SERIES PLAYER OBSERVATIONS
1. Sidney Crosby hasn’t missed a beat since returning to the lineup in Game 2. Through two games Crosby has, 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points, 12 shots on goal and is 54% in the faceoff circle. In offensive zone draws, Crosby is 12 of 17 (70.1%) in the series. You could not ask for a better start for him after missing a month.
2. The Islanders to no surprise have no defenseman to match up against Crosby but it might be a good thing for them tonight to keep Brian Strait off the ice against Crosby. Crosby just tortured Strait all game on Sunday afternoon, drawing a Strait hooking penalty 3:50 into the third period and then in overtime Crosby beat Strait wide who was called for holding, leading to Chris Kunitz OT winner on the power play. Strait is just not the answer up against Crosby. Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic has earned high praise for his play in the series, logging 24:57 of ice time per game and has been the Islanders most physical blueliner with 14 hits in three games, including 8 blocked shots.
3. Watched some of Game 3 over again last night for a few notes and Dylan Reese has a better chance of suiting up for a playoff game the rest of the way (being sarcastic) than Simon Despres does. The coaching staff already had little confidence in Despres and any that they had can be thrown out the window now. He was overwhelmed from the start, which was surprising for a player who played well last post-season as a rookie. Despres positioning was awful throughout and he was benched for the third period and overtime in Game 3 and has no shot of playing tonight. Playing Despres over Engelland was the right move coming in but Despres play was a disaster. Brooks Orpik is considered a good bet to play tonight, source says.
4. Brandon Sutter’s play has been very poor the past two games and the coaching staff took notice, demoting him to a 4th line in Sunday’s game. Sutter has been mediocre in the faceoff circle, winning 45% of his draws and with Joe Vitale, the Penguins best right handed centerman on faceoffs a healthy scratch, the Penguins really don’t have a right handed go-to-guy on draws in key situations to go to. Could eventually become a problem.
5. In his first 11 games as a Penguin (10 regular season/ 1 post-season games), Jussi Jokinen was the Penguins best forward in a top-6 role with 7 goals and 13 points. When Sidney Crosby returned the question was always going to be how can the Penguins keep Jokinen involved in an offensive role. Jokinen has 0 points and no shots on goal in his last two games, bouncing around in the lineup from playing on the 4th line, to seeing time on Evgeni Malkin’s left wing to centering Brenden Morrow and Matt Cooke in a third line role. One thing the coaching staff has to find with Crosby back is the right fit for Jokinen as he needs to play with skilled players.
With Brandon Sutter struggling, one option I’d look on the bottom two lines if James Neal is a go tonight is:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Jarome Iginla – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal (*Hate Iginla on LW, but this is what I believe Bylsma will go with)
Brenden Morrow – Jussi Jokinen – Beau Bennett
Matt Cooke – Brandon Sutter – Craig Adams