Penguins ended their five game road trip with a 3-2 record after getting wins against Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton.
The final game in the road trip did not end well but a 3-2 road trip that took the Penguins into Western Canada is a productive five game swing, especially considering the Penguins are 4-7 in their last 11 games.
A key coming into the road trip was the play of Marc Andre Fleury and Fleury was tremendous in 3 of 4 games.
Despite getting off to a 3-1 start, defensive breakdowns were a problem for the entire road trip, and breakdowns in the D-zone came to the forefront in Saturday’s 6-2 loss with Fleury sidelined with a fractured finger.
With no Marc Andre Fleury on the ice to bail them out, Pittsburgh was exposed in all areas of their game against Vancouver.
Goaltender John Curry did not play well, making 9 saves on 14 shots but he was also left out to dry on a number of occasions.
In a game where Pittsburgh knew they were going to have more of a focus on D-zone coverage, Pittsburgh lacked a team commitment in the D-zone.
As for John Curry, the organization is not sold on him being a future backup for Marc Andre Fleury and he didn’t help his cause tonight.
Cooke – Kennedy – Staal a bright spot on road trip
A bright sign for the Penguins moving forward was the play of their third line during the road trip.
Tyler Kennedy went through a long slump since returning from a groin injury on November 28th but appears to be finding his stride.
Kennedy scored goals in 2 of the Penguins final 3 games, while Jordan Staal has 4 assists in his last 2 games and Matt Cooke has goals in consecutive games.
Malkin playing reckless?
Evgeni Malkin recorded a penalty in all five games of the road trip and at times he’s been playing reckless and undisciplined. Against Edmonton, Malkin had a dangerous charging penalty against Fernando Pisani and Saturday night had a boarding penalty on Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell.
However, a fluke goal nonetheless, (Malkin will take anything at this point) Malkin snapped his goal scoring drought Saturday night against Vancouver. Malkin’s first period tally was his first road goal since November 27th and his first goal in 11 games.
In the first period against Vancouver, Malkin was on top of his game, making plays in the defensive zone to fuel the Penguins transition game early on but Malkin needs to start controlling his emotions and playing with more discipline.
Incrediable night for Alexander Pechurski
19 year old goaltender Alexander Pechurski was thrown into the fire against Vancouver and held his own, making 12 saves on 13 shots. It was a nightmare situation for Pittsburgh having to put Pechurski in the game but Pechurski kept the game from being a complete blowout and went on to earn the games No. 3 star.
*Michael Rupp is not a good fit for Sidney Crosby. Rupp has not seen extensive time with Crosby but even in practice when Bylsma has used Rupp with Crosby often, something has always looked off. He appears much more comfortable playing with Malkin but Rupp’s an asset on the 4th line not on the 1st or 2nd line.
*Serious internal discussions have been on-going about Ben Lovejoy staying with the team. Lovejoy put together another strong game, finishing with a plus-1 rating.
*Indications are Dan Bylsma is expected to give the Fedotenko – Malkin – Tablot line a long look. The chances of that line clicking is slim as Fedotenko has been among the most inconsistent players on the team and Talbot is not playing at the level that he was last spring.
Scouts Buzz: The St. Louis Blues had scouts at 3 of the Penguins last 5 games, while Nashville and LA and Florida each had scouts at 2 of the Penguins last 5 games. At least 10 teams had representatives at the Penguins-Canucks game Saturday night.
Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury (finger) is expected to be available for Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders but likely won’t start until later in the week.
Brent Johnson who has missed the past four games is recovering from a groin injury and is expected to be available to play Tuesday night and will start against the Islanders.
*Defenseman Brooks Orpik (knee) went through his first full practice on Saturday. I’m told he skated very well and will return to the lineup in the next few days. Orpik is a good bet to return by Thursday night against Washington.