Martin, Goligoski off to fast starts
Sergei who? — Through three games, the Penguins have not missed a beat when it comes to the offensive production from their blueline.
Leading the team in points is not Sidney Crosby (1 assist) or Evgeni Malkin (1 goal). It’s Paul Martin (1G -3A), followed by Alex Goligoski (2G-1A). Defenseman Kris Letang is also tied for third on the team in points with 2.
Martin, the Penguins marquee acquisition this past summer has been excellent in the early stages of the season. Coming off a two point against the New Jersey Devils on Monday afternoon, Martin leads the team with four points.
Martin has been extremely active in the offensive zone, jumping up into the rush and picking his spots well. Martin has had only one 30+ assist season (2005-2006) in his NHL career but playing in Dan Bylsma’s system, a 38-43 assist season won’t be a surprise.
Expectations have been high for 3rd year defenseman Alex Goligoski and offensively he’s met them thus far. Coming off an impressive pre-season (6 points), Goligoski is tied for the team lead in the regular season with 2 goals and is second in points with 3.
Defensively Goligoski has also played well, leading the Penguins with a plus-2 rating through three games.
The concern surrounding Goligoski coming into the season is whether he can maintain consistency at the offensive end throughout the season with Sergei Gonchar gone as quick starts have been a common theme for him during his young career.
Goligoski recorded 10 points (4 goals – 6 assists) in his first 16 games, then tailed off a bit, tallying 11 points in his final 29 games.
Last season Goligoski got off to an exceptional start but slowed down immensely as the season wore on.
Goligoski notched 13 points (6 goals – 7 assists) in his first 15 games of the season.
A lack of consistency though plagued Goligoski in 2009-2010 as he went 37 games (11-3-09/3-4-10) without a goal after getting off to his fast start.
The Penguins are counting on this year to be different with Goligoski being a more consistent point producer from the back end.
Post Penguins-Devils Observations
— Sidney Crosby was pointless in Monday’s 3-2 win but he set tone with his opening shift of the game. The Penguins played with a lot of energy early on, out shooting New Jersey 15-8 in the 1st period.
It was Crosby that jump started the team and while the Penguins didn’t capitalize in the 1st, little things like that is why he’s such a great leader as he leads by example.
— Hard to make any rational observations through three games but Mike Comrie’s play has been disappointing, especially today against New Jersey.
Moving up to 1st line right wing, Comrie had 0 shots on goal and he was on the bench quite often in the third period at even strength. Comrie had just 8:24 of even strength ice time, which was the lowest of all forwards.
— Brooks Orpik (groin) is expected to be evaluated by team doctors on Tuesday. The Penguins will have an off day on Tuesday and no official word on his status or Zbynek Michalek’s (shoulder/upper arm) status is expected to be known until Wednesday morning.
Depending on how the evaluation goes, I’m told the team is already considering shutting down Orpik for a week or two, similar to what they did with Evgeni Malkin last November.
If there’s a serious injury to one of the Penguins top-3 defensemen (Orpik, Martin, Michalek) at any point during the season, this group could be in trouble.
— Just how important are defensive zone face-offs? In the third period, Jason Arnott won a left circle draw from Mark Letestu whose stick broke and got it back to Patrick Elias who one-timed a shot past Brent Johnson to get the Devils back into the game at the 8:20 mark of the third period.
— With Crosby and Malkin struggling at even strength, it will just be a matter of days before Bylsma goes with Crosby and Malkin together on a line. Wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen Friday night against the Islanders at home in an attempt to get both players going.
— Players inside the locker room have a ton of confidence when Brent Johnson is in and the players believe they can win with him on any given night. It’s a great thing for a team to have the mindset that they won’t miss a beat when their backup is between the pipes.
Despite Johnson’s strong performance against New Jersey, Marc Andre Fleury will be back in the net Wednesday night against Toronto.
With three games in four nights (Friday, Saturday & Monday), Johnson is expected to start Friday night against the Islanders.