GTOG tends to have a glass half-full approach to Penguins postgame analysis, but there were elements of last night's 5-3 loss to the surging Tampa Bay Lightning that have us troubled this morning. With only a few exceptions (Sid, Letang, Adams), the team looked discombobulated. Tampa, for all its offensive talent, was there for the taking. It didn't happen. There are many reasons why. I wrote them all down on a piece of paper, which I forgot to pick up off the kitchen table this morning. Little Artistry's nanny is going to think I left her a note that "Talbot sucks" and "MAF has no clue on plays from behind the net," among other things. I'm not sure she'll be able to decipher this. But here's how I would explain it to her:
- Too many times, Max Talbot has been invisible this season. I did notice him last night a few times, giving the puck away or making poor dump-ins. GTOG contributor Eloquence offers his take: "I hate to say this, but Max Talbot needs to be a healthy scratch. He's the type of guy we need when the game gets a bit sloppy like it did last night -- to dump the puck and get the cycle going. Bringing pizza to the college students in line for student rush tickets is no longer a big enough contribution." Agreed. We are huge Talbot supporters here. He is a wonderful character. And he was a genuine Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 hero. But then, so was Ruslan Fedotenko.
- Do you think the league has a book on Marc-Andre Fleury? Chapter 1: originate offense from behind the goal line. Fleury struggles mightily with quick chances in tight. He's susceptible short-side and five-hole. See the Lighning's first goal last night. Chapter 2: Take long-range wrist shots. Actually, the farther away the better. Fleury often can't seem to track them. See the Lightning's second goal last night. Chapter 3: For some reason, in 2010, Fleury isn't make the one big save his team needs in the third period of a close game. See Marty St. Louis' goal in the third. Note to Fleury: please don't make me regret writing this.
- Evgeni Malkin puts on a dominant display for a couple of shifts nearly every game he plays. But his effort is not consistent and it's not translating into points. 8 points in 10 games is not cutting it, Geno.
- Eloquence points out that the power play had some great passing and chances, which largely came as a result of movement away from the puck. "Still need to execute more, but good progress. The pointmen are making me a bit nervous with a lot of passes across the blue line. But I do like the move into the high slot when the defense extends itself. GTOG has been yelling at that the TV for three years about more movement. Glad it's finally getting through. It took longer than a Ron Burkle divorce settlement." It did look good at times, particularly on the PP late in the first, but there's no production. And you can't have a power play where Geno doesn't have the opportunity to one-time the puck. That's our biggest weapon out there. Don't keep the gun holstered. Makes no sense.
- Let's end with a couple of positive notes: 1) How about Sid blowing up St. Louis with a shoulder check in the second period, then leading the rush the other way? Breathtaking. 2) Eloquence notes, "Letang continues to be impressive. We all know he can skate, but I'm equally impressed with his improved physical presence and strength on the puck. There were a number of times when he was initiating the contact. Tremendous to watch."