type of bruising style he plays, Orpik did an excellent job last season of pacing himself but that was with a 48 game season. He could be looking at playing well over 100 games this season.
If Chris Kunitz were to be indeed left off Team Canada, it would be a positive for the Penguins with the style that he also plays with.