Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's Always Funny Beating Washington; Pens win, 4-3

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

The first time the Pens and Caps played this year, the Caps were non-participants and the Pens cruised to a 4-0 win.  Last night was neck-and-neck, but the mere fact that the Pens played the Caps evenly despite employing what could be considered one of the least productive bottom 6's in Pens history -- and that was true even before it was announced that PL3 was starting in place of James Neal -- is impressive.

- Evgeni Malkin did the impossible last night by making Taylor Pyatt look like an actual NHL caliber winger.  Geno was dominating the puck, and though much of the credit for the winning goal is going to Olli Maatta, the entire sequence was made possible because Malkin was able to hold on to the puck long enough to exhaust the Caps and allow Pyatt to do something he is good at -- stand in front of the goalie.  Offensively, there are few, if any, players who can touch Geno right now.  Two offensive zone penalties in the 3rd period, however, can't be ignored, nor can anyone expect that they won't continue to occur from today through eternity.

More on Maatta, Letang and Sutter after the jump...

- Olli Maatta made a great play on his winning goal, but probably an even better play on the Taylor Pyatt goal.  The best part about these plays is not the talent they require -- a lot of guys could make those same plays -- but that he is 19 and isn't playing like he's shackled by fear of being scratched or sent to the minors.  He could have just wristed both of those pucks at the net and no one would have thought anything of it, other than possibly, "I wish Letang would do that."  But he didn't, and that's why unlike Simon Despres and Bobby Bortuzzo, Maatta is actually getting better as the season goes on and should continue to develop over the next few years even if, as happened a few times last night, he has bad defensive lapses.  The sad truth about those other two is that they haven't really gotten any better, so when coming up with fake trades, it's important to remember that neither of them can crack the lineup over Deryk Engelland and other GMs know this.

- Unless Kris Letang has a stretch of 40 games where he plays like a guy who is worth a $7.25M cap hit, it's going to be impossible to watch him make the same mistakes over and over again and not think about whether Shero should have sold high on him last summer.  I can't say definitively yet whether Shero should have moved him, only that every time I watch other teams play, I allow myself to daydream about whether the Pens could have gotten two of their best players in a trade for Letang.  Sure, he scored a goal after allowing one to Brooks Laich (what happened to that guy?), but you don't pay $7.25M for a guy to spend the second half of the game trying to correct his mistakes from the first half of the game.

- Sutter on the wing, long-term?  It's not totally out of the question.  Some guys can carry other players to productivity and other guys need to be carried to productivity.  Sutter isn't good enough to perform without help, and he's not getting help from Tanner Glass, Dustin Jeffrey, Taylor Pyatt, Chuck Kobasew, and whatever other scrubs he's skated with this year.  If Crosby and/or Malkin could milk some consistent offensive production out of Sutter, is that a better option than having him spin his wheels with scrubs on the 3rd line?  There is no shortage of available candidates to fill the role of ineffective third line center.

- Speaking of the scrubs, there is mounting evidence piling up that 0-points-in-19-games Zach Sill is the weakest of the weak links.


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