Monday, February 25, 2013

Pens win two straight; thoughts on Sid's feet, Malkin, Eaton, Stamkos, and Fleury

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

Let's start with an illustration. Despite a strong challenge from Steven Stamkos (we'll get to him), Sidney Crosby still holds GTOG's official "What a Player" title.  He put in a totally dominant performance in last night's victory over Tampa.  His first goal was so much less about his frighteningly accurate shot as it was about his incredible footwork.  There's a reason Lindback left the short side open and it's not just because he sucks.  It's because of Crosby's feet.

Look at Sid's foot positioning when he receives the pass from Kunitz.  He opens himself up to the center of the ice which means that he can keep moving toward the net, while having unimpeded vision back toward the middle of the ice.  This forces Lindback and Brewer to respect the pass.  If Crosby's feet and shoulders are facing the net, Lindback can move to his right and Brewer can turn to his right and try to cut off the angle because Sid would no longer be able to get a pass back to Kunitz.

From this second angle, you can really see -- no one else in the league would have received that pass in that body position.

When he finally looks to the net, you can see Lindack is off his angle and Brewer has no chance to get a stick on the puck.  Also, by turning his feet, Crosby has kept the puck from getting too close to his skates, so it's always in a shooting or passing position.  He doesn't have to stickhandle at all before he shoots -- all he has to do is open his blade and pick a corner.

When he finally shot the puck, it looked more like a pass to the back of the net than a shot.  And that's really all it was. What a snipe. What a player.

More on Geno, Eaton, Stamkos, and Fleury after the jump...

When I sat down to write this post, I had to look up who the Pens played last Friday night.  Aside from Geno sustaining a concussion that cost him his short-term memory, it was the most forgettable Pens game in recent memory, if that makes sense.  Maybe I'm concussed.

The Pens took four clean points from the Panthers and Lightning this weekend, but obviously the big story is Malkin's concussion.  It's pretty useless to speculate about his injury given that we have no idea what's going on with him besides what Bylsma revealed this morning and Rob Rossi will take care of the foundation-less speculating.  All we can say is that there is no point in doing anything other than staying even-keeled.  Sometimes the best emotion is no emotion.

- Speaking of things that don't stir up a lot of emotion, Mark Eaton is back with the big club on a one year deal worth $750K.  If you don't already know, Eaton is the inspiration for this site's slogan, "So Smart. So Steady. So Serviceable."  The emphasis now on the Serviceable.  He gives the Pens a legitimate 8th NHL-level defenseman and, most importantly  he can't be any more mediocre than Ben Lovejoy was.  Eaton is a good player; all he needs to do is eat up some minutes when called upon.

- Marc-Andre Fleury has won five in a row, but the best development is not as much in his numbers as it is in the type of goals he hasn't been giving up: he hasn't been getting beaten cleanly recently.  You know he is occasionally going to let in some goals that are awkward (if not outright bad), so the fact that it's only deflections and screens that have been beating him recently means he is playing as well as we can expect.

- The exception to that was the scud missile that Stamkos parked under the crossbar last night.  Impossible shot to stop.  Not only is he the best opposing player we've seen this year, but he's getting better.  In his first couple years he would pop into spots to score, but he never really dominated the puck like he is now.  He really has no ceiling and our 95% certainty that Crosby will win the scoring title is probably down to about 80% after seeing Stamkos last night.  Quite a player.

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