Thursday’s Pens Analysis & Notes
— Although the Vancouver Canucks didn’t agree, the buzz in Penguins circles is that Wednesday night’s win was the Penguins most complete game of the season.
Two members of the coaching staff I’d like to give some praise out to is head coach Dan Bylsma and goaltender coach Gilles Meloche.
Bylsma who has taken a lot of heat this year, coached a very solid game. Bylsma sometimes goes away from this too much but he prioritized matchups against Vancouver Wednesday night, which paid off for the Penguins in the end.
Matching up against the Sedin twins, Bylsma went with Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang, instead of the Zbynek Michalek – Paul Martin pairing.
Orpik and Letang did an excellent job against the Sedin’s, giving them little time and space and the physicality that Orpik-Letang provide compared to Martin and Michalek was also a factor in limiting the Sedin’s.
Orpik and Letang combined for 10 block shots (5 each) and Orpik had a team-high 6 hits in the game.
Speaking of Michalek, he’s taking baby steps to performing at the level the Penguins are expecting from him. He logged a team-high 25:38 against Vancouver and was sound defensively.
— Max Talbot who netted the game winner Wednesday night, said in his post-game comments that he was tipped off by goaltender coach Gilles Meloche that Roberto Luongo was vulnerable to wraparounds.
As I mentioned in the past, Meloche’s role with the team is very under-rated. He puts a lot of hard work into film study, most notably the oppositions goaltender.
— After a strong start to the season, one player who has regressed in the eyes of evaluators I’ve spoken with is…..
defenseman Paul Martin. He’s been bothered with some nagging injuries but nothing serious.
— It’s difficult to imagine Mike Comrie getting another shot in a top-6 role and for the short-term, even getting back into the lineup.
The Penguins staff will obviously keep the Crosby unit in-tact, and the staff has been extremely pleased with the Matt Cooke – Evgeni Malkin and Arron Asham unit. There’s going to be no changes to the second line.
When it comes to the 3rd and 4th lines, Kennedy, Rupp, Adams, and Talbot are not coming out of the lineup for Comrie.
Chris Conner is expected to get an extended look, at least for the next handful of games.
What about Mark Letestu who only has 2 points in his last 12 games?
Some believe Letestu should be a candidate to sit and that the Penguins should give Comrie a shot as the third line center, but I’m hearing the Penguins have been pleased with the little things Letestu’s doing and the intangibles he’s providing. Bylsma is high on Letestu and he’s staying in the lineup.
After Wednesday’s morning skate, Bylsma also didn’t talk like a coach who plans to split up the Penguins third line, calling them a “scare factor” due to their speed presence.
Comrie just doesn’t fit into what their looking for on the 3rd and 4th lines.
Thursday Practice Report
*Arron Asham, Evgeni Malkin and Paul Martin did not practice today. All three were given maintenance days and will be in the lineup tomorrow night.
*The Penguins are looking to get Brent Johnson in goal for one of the next three games. Probably Monday or Wednesday night. Sounds like Fleury will go tomorrow night against Carolina.
*Bylsma said today that Fleury probably looked his best all season against Vancouver. “I think maybe last night’s performance more than the other ones, probably looked his best, ” Bylsma said.
* Sidney Crosby is on a tear of late with 7 goals in his last seven games and 14 points over the course of that span.
Get use to Crosby and Steven Stamkos alternating at the top of the points race. Crosby took the overall lead for a just a few minutes Wednesday night.
Stamkos leads the league with 30 points (16G-14A) in 18 games, while Crosby has 29 points (13G-16A) in 19 games played this season.
*Defenseman Kris Letang is second in the NHL among defensemen with 17 points (3G-14A). He is one point behind Colorado Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles (3G-15A), who is having a breakout season after several underachieving years.
The top 15 defensemen in points are only separated by 5 points. Former Penguins Ryan Whitney (14pts), Jordan Leopold (14pts) and Sergie Gonchar (13pts) are all in the top 10 in points for defensemen.
*In the first year of a 3 year – $5.4 million deal, the Penguins are getting their money’s worth with Matt Cooke once again. Cooke is off to a strong start, tallying 11 points in 19 games and his versatility continues to be a key factor.
He is tied for the league lead in shorthanded points with 4 (2G-2A).
*Evgeni Malkin’s 17 points (7G-10A) in 19 games has him tied for 35th overall.