The Pittsburgh Penguins have been among the teams at the forefront over the past couple years in pushing for a ban on head shots. Penguins GM Ray Shero proposed a zero tolerance rule on banning head shots at the 2011 General Manager Meetings, a proposal that didn’t get much traction, but nonetheless, the Penguins have been among the most active organizations in trying to get others to come around on the idea.
The Penguins have also been an organization that has come out publicly, at least Shero has, in being in favor of banning fighting.
For those reasons it’s no surprise the Penguins came off as hypocrites in the past to some around the league for continuing to stand by Matt Cooke, but looking at the situation in front of the Penguins with James Neal right now, it’s not surprising to hear that quite a few important members of the organization are very disappointed in how Neal didn’t take responsibility for his actions.
I wouldn’t look for anybody of interest in the organization to question the length of Neal’s suspension. They feel he got what he deserved and probably deserved a longer suspension.
What’s going to be interesting is if Neal sings a different tune when he speaks to the media next. I’m told there will be a push from the Penguins for Neal to come out and take a bit more responsibility but no guarantee he does, though, guess here is he does in some way.
Neal has now been suspended three times and has a reputation as being a “sneaky” head hunter, one former player told me. Because the Penguins have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, what gets lost is really how great of a goal scorer Neal is. Few can shoot the puck like him and he should be a player that the NHL can market but he’s now mixed in with that black cloud of thuggery that follows the NHL.
This Penguins coaching staff has its faults and in most win-now NHL franchises, Dan Bylsma would probably be out of a job after four straight disappointing playoff runs and how the Penguins lost the past couple years. That said, the Penguins adjustment systematically in doing less pinching from their d-men and collapsing to the middle in the defensive zone has been a big development and positive for the coaching staff.
It’s no secret the type of system change defensively the Penguins have made should have happened a few years ago, but the way the Penguins now defend could be a huge difference maker come playoff time if the Penguins can break their previous bad habits over a seven game series. That is going to be fascinating to watch.

The Penguins are now 5th in the NHL in goals against, giving up just 2.22 per game. They have done a great job of also making life easier on Marc Andre Fleury who is going to have all of the pressure in the world on him come April.
Columbus coach Todd Richards on the Penguins stout defensive play Monday night. “We didn’t have clean shooting lanes,” Richards said. “They created a lot of second chances, it seems like they created rebounds off Mac’s pads, and it seems like our shots were caught or hit (Fleury) in the chest.”
Evgeni Malkin is playing like the best player in the game right now and he’s closing in on some milestones. Malkin is two points away from 600 career points and 12 games away from 500 career games. Malkin right now has 598 points in 498 career games.
Sidney Crosby last week hit the 500 game plateau and had the sixth most points in NHL history at the 500 game mark with 706. Evgeni Malkin is not going to be in that ballpark.