Observations & Analysis
1. Alexei Ponikarovsky – The Penguins marquee acquisition at the trade deadline, Ponikarovsky has 2 goals and 7 assists in 13 games played. Solid numbers through 13 games but questions remain if he fills a specific need that Pittsburgh lacked prior to the trade deadline.
Ponikarovsky has good size, speed, and puck skills but he’s just an average player in all areas of his game. There’s not one area of his game where he’s much better than the other. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up for debate.
An Eastern Conference evaluator I spoke to this week called Ponikarovsky a “mediocre” player who gets 50-55 pts per season but has little impact on games.
2. A more mobile defense to struggle in the playoffs? – Penguins Management believes in the philosophy of having a mobile defense and the Penguins having developed into a more mobile defense this season compared to years past. Replacing Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill with Alex Goligoski and Jordan Leopold, an interesting dynamic will be how the Penguins blueline matches up against physical teams in a seven game series.
The Penguins have struggled this season against puck possession teams who create opportunities off the cycle and try to wear down the opposition with an aggressive fore-check.
The growing consensus among evaluators is that the Penguins blueline is constructed to matchup better against teams like Washington who push the play offensively and play an uptemp-style, similar to the Penguins.
3. In right role, Guerin still a key player for Pens – 39 year right winger Billy Guerin has seen his play slip in recent weeks. He has two goals since the Olympic break but has his role affected his play?
Guerin has shown a comfort zone with Sidney Crosby for over a year but head coach Dan Bylsma has opted to go with Pascal Dupuis on Crosby’s right wing, opting for a speed presence with Crosby.
Guerin has seen extensive time with center Jordan Staal of late, a few games prior to Malkin’s injury and significant time since Malkin has missed 7 of 8 games. Guerin’s a player whose hands and shot are still there, which is evident in practice but he needs a playmaking centerman to create plays for him and set him up in the high slot and around the net.
Guerin can still be productive playing a top-6 role with Malkin or Crosby but is not an asset to this team playing on the third line, which Bylsma flirted with for a few games prior to Malkin’s injury.
Guerin had 15 points last post-season, including 7 goals.
*There is word this morning that if Evgeni Malkin plays Saturday afternoon, Chris Kunitz will be re-united with Sidney Crosby. Crosby has just 2 goals in his last 9 games.
*Defenseman Kris Letang has averaged 20:00 + minutes of ice time in 18 of his last 19 games. Letang has averaged over 24:00 of ice time in his last 4 games.
*The Penguins practice today at 11:00 a.m., and will not have a morning skate tomorrow.