Thursday, November 4, 2010

GTOPG: Pens Lose; Everybody Stay Calm

By Artistry

If you've been watching hockey long enough, you know the way a team looks in early November does not necessarily have any bearing at all on how it will look in June.  Ask the 1991 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.  They started the season 12-16-3.  Or the 1992 Penguins.  They were still at .500 through 62 games.  The 2009 Stanley Cup team?  10th place in the conference at the all-star break. 

The current Penguins team is far, far worse than the sum of its parts right now.  This is a work in progress.  The defense pairings we saw last night really haven't played together at all, we still haven't seen Jordan Staal, and Lola Dupuis was born yesterday, an event so emotionally distracting that Eric Godard, Deryk Engelland, and Mike Rupp all forgot they were supposed to stick up for their teammates.  So does it really even matter that the Pens had their worst performance of the season?  Well, it matters to us.  GTOG Nation understands the big picture, but we don't have to like what went on in Dallas.  Sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Let's take a clear-eyed look at this situation after the jump...

  • The Stars simply overwhelmed the Pens on every level in the first period.  Zbynek Michalek was sucking wind out there, and he was on the ice for the first two Dallas goals.  In time, he will be the player we thought we were getting this off-season, but he picked the wrong night to try to work his way back into the lineup.  The Pens had no answer for the Brad Richards-James Neal-Loui Eriksson line, which is easily one of the best in the league.  More on Eriksson later.
  • We knew Brent Johnson's hot streak would end eventually, and here we are.  BJ looked shaky from the get-go, and he was practically cowering inside of his net when Richards stuck a one-timer under the crossbar for the Stars' second goal.  Thank you, Brent, for your service in a time of need.  Time for Marc-Andre Fleury to start earning his money, beginning Friday night in Anaheim.
  • The Penguins were outshot in the first period 12-4.  Outside of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, no forward aside from Tyler Kennedy - who was evidently possessed by Gordie Howe last night - is putting the puck on net with any kind of consistency. 
  • I view the fact that Kennedy, Crosby, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz felt compelled to drop the gloves last night with some mixture of pride and disgust.  Pride that these guys were willing to stick up for themselves and their teammates.  Disgust that they thought it was necessary.  Godard, Rupp, and Engelland, three guys who are in the NHL largely, if not exclusively, because they are well equipped to fill that role, were nowhere to be seen.  This may not be entirely their fault.  They probably asked Steve Ott, Jamie Benn, and those jokers to dance, and the Stars' players probably declined.  But on a night like last night, you don't take "no" for an answer. 
  • Matt Niskanen, welcome to the small but esteemed club of "Smallish Players Treated Like a Rag Doll by a Frustrated Sidney Crosby."  Charter member Brett McLean welcomes you.

  • Mike Comrie doesn't belong on the team right now.  He doesn't battle, and he's careless with the puck.  That was Comrie who gave the biscuit away at the tail end of one of the most pitiful two-man advantage power plays you will ever see.  Then he followed that up by taking a penalty. 
  • GTOG contributor Eloquence says it best about the power play: "You know the PP is bad when your dad emails you: 'Where is Mike Yeo when you need him?'  Sadly, this happened to me this morning."  One obvious problem touched on by Steiggy and Errey last night:  Alex Goligoski and Paul Martin do not have the Gonchar-esque ability to hit Malkin in his wheelhouse for the one-time slapshot.  Uh, guys, you might want to work on that in practice.
  • What is the over-under at this point on goals for Geno this season?  25?  Fewer?  He has 3 in 13 games.
  • Two players who continue to impress me are Kris Letang and Mark Letestu.  Even though he's injured and had a terrible giveway leading to Eriksson's second goal last night, Letang does not shrink in the face of adversity.  He tries to play even bigger.  He has heart.  Letestu, even when he's not scoring, does not take a shift for granted.  He's putting the body on guys out there and has good hockey sense.
  • Finally, a quick word about Loui Eriksson.  Back in 2003, the Pens had the 2nd pick in the second round of the draft, and Eriksson was sitting there.  I'd never seen him play, but the scouting reports said he was a left winger who could score goals.  Seemed like a good fit to me.  The Pens took Ryan Stone.  Eriksson went to Dallas with the next pick.  Now, I don't know anything about 17-year-old kids who I've never seen play.  But I think the moral of the story here is, sometimes if it just seems like a good fit, it's a good fit.
The Penguins are a bad team right now.  But that's just right now.  Friday in Anaheim, by my calendar, is a different day.  GTOG.  LGP.


  1. The Pens' #1 problem in my opinion is this "Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, Shot" mentality that they seem to have adopted, even though it rarely works out. All this passing lets the other team take away their time and space. The only shots they ever get off are easy saves for the goaltender.

    The Pens need to focus on two things:
    1. Generating offense from behind the net. We've now seen both our goalies victimized by this strategy. Time for our offense to stop screwing around on the perimeter. All three or our centers (when Staal is healthy) can protect the puck beautifully in deep.
    2. There is tremendous offensive ability throughout the defensive corps, so use it. We saw Letang do this to perfection against the Flyers. The D-man leads the charge into the offensive zone, drops the puck to a trailer, then crashes the net. The Pens have good defensive forwards, which we know because the PK is pretty good (and from not being blind).

    I just don't know why we see things work for us and other teams and not try to do it more often. I don't know if I've made any sense; I'm getting really frustrated.

  2. Randy!, hang in there. Things will get better. And I completely agree that more of our offense (or how about any offense) should originate down low.

  3. Artistry - Is it me, or do the Pens seem to have very infrequent odd man rushes (or even transition with speed)? And do you think that Crosby and Geno are getting less space so far than they normally do? Or do I just imagine this because they aren't scoring much?

  4. No question that the odd man rushes have been infrequent, Randy!, but that's most often a function of specific game conditions. If you get a two goal lead against most any team, those chance will come. If you're playing from behind or in an even game, they won't come often, if at all.

    I agree that Sid and Geno aren't getting much room out there. They are both guys who want the puck in the offensive zone, and they draw at least two defenders to them when they have it. Per your earlier suggestion, they need to cycle that puck down low to a winger who by definition will be wide open, and rely to a greater degree on the wingers to create some pressure on the net. What too often happens is they - particularly Geno - will try to do it alone and fire a long range shot, which gets blocked or easily turned aside. Alternatively, they get it to the point man, with the same result.

    The only way you create space in this league is to give and, say it with me, go.

  5. To give and go you need guys who CAN both give and go, and right now the only two guys who can do that are named Sid and Geno.

    The rest of the wingers think their job is complete after the give is done, and if they do go they dont know what to do with it once its given back to them.

    Or they're tripping over themselves(My dislike for Chris Kunitz is reaching critical mass.)

    Maybe I'll start a weekly post on why we should trade chris Kunitz. I can probably start the majority od posts off with "did he even contribute to Sid's time and space?" Because lord knows he isnt doing anything else.

  6. Maybe we should trade Kunitz for Bobby Ryan. (Sorry, David, I couldn't resist).

  7. What a recap.

    Pens were dreadful last night. Is Malkin regressing? Who knows, but he certainly isn't improving. Goligoski has to get off the #1 PP, he isn't good at shooting and he isn't good at keeping the puck in.

    Too early in the season to get down on a loss. It was a lose-able game, going to some random western conference opponent. The ship will be righted.

  8. Haha....No problem Artistry, a little ribbing is good for the soul.

    Personaly I'd trade Kunitz for anyone right now who could score me 20 goals this season and cost me less than 2 million. At least in doing so Id get rid of his ridiculous cap number.