Post-Detroit Observations: Do the Penguins have the right mix on their blueline? Are the Penguins too content?; Making a deep run depends on Malkin, Fleury playing at an elite level
Penguins blueline too soft?
Concerns for the Penguins defensively have continued post-Olympic break and defensive breakdowns have plagued the Penguins during a recent 7 game stretch in which the Penguins are 2-3-2
Some of the issues have just been positional miscues with players out of position leading to breakdowns which can be easily fixed if the attention to details is there but there has been enough consistent breakdowns from the Penguins top-6 and their forwards that a cause of concern is warranted.
Against the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh struggled mightily defensively. The Penguins were passive in the defensive zone, giving the Red wings space to attack the offensive zone and Pittsburgh failed to clear the front of the net.
A concern has been the deteriorating play defensively from Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar played his worst game of the year tonight and was over matched in the defensive zone.
In fact, the Gonchar-Mark Eaton pairing struggled as a whole and have not played well in “big” games of late. In the past 10 days, Gonchar and Eaton are a combined minus-12 in Pittsburgh’s three pivotal games during that stretch (3/12 NJD, 3/17 NJD & 3/22 DET).
As constructed there is just something missing from the Penguins top-6. Jordan Leopold has been a solid addition but some scouts I’ve been in contact with question whether he fits what Pittsburgh needed at the trade deadline.
One league evaluator told me over the weekend the Penguins blueline is too “soft” as constructed, and are exposed when they are not getting consistent production offensively from the likes of Gonchar, Letang and Goligoski.
Questions also remain if the coaching staff is dressing the Penguins “best” top 6. In certain matchups, there is a belief that Jay McKee is a better fit than Alex Goligoski due to the addition of Jordan Leopold who gives Pittsburgh another puck moving defenseman in the lineup.
A Fractured Locker Room?
The difficult task for head coach Dan Bylsma is getting his message through to all 20+ players in the locker room. So far it has not as there continues to a vibe around the team that when the playoffs start, all of their inconsistencies will all of a sudden go away.
One team official told me there is some worry from management about the level of content that appears to be following this team.
Fleury, Malkin must get back to playing at an elite level
Two things Pittsburgh had going into the 2009 playoffs that they don’t have right now; Evgeni Malkin and Marc Andre Fleury playing at an elite level.
Fleury made a number of key saves against Detroit but continues to give up a goal or two game that haunts the Penguins. Tonight it was Henrik Zetterberg’s third period goal.
Malkin who is nursing a foot injury has yet to hit that level he was playing at last season.
If neither player doesn’t, Pittsburgh chances of making a deep will be slim.