SUNDAY’S PENS BUZZ
MALKIN & MARTIN UPDATE
Evgeni Malkin practiced fully today and did take some contact. He said he would like to have a few more practices under his belt before returning to the lineup but didn’t rule himself out for tomorrow night, saying “we’ll see” about playing vs the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bylsma said that while Malkin has been cleared for contact, he still needs to pass an impact test. Malkin said the only issues he had following the injury was memory loss and that the injury looked worse than it really was.
Meanwhile, Paul Martin skated today going through individual workouts prior to practice but head coach Dan Bylsma has ruled Martin out for tomorrow night’s game. Expect the same six defensemen to dress tomorrow night.
Marc Andre Fleury will start in goal.
SOME TAKEAWAY’S FROM LAST NIGHT’S WILD 7-6 WIN
*Of all the negatives defensively last night, the Penguins once again showed scoring is not a problem for this hockey club. Pittsburgh leads the NHL with 76 goals and adding another scoring winger would be a luxury and obviously something that would help this team but it’s not the team’s biggest need.
*The biggest positive out of last night’s win was the character the Penguins showed of not imploding when the Canadiens kept pushing to tie the game at 4-4, then take a 5-4 lead over the Penguins with three unanswered goals, then tie the game again at 6-6 after Pittsburgh went ahead.
*The speed of the Crosby line overmatched the Canadiens all night and it’s really laughable at people who still strongly feel that the Penguins biggest need is another winger for Sidney Crosby. Another James Neal or Chris Kunitz would be great for Crosby but that should be the least of the Penguins concerns leading up to the April 3rd trade deadline. Crosby has a very good winger in Chris Kunitz who really is a do it all winger on that line. Kunitz is having a career year with 11 goals and 27 points, tied for third in the NHL in points. Kunitz plus-14 rating is tied for second in the NHL. But, it’s not just the production that stands out with him, as he does the little things so well and he is the perfect type of winger for Crosby.
*Simon Despres continues to prove he’s one of the Penguins top-4 defensemen and if he keeps coming out of the lineup every couple games, GM Ray Shero needs to start shortening that leash on letting Bylsma have “full authority” on lineup decisions.
*Kris Letang leads all defenseman with 19 points but his season has been an odd one so far as was last night where he was on the ice for (4) even strength goals against but posted his first career four point game. One emerging storyline is going to be how serious of a Norris Trophy candidate Letang is. I can bet you National Writers who don’t see Letang on a daily basis will regard him as a front runner, while those of us who cover the team on a daily basis, or at least I do, have a different opinion of Letang. His play has been extremely inconsistent and he needs to be better, despite the statistics he has.
*The Penguins struggling to defend the front of their net well has been an issue for a few years now but it was interesting to see Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang struggle so mightily in that area the past couple games. They are two of the Penguins more aggressive defensemen, yet both were so passive last night and looked confused out there. Orpik really seems to have made an attempt this season to play with less physicality. He has just 35 hits in 22 games, averaging under 2 hits a game. Last season Orpik had 259 hits in 73 games, averaging 3.55 hits per game. A few weeks ago I asked him about averaging nearly 2 hits less per game and he said that’s a “garbage stat” and that he’s playing just as aggressive as he always does. The last time Orpik averaged under 3 hits per game was 2006-2007.
*Does Bylsma have to start setting a better precedent on sitting players for their performances? Players like Tyler Kennedy, Deryk Engelland continue to get free passes for their poor play, while players like Simon Despres and Dustin Jeffrey sit. It’s going to be very interesting to see who comes out of the lineup when Malkin likely returns this week. Bylsma has reached the point where he needs to sit Kennedy and send a message but there are doubts that will actually happen. Kennedy was a minus-3 in last night’s win and took a horrible offensive zone penalty with the Penguins leading 4-2 in the second period that killed the Penguins momentum.
*What has been so alarming with Tomas Vokoun’s play over the last four games is his positioning and rebound control.