Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pens-Leafs podcast, Fleury shot-chart, and other lingering thoughts

By Finesse

A few lingering thoughts on last night's game to compliment our podcast which you can listen to here:

Podcast Powered By Podbean -

- At the 1:50 mark you'll see the lowlight of Kris Letang getting beat wide by Nikolai Kulemin, as discussed on our podcast.  Kulemin comes through the neutral zone with speed, but there is no excuse for Letang losing the angle and allowing Kulemin to get the puck toward the net.  It's horrible defense.  Letang is going to be 26 in April and has played 350 games in the NHL.  A true number one defenseman may not get the puck away from Kulemin there, but he doesn't let Kulemin get it to the front of the net.


- And a goalie who is playing well doesn't end up 5 feet to the side of the net when the puck goes in.  To help illustrate Fleury's current positioning problems, here's a reverse shot chart showing where Fleury was located on the ice at the moment the pucks went in the net during the Flyers series and last night.

- We're not trying to be negative about the Pens -- it's a very good team that can win the Cup.  It's just that the same flaws that existed last year still exist.  So it's our position that unless there are personnel changes, or extreme improvements from Fleury or some of the younger players (unlikely, as discussed here), the current team is probably not good enough to win the Stanley Cup. To say otherwise, you need to be able to argue, with a straight face, that a defense that is largely the same as the one that gave up 30 goals in 6 games last spring - with EVERYONE THAT IS STILL ON THE DEFENSE TAKING ON AN INCREASED ROLE - is good enough to win the Cup. We will not be the ones making that argument.

- Think about it this way: If the Pens offense got to face the Pens defense in a 7-game series, we'd be salivating and wondering whether Malkin could score 15 points in 4 games.

- Knowing this, these are the four things we're focusing on right now:

1) What defensemen will be available at the deadline?
2) Can Despres improve enough to actually make a difference?
3) Will Fleury play well enough to stay the #1 goalie?
4) Will Crosby or Malkin win the scoring title?

- On the positive side, Scott Hartnell is out indefinitely with a foot injury.  Let's be honest.  I hope he's out for the season.

1 comment:

  1. We'll probably continue to disagree - and that's cool. I don't, for example, disagree that another defenseman is probably necessary at some point.(It's our 3rd pairing in my opinion that needs upgraded, whether by just getting a better 3rd pairing guy or bumping Niskanen down). And please, for the love of all that is holy, get Tangradi off of Geno's line.

    But I refuse to make proclamations that the Pens aren't good enough in a season where we are essentially at the stage of the 3rd preseason game, with a bunch of guys who haven't played hockey in 9 bloody months. They're going to make mistakes - big ones, ones they shouldn't (like above).

    You may be right - I'm just going to wait until about game 15. If we continue to see the same garbage as last night with regularity, then I'll say we don't have the personnel. Until that point, I'll stick with making judgments on a game-to-game basis. And they lost last night because they had more turnovers than a PA Dutch bakery, as they say. (And they couldn't win faceoffs when they most needed to.) Stupid, dumb, sloppy, correctable stuff. And the worst culprits - Sid and Geno. Are we looking to upgrade them?

    What I won't do is judge this team based off of that playoff series last year. I'm done discussing it: this is a new team. You could play that series over 10 times and not get what we ended up seeing last April.

    But if you want a reason why I'm going to withhold judgment - why this team is truly different (and perhaps - perhaps - better) - I'll give you two:

    1) Health - Sid, Orpik, Martin, Michalek, Letang all had injury issues, were coming off surgery, missed time, clearly not fully healthy, etc. That makes worlds of difference.

    2) Construction - Last season, no one knew what their role was. We had a top heavy team with one really good line (that got shut down in the playoffs) - and two sort-of second lines that were neither scoring lines nor checking lines. Sid looked like he didn't know if he was playing 1st line center or 3rd line center or what exactly he was supposed to do.

    And ditto with the defense: so many partner changes last year. Letang-Niskanen, Orpik-Martin pairings have looked generally good for this early, regardless of last nights game. Now you have a clear defensive pairing and a pairing you put out to help generate offense for the Sid or Geno lines. And in my opinion, Oprik-Martin is a more talented shut-down pairing than Scuderi-Gill.

    Bylsma's system requires a playoff effort just about every night. And when they don't give it, get frustrated, or are more worried about putting on a show than playing a simple game, things can go bad quickly.

    What we have at this point: one gutsy but offensively rusty effort; one dominant performance; and the s*&%$ show we saw last night. The biggest problem with last year's team was consistency, not talent; the injury situation in general, but especially with Sid, undermined any chance of achieving that late season groove that is the one defining characteristic of a Stanley Cup champion.

    SC champions don't need to be the most talented: they need to have a certain level of talent and that chemistry born of well-defined and suitable roles.

    Will this team get there? I don't know. But consistency is built over time, not apparent from game one. They showed me enough in the first two games for me to still believe in their potential. Good lord, the Kings barely qualified for the playoffs (and after rampaging through the playoff, again look pretty mediocre). All I'm saying is 1) slow down with the sweeping judgments and 2) let last year go and judge this team on this team's work.