On the Penguins
*The loss of Jordan Staal will effect the Penguins in a number of areas but as Joe Starkey of the Tribune-Review brightly points out in a Sunday column, it should not effect the Penguins run through the Eastern Conference. They still remain heavy favorites to come out of the East. Where Staal would be missed greatly, is if he’s not available in the Cup Finals. However, championship teams overcame injuries like this.
What I’m not buying is some talk from the Pittsburgh media that losing Staal is worst than losing Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. That kind of talk is ridiculous. Staal is a tremendous player in the Penguins system but Crosby and Malkin are what drive this team.
Staal creates a number of matchup problems for teams and this is no knock on Staal but his role as a dominant shutdown center is a bit over-rated (minus-8 in playoffs since 2009) and he just doesn’t come close to impacting a game at the level that Crosby and Malkin do.
*Although there have been indications that Dan Bylsma maybe leaning towards Craig Adams as the third line center, expect Adams and Max Talbot to play a key role this afternoon in Staal’s role.
It’s a great opportunity for Talbot who has been a regarded inside the organization as a potential long-term third line center for a while now. Expect Talbot to step up in Staal’s absence.
*One of the most under-rated members of the Penguins organization is goaltending coach Gilles Meloche. Meloche does not only work with Marc Andre Fleury on a daily basis but he scouts the oppositions goalie extensively and effectively, showing a strong focus on video instruction.
Meloche was the one who spotted that Brian Elliott had a weakness on his glove hand and he’s been a prominent preacher on the Penguins getting the puck up on Jaroslav Halak which is exactly what the Penguins did in game 1.
*The loss Andrei Markov is devastating to the Montreal Canadiens and is much bigger loss for the Canadiens than Pittsburgh losing Jordan Staal.
Markov not Hal Gill is the Senators best defenseman and he’s likely out for the series. In fact, the media over hyping Gill has been astounding. A prominent member of the national media and a Versus commentator compared Gill to Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara before the series.
The Canadiens will also be without Jaroslav Spacek. Spacek is skating but will be held out of the lineup once again today.
*Word this morning is that Ruslan Fedotenko will be back on the second line with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Evgeni Malkin for game 2. They were together in Saturday’s practice and the coaching staff is expected to keep Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis together on the third line.
The Penguins need more even strength production from Evgeni Malkin’s line. Six of Malkin’s nine points have come on the power play and two of his three even strength points, came on shifts with Sidney Crosby (Game 1 against Ottawa, Game 5 against Ottawa).
The lack of production has not been a glaring issue because of how well the Penguins power play has been clicking.
On the NHL Playoffs
Marc Savard’s comeback game against Philadelphia yesterday afternoon could have only been better if his overtime winner came against Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Former Penguins castoff Miroslav Satan continues to play a key role for the Boston Bruins. Satan scored in Boston’s 5-4 overtime win against Philadelphia and leads the Bruins with seven points (3 goals – 4 assists).
Satan’s playing with confidence and even though his shot has lost velocity compared to years past, he’s showing patience around the net and still has a very accurate shot. Many forget Satan did have 17 goals in 65 games for Pittsburgh last season.
The Vancouver Canucks 5-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks was a statement game for the Canucks. Their the most under-rated team in the playoffs and a team that needs to be taking seriously as a Cup contender.
Tonight’s game 2 between the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings will be a true testament for the Sharks if they are going to turn the corner in the playoffs. Despite leading the series 1-0, all of the pressure is on them and everyone is just waiting for them to collapse.
There continues to be doubts that Joe Thornton (4 assists – minus-4) will ever get it done in the playoffs.