Are the Penguins starting to show their true self? Maybe – Maybe not. Despite being on a four game losing streak, the Penguins are showing they can play with the big boys but they’re also showing they are a team that is undermanned upfront. This team is not a playoff team at the moment and unless a few forwards step up offensively to help out Sid and Malkin, the Penguins will be out of the playoff race by March. Michel Therrien has done a solid job thus far, but recently the line juggling has gotten out of hand. The Penguins have no continuity up front due to the fact their forwards are not very good and because they get about 3 shifts together before they are split up. I don’t have a problem with feeling some guys in here and there but enough is enough. The first problem Michel Therrien needs to resolve is whether to put Malkin and Crosby together or leave them separate. I have stated that in long term these two need to be separated but I’m changing my stance.
Jordan Staal has struggled the past two games and it’s obvious he needs to play center. One quality of Jordan Staal is once he get’s moving through the neutral zone he’s one of the fastest players out there. The only problem with that is it takes him a while to get moving. Evgeni Malkin is a goal scorer while Sidney Crosby is a playmaker. It’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to keep these two together. Crosby has stressed all season that he wants to be known as more of a goal scorer but he’s strictly a playmaker. The most impressive thing about Malkin is his goal scoring ability. All the scouting reports had this guy down as more of a playmaker but he maybe a better goal scorer than Ovechkin. Now that is scary. For the time being let’s go back to the lines they had at the start of the New Jersey game on October 24th and go from there.
1st line: Malkin – Crosby – Armstrong
2nd line Ekman – Staal – Recchi
3rd line: Leclair – Moore – Ouellet
4th line: Ruutu – Talbot – Thorburn
One thing that needs to change is the powerplay. Throwing out different guys all the time with Crosby and Malkin is not working. Michel Ouellet has been the most productive player on the left side but at times we still see Recchi or Armstrong out there in his spot. The Penguins also need a presence in front of the team and John Leclair is that guy. Gonchar and Whitney at the points with Malkin – Crosby – Ouellet upfront. Then after a minute or so replace Ouellet with Leclair and replace Whitney with Recchi at the point to get a different look. Another option could be Evgeni Malkin playing the point. He can lug the puck up the ice and because of his wicked shot he may be a ideal person to play along side Sergei Gonchar at the point. Oh what the hell, go out and sign Petr Bondra.