There's no tonic for ailing Penguins fans like watching the Rangers at MSG and realizing, hey, we may be running a slight fever, but those guys have the Ebola virus. The Pens responded as they had to in the wake of Thursday's horrific showing and Tomas Vokoun was completely locked in, but you really can't discredit the Rangers enough. They stunk. A bigger test of where the Pens really are right now should come Saturday against the reigning Eastern Conference champion Devils.
- If you think the Pens have looked particularly top-heavy in the early going, take a look at the Rangers scoring breakdown. That's a portrait of scorelessness by quite a few men. Ryan Callahan is out for a couple of weeks, and the Rangers are paying for the Rick Nash trade in a way they probably never appreciated. Anisimov and Dubinsky were very effective players for them, and Anisimov, in particular, was a certified Penguin killer. Nash looks past his prime. Maybe he heats up at some point, but if you were expecting his production to skyrocket by virtue of finally being on a line with other top talent, I predict you will continue waiting and may want to grab a snack or something.
- The team defense was vastly improved in front of Vokoun, but his cool under pressure and the contrast to Fleury right now can't be understated. He should be back in net on Saturday before yielding the second of back-to-back games to MAF on Sunday.
A new power play theory, after the jump...
- The power play continues to struggle with the exception of the brilliant Crosby to Neal deflection. We won't rehash the problems here, but we do have a renewed focus on Kris Letang. After insisting that the PP needed to shoot more, he remains either unwilling or incapable of getting the puck on net with the necessary frequency. Not everybody can bang out one-time half-slapshots like Sergei Gonchar, and Letang is about a half-second slow on the release. Sort of a Byron Leftwich to Gonchar's Dan Marino, if you will. Letang is a man of diverse and great talent, but we always said Alex Goligoski was probably the better player in the offensive zone. Letang's real strength is the transition game. He's like a stallion galloping around the ice. But once he's relatively stationary on the point, his strengths are, if anything, minimized, and some weaknesses exposed. Finesse will take an in-depth look at this issue in a separate post later today.
- Don't judge Simon Despres by his pretty breakaway goal after getting sprung from the penalty box. He'll probably get one breakaway a year, tops. Focus more on what put him in the box in the first place. He had a very rocky effort in his own zone, and his mistakes led to some of the only legitimate chances the Rangers had all night. That said, his talent is undeniable. He's going to be a player. One thing his goal - and his patience with the puck - shows is the one thing he's more than ready to do right now: play in the offensive zone. Is it so crazy to think about sticking him on the power play?
- Dustin Jeffrey continued to shine on Evgeni Malkin's line by pulling off something many players find impossible: getting Geno the puck in creative ways without forcing it and not interfering with the Geno/Neal chemistry. How is DJ rewarded? Zack Boychuk replaced him on that line at practice today. DJ moved to Sid's line, only because Chris Kunitz is sick. I'm scratching my head.