MORNING PENGUINS BUZZ
With Beau Bennett now with the team, a lot of discussions are centering around where he should play in the lineup. The plan to start might be a third line role with Bennett gradually working his way up to a top-6 role as the Penguins don’t want to put too much on the 21 year old’s plate.
“In terms of what the plans is, there is not a plan at this point in time,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said on Thursday. “When Beau plays he’s a skilled guy that has the ability to make plays and finish. That’s something he’ll get a chance to do. Who it’s with at this particular time he doesn’t know. You’re going to see him on the second power-play unit and he’ll have time and opportunity to play in a top-6 role at some point in time. But, that isn’t necessarily where he’ll start when he gets in the lineup.”
I’ve always felt Bennett would be a great fit with Crosby, playing his natural right wing spot with Kunitz on left wing, but with a premier goal scorer in James Neal on the right side, a good argument can be made that Bennett’s best fit is on the second line with Neal and Malkin, where he is likely to eventually end up.
Bennett’s strengths are his vision and playmaking ability as he see’s the ice so well. The one thing to watch with Bennett is going to be the execution of making plays at NHL speed. During the Black and Gold Scrimmage in January, the first chance the Penguins had to see Bennett go up against premier NHL players, Bylsma seemed to hint at that being something he wanted Bennett to improve. “Certainly there were times when I would have liked to see him do things and execute a little bit differently in terms of playing a quicker game,” Bylsma said about Bennett on January 16, following the scrimmage.
A knock on Bennett in college was being a “perimeter player” and playing a little too much pond hockey, making that extra fancy move that won’t work at the professional level. Yesterday Bylsma praised Bennett’s all-around game in the offensive zone, most notably his ability to win puck battles, something that is very important for forwards in Bylsma’s system.
“He’s shown he’s not just a skill guy who has to play on the perimeter,” Bylsma said. “He wins puck battles. He can hang onto the puck down low and He goes up against grown men in down low situations and is able to win pucks. That’s probably been the most impressive thing about Beau in the AHL. Yes, we’ve seen him make a play. We’ve seen him score a couple of great goals, but he’s been able to win puck battles, go down low, out battle guys and do that at the pro level.”
INTRIGUE OF BENNETT WITH SID
Although it’s a small sample so far, with Matt Cooke showing some flashes as a fit with Malkin and Neal on the second line, putting Bennett with Kunitz and Crosby would be an intriguing scenario to explore and a potential scenario that could help improve the third line, an area of concern for the Penguins brass.
“I think we need a little bit more out of that line, in particular,” Penguins GM Ray Shero said about the Penguins third line on Wednesday night prior to the Senators – Penguins game.
Pascal Dupuis could be the fix on the third line, providing more speed to the line and forechecking ability as the Penguins have to find the right fit around Brandon Sutter, but there’s a reason Bylsma is said to be lukewarm about changing the Crosby line, in addition to the belief that he has no interest in splitting up Kunitz and Crosby.
The reason is the Kunitz – Crosby – Dupuis have been excellent at even strength together, ranking among the leagues best lines. At even strength “playing together”, Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis have produced 9 goals and 13 assists in 14 games.
ACQUIRING A TOP-9 FORWARD TO LEAD TO KENNEDY OUT THE DOOR?
Tyler Kennedy’s time in Pittsburgh could be on shaky ground. If Bennett makes himself a regular, the domino effect of acquiring a top-6 or even a top-9 forward could seal Kennedy’s fate as a Penguin.
“I know with TK coaches have talked to him and he’s a guy who needs to pick up his game,” Shero said on Wednesday night.
Here’s why Kennedy shouldn’t be planning to buy a new house in the Pittsburgh area.
Hypothetical here but let’s say the Penguins acquire a Devin Setoguchi (using Setoguchi as an example) and Beau Bennett becomes a fit in the top-6.
The domino effect would surely be Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis being the third line wingers, leaving Kennedy without a spot in the top-9 and giving the Penguins an opportunity to move his $2 million salary as the Penguins will have to tender him a contract of $2.1 million this summer to retain his rights.
You don’t pay a player $2 million per season to play on the fourth line and Shero has been very pleased with the identity of the fourth line.
“Our fourth line has given us a good identity with Vitale, Adams and Tanner Glass,” Shero said.
Shero specifically named Vitale, Adams and Glass, which makes it clear he’s probably not happy when Bylsma takes Vitale out of the lineup, which does change the identity of the fourth line.