TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. The quality (high percentage scoring chances, creativity) of offensive play from the Penguins this season, they have averaged under 2.40 goals per game over their last 63 games, hasn’t been this bad since the 2003-2004 season. It is truly horrendous to watch in this series and has been for a while now.
What I’m talking about when it comes to quality of play, it’s offensive tempo, high percentage scoring chances/shots, creativity, and a players ability to create their own shot.
One thing those matchups in the last month of the season against rebuilding teams like Arizona, Buffalo showed is how poorly constructed this forward group is and it’s stunning how many forwards can’t create their own shot. In those games the Penguins upfront looked like a rebuilding team when Sidney Crosby wasn’t on the ice. That has to be something that can’t get overlooked by management this off-season. What’s worrisome, though, is there’s more talk of “we’re” [Penguins] being competitive with the Rangers and “just a bounce away” this series coming out of the organization than looking at the big picture in that this forward group and the Penguins offensive system needs a complete overhaul this summer in what needs to be the first of many steps.
One day Jim Rutherford believed in having four scoring lines as an identity. The next day Johnston, Rutherford believed that grit, experience is what would make the Penguins take the next step. What got lost here is the need for an offensive identity and a type of style/tempo to maximize the offensive abilities of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
2. The Anaheim Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets and the Ducks only led in the series for around 38 minutes and it didn’t matter. A killer instinct and timely scoring will do that for you. Anaheim’s star players all had big series.
— Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler combined for 7 goals, 16 points. —
For the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin is playing so bad in this series it would be like LeBron James averaging 5 points per game, 3 assists and 2 rebounds in four playoff games for the Cavaliers in their first round series against the Celtics.
The injury excuse for Malkin won’t go away as he’s believed to be dealing with an ailing back, Rob Rossi of the Tribune Review has reported, but it’s now reached the point where it’s a given every spring that there’s going to be post-season slump with one of Crosby or Malkin. The two just don’t click on all cylinders at the same time anymore. Even with an ailing back and poor linemates, Malkin has to be better and if he even has a minor injury, why do the Penguins have him practicing every day? Pavel Datsyuk isn’t healthy and he’s also 36 and look how he’s impacting the Red Wings series.
3. We’ve seen a trend this season with rookie head coaches not playing their star players enough. Willie Desjardins in Vancouver is getting crushed by the Canadian media for his use of the Sedin twins, who have played under 20 minutes a game in three of four games, including just around 15 minutes in Game 3 for Daniel. The same in Pittsburgh with Mike Johnston as Sidney Crosby played just 20:14 in Game 4 that went to overtime, the first game Crosby topped 20 minutes in a playoff game this season. Last season vs the Rangers in Round 2, Crosby played over 20 minutes in four of seven games. However, Crosby’s shifts per game are about right on par with what he was getting last post-season. What’s different?
His shifts are shorter because of the increased defensive responsibilities in Johnston’s system.
4. Here’s what should scare Penguin fans moving forward. The Eastern Conference may be looked as wide open as it seems to be every year but it’s a conference that continues to get tougher, deeper with quality teams that have scoring depth and excellent goaltending. The Islanders, Lightning are young teams with great offensive depth that are only going to get better, the Rangers window is still open, the Canadiens aren’t going anywhere, Washington has the pieces in place for a good 2-3 year run coming up with this group and finally have a goaltender, Columbus could be a big time force in the conference, Florida and Ottawa and teams trending up.
5. The Steelers have done extensive homework on cornerback Marcus Peters who has some character concerns. Peters has off-field issues and was dismissed last November from Washington. That said the Steelers haven’t taken him off their board and he will be a consideration at No. 22 if he falls due to the character concerns. Regarded as the most talented cornerback in the draft by some, the Steelers love his toughness and believe he can come right in and play. Aqib Talib is a comparison many draft evaluators. Mike Tomlin believes he can coach anyone.