Friday, October 4, 2013

Fleury and the Penguins shut out the Devils, 3-0; Trade rumors swirling around the Ducks?

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

It's hard to come up with a ton to say about the Pens' 3-0 win over New Jersey last night, but from a long-term perspective, most of what happened was, obviously, positive.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who usually (and admittedly) blows shutouts late in games, made his best saves late to preserve the shutout, despite Tanner Glass taking an obvious offensive zone boarding penalty with 35 seconds left, his last and best attempt to ruin the evening.  It doesn't mean he's going to be great all season, but it certainly doesn't mean he won't be.  Regardless of how exasperating it is to track his mental fragility, his mental fragility is the reality, so whatever helps boost his confidence is a great thing.  We actively root for us to be wrong about him.  If he wins another Cup, he deserves to go around punching every critic -- including us -- right in the face.  We'd welcome such a moment.

Punch us in the face, Marc-Andre.
More after the jump, including thoughts on rumors of trade talks with Anaheim...

- The best thing about Rob Scuderi is that you don't have to worry about him.  He isn't a perfect defenseman by any stretch, but you'd have to go pretty far down the checklist of a team's problems before you got to Rob Scuderi's play.  The real test for Scuds -- and the main reason he's here, in our opinion ("IOO") -- will be whether he can help Letang fulfill his realistic potential of being the best defenseman in the league.  Maybe that's by showing Letang to be more responsible and take fewer risks.  Or maybe it's by allowing Letang the freedom to be less responsible and take more risks.  Either way, we're highly optimistic about that pairing.

All business.  He's like a better, not phony, not self-promoting version of Brett Keisel.
- The Devils might have a decent season, but they will be atrocious to watch.  They have very limited offensive creativity, if any.  Their forwards are all decent, but where's the imagination?

- Olli Maata gets a passing grade.

- Love, love, love that Crosby buried it on the 2-on-1 with Dupuis rather than feeding Dupuis (though Dupuis did a nice job to make himself open).  Sid needs to be more of a selfish dick with the puck sometimes.  50 goals if healthy.

- This might be nitpicking: The Kobasew goal was very well-executed, but the breakout that led to the goal had Beau Bennett catching a pass at center ice while flat-footed and facing the wrong-direction.  He made a great play with it ... but given that he was standing still and facing the wrong way, it was also the only play he could make.  The main thing we worry about with the Bylsma system of long breakout/stretch passes is that it is stubborn.  It's great when it works, but when a team shuts off Bennett's lane to pass it back to Kobasew -- which will happen in the playoffs -- what is Bennett's plan B with the puck?

- Rumors have the Pens talking to the Ducks about a trade.  On our preview podcast, we identified the Ducks as a prime trading partner if (because) the Pens are looking for goalie help.  These rumors suggest the Ducks are shopping young forwards in hopes of landing a young defenseman.  The Pens, of course, have a lot of young defensemen but their young forwards, outside of Beau Beastly, have ... um ... wait, who are the Pens' young forwards?

We'll speculate on targets soon, but what we would probably like is this: Shero acting early.  Putting aside any perceived flaws in the actual play of Iginla, Morrow, and Murray, a very legitimate criticism of Shero's moves at last year's deadline was that he simply tried to do too much in too short of a time period.  Over 80 games, the Pens might have actually realized how to use Morrow and Iginla (i.e., not on a second PP unit with Jussi Jokinen).  But bringing those guys in with only a dozen games remaining meant the Pens were trying to break them in, while also trying not to disrupt what was already working.  The result was that both the old and the new suffered.  Being decisive and making trades now might be a better strategy than waiting until the deadline and then trying to incorporate a new guy over the final 20 games, even if the deadline deal might look better on paper.


  1. The stretch passes continue to infuriate me, precisely for the reason you said: the better (i.e. playoff) teams learn to shut them down. More concerning - I don't know what the answer is. The Pens score almost all of their ES goals off the rush, because they are so fast through the neutral zone. They rarely sustain pressure in the offensive zone through the cycle, etc, or get those "dirty goals" - unless they are off a rebound from a rush. We saw it last night, which was pretty typical of the last couple of years, minus clearly improved d-zone structure.

    The stretch passes take advantage of what they are - skill and speed but without real size. So is the inevitable end just the Boston series again, give or take a goal?

    1. That is a scary thought and also entirely plausible. Yikes!

    2. Exactly. When a good coach like Julien has 5 days to study tape of the Pens, sees the same thing every game, and has capable players, it seems like he'd be able to box Bennett in there and cause a turnover rather than allowing a backwards pass to a guy going full speed. It was a nice goal, and impressive play by BB, Kobasew and Sutter ... but I think we both agree that long-term, it isn't a goal to be celebrated as some display of tactical brilliance.

      I've talked about this a million times, but I went to Kevin Constantine's hockey camp on Neville Island many years ago, and his whole hockey philosophy was about creating mini 2-on-1s everywhere on the ice. The idea was that you always have a teammate nearby to support the puck so that no matter what the defense is doing, you always have them outnumbered. The stretch pass, which has to travel 100 feet past 3 forecheckers, seems like the antithesis of this concept.

  2. Two cycles, two dirty goals last night. Thoughts?

    1. Loved both goals, especially Sid's. Anytime he's buzzing around the net like that, it means he's on his game.