Monday, October 7, 2013

Ten takeaways from the Pens' perfect start, plus the Flyers fire Peter Laviolette [CORRECTED]

By GTOG Staff (follow Finesse and Artistry on Twitter)

We're through the first weekend of the NHL season and the Pens are 2-0, Fleury looks sharp, and the Flyers are 0-3  It's been a perfect start.  Here are 10 takeaways.

1. Let's not get too excited.  It is entirely possible, if not likely, that Buffalo and New Jersey could end up being the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference this season.  Particularly Buffalo.  They may be one of the worst teams in a long time, especially once they get rid of Vanek, Ott, and Ryan Miller.  Not that they aren't terrible with this guys ... just saying that their peak terribleness is still to come.

2. But it's OK to be excited about Beau. Beau Bennett is special.  The kid has hockey sense wafting like a cloud over his head.  We'd never submit that a James Neal injury is a good thing -- particularly given how Neal was flying in the preseason -- but Beau on Geno's right wing could be a revelation.  When a guy has the potential that Beau does, he has to play with similarly gifted players so that he can approach his ceiling.  Case in point:  When James Neal was 22 years old in Dallas, he played a lot with Brad Richards and Loui Erickson and scored 27 goals.  When he was traded to Pittsburgh and played with Mark Letestu while breathing in Alex Kovalev's exhaust fumes, he didn't do much of anything.  When he got a chance to play with Geno, he scored 40.  There's no reason Beau can't follow a similar trajectory (albeit without the 2 month stretch dragging Kovalev's corpse back onsides) if he gets to skate regularly with Geno.

Right-handed, too.
Eight more after the jump...

3. The Penguins will be more boring this year, and that's a good thing.  If we really mean it when we say that only the playoffs matter, we better get on board with a philosophy that emphasizes counter-attacking off a neutral zone trap, and protecting your goaltender from facing a dozen Grade-A scoring chances every night.

4. People (we) need to (will) stop making proclamations about Marc-Andre Fleury.  Everyone has an opinion, and everyone's opinion is pretty unoriginal.  Yes, he played very well in each of the first two games. Yes, that's terrific. Sure, critics would've had a field day had he played poorly. No, it doesn't much matter as long as he has the potential to melt down in the playoffs. WE KNOW. We know all of this. Some things can just be understood and not infinitely rehashed.

Like an alcoholic who got through his first night without a drink.
5. One day, opponents will realize that they need to pay maybe a little more attention to Alex Ovechkin when the Caps are on the power-play.  Through 3 games, the Caps PP is at 50%, and five of Ovechkin's league-leading six points have come on the power-play.  Teams might have to start treating him like Ray Allen from 3-point range in the playoffs and just shadow him.

6. There are 4.6 players on the Penguins who are taking PEDs.  Or so says ESPN The Magazine in an anonymous poll of NHL players, in which players estimated that 20% of their teammates are taking PEDs.  We don't know who the 4 are (though we will certainly speculate), but if Vaseline is a PED, then the 0.6 is Chris Kunitz's Hands. [UPDATE: As World-Class GTOG Fan Lizzie points out in the comments, this is not what the survey says.  The survey actually asked, "Do you think any of your teammates are taking PEDs?"  Twenty percent of the 30 players interviewed said "Yes."  Obviously, this doesn't translate to 20% of the guys on each team being on steroids.  However, we do still believe that Chris Kunitz uses a lot of Vaseline on his hands to keep them so soft.]

7. Is it safe to say at this point that Sidney Crosby's neck was the biggest missed diagnosis in Pittsburgh sports history?  Not to say Sid didn't have a concussion, but once they figured out it was also a neck, he was quickly back on ice. Now he's fearlessly flying in front of the net and ducking Tyler Myers checks.  It just makes us sad about the 2010-11 Pens who, like the 2012-13 Blackhawks, had gotten over the Cup hangover and were dominating the league.  And that was before bringing in James Neal at the deadline.  What a team that would have been.  Penguins history is all about tiny tragedies, epic adversity, and glorious triumphs.  It's rarely boring.

8. Bad news for Team USA in Sochi.  When Peter Laviolette, who was named one of Bylsma's assistants at the Olympics, gets fired by the Flyers at some point in the next few weeks, he's going to have a lot more time to spend working on Team USA.  [NOTE: As we were writing this paragraph, Peter Laviolette was fired and replaced by Craig Berube].

9. If Craig Berube is your answer, you're asking a stupid question.

Yes, Paul Holmgren.  The Flyers just need to get tougher.
10. Dustin Jeffrey is playing well, which is great for whoever he gets traded to this season (apologies to Artistry).  Same goes for Matt Niskanen (apologies to Matt Niskanen's landlord in Pittsburgh).


  1. Your caveat about the lack of quality opponents the Pens have faced notwithstanding, Olli Maatta has been very solid. He hasn't been perfect, but he's been better than I thought he would be, and should Matt Niskanen be traded (and I would like to think he would be traded for some kind of forward prospect(s) or a representative draft pick), Maatta seems toolsy and instinctive enough to develop quickly enough at the NHL level.

  2. Not that it really matters, but I thought the 20% in that survey question about PEDs referred to the number of players surveyed who said yes, they have a teammate on PEDs, not that they gave a percentage of their teammates. (Does that sentence even make sense?)

    I took note of it because they surveyed 30 anonymous players, and I was wondering if that meant one player surveyed per team. If so, that would be only a yes to PEDs on six teams, and no telling how many individuals on each of those six - with other teams being all clean, or the surveyed player was lying/oblivious. ha.

    I think that was the only question where it was asking about "on your own team," but I would have liked some more because I find that pretty interesting.

    1. I think you're right. Good catch. Going to update the post.

    2. Ha, just saw the update - if I'm going to be world-class in anything, it will surely be blog-reading.
      In fact, look, it's what I'm doing while I watch the stream of the Pirates, because how can I possibly be working right now?