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Insider Only Penguins – Oilers Fallout: The March of Nick Bonino, Fleury & Expansion Draft Talk

Penguins – Oilers Fallout

— The Penguins don’t see it often but the Oilers outskated Pittsburgh Friday night in a fast paced, high-octane game. Connor McDavid was a big reason why.

“It was a pretty fast-paced game,” Mike Sullivan said. “It was certainly one of the faster-paced games that we’ve played in.”

Hard to see the Oilers getting through the West this season but lets hope a Penguins – Oilers Cup Final happens in the next couple years.

What the Oilers did well after the first period vs the Penguins, was take advantage of the Penguins weaker players in matchups. Chad Ruhwedel, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Carter Rowney among them.

— The March of Nick Bonino

Bonino’s game transformed last spring in March with 13 points in 16 games and that built a lot of momentum into his game that carried over into April, May in making the Penguins a major matchup problem.

Bonino with a hat trick Wednesday night, scored again Friday night vs the Oilers to give him six points in his last four games.

— No points for Sidney Crosby vs the Oilers but the team is starting to find something with the Sheary – Crosby – Guentzel line. So much skill, speed and playmaking ability from all three, if the coaching staff shows patience in keeping the line together, could be a big payoff come playoff time.

Phil Kessel might be known for his goal scoring ability but he’s elevating Evgeni Malkin’s game because of his ability to get the puck to Malkin with time and space, especially through the neutral zone. If Bonino finding his offensive game is a sign of things to come and the coaches are not forced to move Kessel down to the third line to space the lineup out, the Penguins become even tougher to defend with how well Malkin and Kessel are starting mesh.

Marc Andre Fleury has not been able to put any pressure on Matt Murray this season. Any time Murray has stumbled for a game or two, he goes on a long stretch of good to great starts that keeps a stranglehold on being the clear No. 1.

A couple rough games by Murray and great one’s by Fleury hasn’t changed anything as to who is the guy right now but Fleury has certainly earned some more playing time than the near 80/20 ratio Murray had been getting since the middle of January.

When Fleury is in one of these stretches, you have to take advantage of it because it doesn’t last forever.

Fleury has stopped 93 of his last 98 shots faced (.949 sv%)…. Murray by comparison has stopped 84 of the last 96 shots (.875) against he’s faced.

For tonight vs Vancouver, it’s an important start for Murray just from the standpoint of him looking right again with his positioning in playing big and forcing shooters to have to make perfect shots, which he does when he is on his game.

Penguins not committed to 7-3-1 option for expansion draft

The NHL’s top decision makers made it clear to General Managers at the GM Meetings earlier this week that each clubs protected list for the expansion draft will not be made public after a majority of General Managers have urged the league over the last couple months that they don’t want the protected lists being made public.

There will surely be some leaks but a lot of clubs will do their best to keep things quiet.

As for the Penguins, it’s been always assumed the team would go with the 7 forwards – 3 defensemen – 1 goaltenders option and they probably will when the time comes, however, team sources say as of now the eight skaters, one goaltender option is still a scenario the team hasn’t closed the door on which would give them the option to protect four defensemen.

And it’s still no guarantee that fourth defenseman would be Olli Maatta.

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About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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