Penguins – Sabres What We Learned
— It was just one game but…….—
1. Penguins – Sabres had the look of two wildcard level to fringe-level playoff teams going at it.
2. Pittsburgh’s biggest need in the off-season was revamping their d-corps and from a personnel standpoint you can argue they are even weaker than last season with Olli Maatta shipped off to Chicago.
All of this off-season talk of being more defensively responsible is non-sense.
This group isn’t changing and I will remain in the corner that this group can’t change defensively with the way Kris Letang plays when a defenseman who plays as much as Letang does dictates your style of play.
Letang who was on the ice for two even strength goals against, is still doing maddening Letang things with his decision making.
3. As expected, post-game talk of the Penguins giving up a number of breakaways and odd-man rushes through the neutral zone was a key talking point. These are correctable areas for the Penguins if they would just scale back the pinching along the boards and make simple plays off the wall, though, it feels like we’ve been saying that for a year in a half now.
More concerning is just how often the Penguins are out of position when they have numbers back defensively.
The Dahlin goal saw the Penguins give up a goal late in the second period when they had three defenders back against two Sabres.
From the defensemen to the forwards, this team dating back to last season just has so much difficulty in staying in their proper lanes defensively.
There was a ton of these type of breakdowns against the Sabres where the Penguins are just puck watching and floating in space. Evgeni Malkin had a good game offensively in being a presence, but Malkin constantly going for a public skate in the d-zone isn’t going away and this is the type of stuff that drove the coaching staff nuts in 18-19.
4. The good for Malkin was his play offensively. He was a threat for most of the night, carried the puck with authority and afterwards sounded like a leader. “We need to play faster. We need to play hungry. It’s not good for us, how we played tonight. We need to change,” Malkin said.
The eye test says differently but the numbers of the Galchenyuk-Malkin-Tanev line were not strong 5 vs 5:
39% possession, just two scoring chances created to six against but the line was noticeable for stretches.
Still, at the end of the day the Penguins as a team created just one high danger chance in over 47 minutes of 5-on-5 play which is insane. Let’s not act like Galchenyuk-Malkin-Tanev are the second coming of the KLS line just yet.
Brandon Tanev in a second line role drew three penalties. Tanev plays the speed, go all-out every shift type of game where he’s going to be noticeable every night but questions still loom if he’s going to be able to finish plays and create enough offense to be warranted to playing with an Evgeni Malkin.
I still think long-term Jared McCann is going to be that player next to Malkin.
For his part, Tanev did play well in his debut.
Malkin, Tanev and Dominik Simon were the Penguins most impactful forwards vs the Sabres.
5. Pittsburgh will be in the market all season for a third line center. Bank on that and there’s already a feeling inside the organization Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"