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