— When Dan Bylsma picks his three shooters for the shootout, he writes down his three guys, than consults with assistant Tony Granato on Granato’s three shooters before submitting the three names.
Tonight, Bylsma went with his gut feeling to go with James Neal over Chris Kunitz, who scored the game winning shootout goal last night against Philadelphia.
Bylsma indicated that Granato had Kunitz over Neal as the third shooter, but he just had a “feeling” on Neal, which prompted him to go into Neal’s direction.
— Alex Kovalev might have had his best game since the Toronto game last month. In a game where there weren’t many offensive opportunities, Kovalev was very effective, creating due to his 1-on-1 ability.
In evaluating his play, Kovy’s inability to create many scoring opportunities for “himself” has been frustrating, as several of his shots continue to get blocked, but there’s no denying that he should have at least 8 or 9 assists since joining the Penguins.
Kovalev’s playmaking ability makes him a very intriguing linemate for Sidney Crosby when he returns.
Coming into tonight’s game, I was starting to worry about Kovalev a bit, but his energy tonight was a positive in back-to-back games and you saw Dan Bylsma rewarding him with more opportunities than he was getting over the past couple games.
— Kris Letang appears to be coming out of his funk and has played extremely well over the past handful of games. That is big for the Penguins going into the playoffs. He has to get back to the player he was in the first half of the season and he’s starting to show signs of that.
— I liked Max Talbot’s game tonight, most notably on the forecheck.
— Joe Starkey of 93.7 The Fan and the Tribune-Review asked Dan Bylsma tonight during his media session if he’s satisfied with the play of James Neal and Alex Kovalev. Bylsma answered but appeared to kind of by-pass the question.
— Not taking a shot at Mike Comrie but that extra little speed he’s been showing in practice of late, wasn’t on display tonight in his return to game action. Not sure this system is ever going to be a good fit for him.
— The Penguins are putting a lot of heat on the Flyers who control their destiny for a division and conference title. The division title remains the Penguins primary goal going into their final seven games of the season.
However, a strong argument can be made that the best case scenario for the Penguins is staying in the No. 4 seed and playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, who they matchup well with.
The Lightning though are fading fast and Montreal (87 pts), New York (85pts) are back in the hunt for the No. 5 seed.
Montreal is a team the Penguins want to stay away from, while the Rangers have the played the Penguins very well this season.