By MARK MADDEN
Sidney Crosby has just seven assists in 15 games. I don’t blame him. You got no help, you get no helpers. I blame the stagnant power play more than lack of 5-on-5 production from Sid’s wings. It’s a minor concern right now because Sid is playing great, the Penguins are 12-3 and if the latter continues, the former will manifest itself on the stat sheet.
Then again, B traditionally follows A.
I used to suggest trading Jordan Staal for a scoring winger. Lately, I haven’t, The three-center model won a Stanley Cup.
But just because it worked last year doesn’t mean it will work again this year, or that it will ever work again. The situation is liquid.
For right now, answers must come from within. Not from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: Eric Tangradi or Luca Caputi (or both) could be summoned in January, but not before.
So, how do you adjust the lines to give Crosby more help, especially while he needs to be a one-man gang in Malkin’s absence?
The options are:
*Tyler Kennedy. Kennedy gets a lot of shots. He has 41 this season, ranking him fourth on the team despite missing three games. But if Kennedy moved to Sid’s line, would he go from being a third-liner who gets a lot of shots to being a first-liner that takes too many shots? There’s a fine line. If Kennedy alters his style to play with Sid, do you want that? Could even he think the game on Sid’s level?
Kennedy can’t play off-wing. Shielding the puck to get shots is a huge part of his game. At left wing, that disappears. So if you promote Kennedy, you demote Bill Guerin. What do you do with Guerin?
*Mike Rupp. This would definitely be a short-term move, but right now Rupp is the hot hand. His career high for a season is six goals; he has four in 15 games this campaign. Rupp is playing hard, getting open and stroking the puck with confidence. Rupp’s presence is front of the net would give Crosby more room. But could he keep up with Sid?
*Ruslan Fedotenko. I’m not sure what’s gained or lost by flip-flopping Fedotenko and Chris Kunitz. It would just be change for change’s sake. Kunitz is a better forechecker and more physical, which makes him a better fit for Crosby. Fedotenko and Kunitz each have two goals. Neither is making anyone forget Rocket Richard.
Having considered the options, I’d just leave things as they are. Crosby likes playing with Guerin and Kunitz. I’m sure Crosby wishes they were scoring more, but his nine goals have helped pick up some of that slack. Guerin always plays smart and unloads his shot quick. His veteran savvy complements Crosby. Kunitz has two goals in his last four games. It beats the crap out of one in 40.
The power play is a bigger issue. But the Penguins’ biggest problem regarding the PP is: They don’t think there’s a problem. Yikes.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).
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