Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pens allow Carolina to briefly think they won't lose; Pens win 5-2

By GTOG Staff (follow Finesse and Artistry on Twitter)

Sometimes it's hard to get up for the third Penguins game of the season when a Pirates elimination game is looming and there is nothing about either Pittsburgh or Carolina that made anyone think for more than a nanosecond that the Canes were going to win this game.  While other teams get their shit together, the Pens are already in mid-season form.  There are always arguments to be made that having a stable core group of players can get stale, but the flip side is that there is minimal ramp-up time for the season when everyone is already familiar with everyone else.  The Sid-Kunitz-Dupuis line is running a clinic; Paul Martin is Prime Ministering; Matt Niskanen is adding value to the top-4; and even Tanner Glass is showing a pulse, having already done more this season than he did in 48 games last year.

Good scrap, too.
With this stability comes the ability -- so long as the coaches have patience -- to integrate some new pieces without sacrificing anything.  Beau Bennett is up to over 14 minutes of ice time and he's noticeable for almost all of it, and for all the right reasons.  Rob Scuderi fits like the glove would have fit O.J. if he hadn't been wearing a latex glove and binged on sodium the night before.  And Olli Maatta is giving the Pens something they haven't gotten in a long time from an individual player -- legitimate and tantalizing upside.  If he has six more games like his first three, the Pens have to keep him in the lineup even when Letang returns.  If that means trading Niskanen or scratching Bortuzzo, remember: they're Matt Niskanen and Bob Bortuzzo, not Nick Lidstrom.  Could Maata win Rookie of the Year if he plays 70 games with the Pens this season? Highly doubtful, but the fact that it isn't a laughable question means something.

Blocked this shot.
- Chemistry is a hard thing to define. James Neal has a booming shot and knows how to find a soft spot on the ice. Evgeni Malkin is incredibly creative and always finds the open man. Does that mean they have great chemistry, or do they just have complementary skill sets? Maybe it's both. Maybe it's more the latter. In any event, Malkin and Jussi Jokinen have chemistry. Period.

- One thing we forgot to consider about Brandon Sutter: contract year.  He has a point in each of the Pens' first three games.  If he contributes offensively on a regular basis, reevaluate everything you thought you thought about the Pens' bottom six.

- One thing we never find ourselves thinking: when does Matt D'Agostini come back?

- No reason to be satisfied about anything. Home games against non-playoff teams are games you expect to win.


  1. My thoughts:
    1) God bless Finland!

    2) Much as it may pain Finesse to admit it - both Sutter and Glass have looked really solid. And I don't think it is because it is a contract year (though that can't hurt): it's because they had a training camp. I was convinced Sutter would be better this year for that reason at least, and it sure does make me more comfortable with the bottom 6. And just think - eventually BB will move back to the third line.

    3) This team doesn't seem to miss 18 or 58 all that much - even Geno, who has been flying with his new wings. (Except on the PP, which looks like ass.) And they are our best sniper and the motor of the offense. It's staggering and magnificent to imagine what this team could look like.

    4) I've always had a soft spot for the Canes and consider them my second favorite team, for no other reason than I think E. Staal is a hell of a hockey player (can we take a moment to appreciate that goal - lord it was nice) and they seem (most years) to be fast up front and fun to watch. Much as the Pens dominated at times, if Cam Ward stays healthy, they will give teams fits, just like they gave the Pens major fits before injuries destroyed their season last year.

    In fact, given that Philly is Philly-ing, the NYR look utterly lost, and the Caps can only score on the PP, they may sneak in the playoffs. Chances are good a couple of those teams will get their act together, but could you imagine if the Metro's first ever playoff picture was something like: Pitt, Col, NYI, Car? Heaven might open up with the glory and wonder of it all.

    1. Sutter and Glass have been better (not hard for Glass to be worse than last year). It does give me reason to be more optimistic. Glass wasn't bad in Vancouver. You could be right that it just takes time to adjust. (But I still want to see a little sandpaper from Sutter).

      Canes should have been much better last year than they were. Their collapse was all-time terrible. Two thoughts on it: 1) Muller may not be a good coach. The jury is out. 2) Jordan Staal may not thrive under pressure to contribute regularly on offense. Totally different role than his role in PGH. Might take him time to adjust, but the jury is also out on whether he is truly a top-2 center. I think he is and will be, but he hasn't been yet.

  2. Hey GTOG, enough of the qualifications on the Pens' success thus far. Yes, all three wins were at home against likely non-playoff opponents, but c'mon now: we're playing without Cooke and Kennedy, who, for all their flaws, were at least stable contributors for the past few years, we're letting Beau Bennett spread his glorious, flaxen wings and fly, we're trying to integrate Kobeseeeeeeeuuuuuuwwwww (I don't care how you spell it) and Maata, while getting Scuderi's Pens legs back under him, and we're playing without an absolute sniper in Neal and arguably the best defenceman in the league in The Tang. In doing so, we're still outscoring our opponents 12-3. Yeah yeah, don't want to get cocky or optimistic too soon, but for once, it looks like we're hitting the ground running without coming into the season having to qualify Sid's health, Geno's drive, Letang's contract...all that's left is Fleury's precarious mental state, and I'll take it!

    1. We don't mean to qualify the Pens' success ... it's more about us measuring our own expectations. The Pens have played as well as anyone could have asked them to so far, and perhaps even better. One of the problems with having such a good team is that it's hard to impress anymore. We're very appreciative and aware of how well the Pens have been playing ... just not going to let it change our expectations for the team, which is pretty much Cup or Bust (and would be Cup or Bust even if the Pens had started 0-3).

      And seriously, Buffalo is really bad!

  3. i've been swooning over bennett and maatta and this team is absolutely terrifying to play against with the 3rd and 4th lines actually contributing. i was really interested to see how the pens would respond after they allowed the second goal. they basically just hit a switch, scored some goals, and called it a night. carolina is weak and it's just one game, but it was still impressive to see.