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Insider Only Pens Insider: Opportunities to protect leads helping Pens; Malkin’s battle level; Bylsma comments on 71

Post-New York Observations & Analysis
The Penguins are clicking on all cylinders, defeating the New York Rangers 3-1 on Monday night, extending their winning streak to 7 games.
The Penguins are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and they are playing an all-around team game, getting contributions from just about every where in their lineup.
What has stood out during their 9-0-1 run is their defensive play, most notably their ability to protect leads, which was a major problem through the first 5 weeks of the season.
The Penguins last regulation loss was on Nov. 10 against the Boston Bruins, a 7-4 loss that included 5 unanswered goals by the Bruins in the third period.
I spoke to defenseman Paul Martin, the day after the Penguins epic collapse against Boston, and Martin pointed to the Penguins falling behind early as a reason for their struggles at the time for when they did take a lead in a particular game.
“Part of that is I think we haven’t been in that position {protecting leads} much this year, “ Martin said on Nov. 11. “We’ve been coming from behind, getting down early and coming back.”
It was only fitting after tonight’s game that Sidney Crosby referenced “not falling behind” as a reason for the Penguins improved play defensively.

By jumping out to leads and controlling the play, the Penguins are starting to get into sync as a unit. Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang have been excellent and Paul Martin/Zbynek Michalek are showing continuity together.
MALKIN TALK
I get asked about everyday, “What’s wrong with Malkin”?. Malkin was pointless tonight but again was a factor in the offensive zone, collecting a team high 6 shots on goal.
Malkin leads the NHL with 115 shots and somehow continues to struggle mightily at finishing plays, which has been an issue for a while now.
Malkin has 8 goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 25 games this season. His point production is frustrating.
However, Malkin’s battle level has been exceptional the past three games, something I’ve been critical of him at times this season. That’s been good to see.
He clearly needs to produce at a star level but if Malkin’s battle level remains on par with how it has the past two or three games, it’s hard to be overly negative of his game.
BYLSMA’S COMMENTS ON 71
Head coach Dan Bylsma was asked about Malkin following Monday’s morning skate and as expected Malkin came to defense of Malkin, saying his play is sometimes overshadowed. (Quotes courtesy of Chipped Ice Blog)
“I think we’d all like to see him put up bigger numbers and have the type of season he had two seasons ago, but I see him doing a lot of things better in his game this year than last year. The consistency in which he works on the defensive side of the puck is much better. He’s a guy we count on in the defensive zone to play against the other teams’ top players, as a centermen. The one area I think he can improve on, and he’s making strides, is his decision making with the puck; when he takes the opportunity to make an offensive play versus making a smart play.
“There’s a lot of good in his game. He’s just got to keep getting better and more focused, shooting the puck and attacking the net and playing in those areas — because he’s a dominant player when he does. He’s got a lot of those opportunities, but there’s still another level he can get to in that area of the game. But there’s a lot he’s adding to our team and I think sometimes that’s overshadowed.”
PENGUINS BY THE NUMBERS
Pittsburgh improved to 9-1 when leading after two periods.
The Penguins No. 1 ranked PK unit is now 90.5% on the season and have killed off 30 straight penalties.
The Penguins dominated play in the second period against New York, which has been their best period this year. The Penguins have scored 29 second period goals, which ranks 4th in the NHL.
The Penguins have moved up to 4th in the NHL in goals against, giving up just 2.38 goals per game.
Notes: The Penguins have cancelled Tuesday’s scheduled practice and will return to the ice Wednesday morning.

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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