Monday, March 31, 2014

Eight thoughts on the Pens' two game streak, including Brooks Orpik's hit on Jonathan Toews

By GTOG Staff (follow GTOG on Twitter)

Eight thoughts on the Pens coming out of the weekend...

1. Much is being made of Brooks Orpik's devastating check on Jonathan Toews, so we might as well comment on it.  What a check.  Mike Milbury was near tears on the intermission report and reasoned that because Orpik hits to hurt people, he should be required to fight afterwards.  It's so stupid on a number of levels and Puck Daddy does a good job covering most of them.  But of all the stupid things about Milbury, the stupidest is probably that hitting to hurt is somehow different from hitting to ... umm ... not hurt?  The whole point of hitting is to hurt people.  Otherwise, there is no point -- truly, no point -- in finishing your check.  Saying that a physical game is "wearing the other team down" is another way of saying that the other team is tired of you hurting them by hitting them.  Hitting hurts.  It's supposed to.  When guys are in vulnerable positions, hitting hurts more.  Even the folks in Chicago know what's up.

Not supposed to feel good.
2. The biggest takeaway from the back-to-back wins this weekend is the play of Marc-Andre Fleury.  The Pens' defense is never going to be smothering no matter who is healthy, so he will have to make saves like the stop on Patrick Sharp after Brooks Orpik guarded the rope line along Sharp's red carpet to the net.

More thoughts after the jump...


3. This team may be coming full circle. Back in early October, it looked like the Penguins were embracing an entirely new defensive philosophy, rooted in capitalizing on odd-man opportunities generated by a neutral zone trap. Even if wouldn't be their default posture, they could revert to the trap--or the left wing lock or whatever you want to call it--when the need arose. Now, as we enter the final stretch before the playoffs, here it comes again. After getting that quick 2-0 lead on Sunday, the Pens were on the ropes for a solid 30 minutes. They employed not so much a neutral zone trap but a "We have a lead, we're genuinely terrified of this opponent, and we're just going to collapse on our goalie until we get an odd-man break" trap. We actually like this better than the "Don't worry, they'll never see the next stretch pass coming" approach.

4. If the plan with Jayson Megna is to completely destroy his usefulness by forcing him to skate with Tanner Glass and Craig Adams, then everything is going according to plan.  A Sutter-Bennett-Megna third line has about as much grit as wet toilet paper, but at least it could be a quick line that can make the other team skate backwards occasionally.  Playing Megna with Glass and Adams -- hell, playing anyone with Glass and Adams -- seems like a big waste of everyone's time.  If this team can ever get fully healthy, the top 8 forwards (in some combination) should be Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal, Jokinen, Stempniak, Bennett, and Megna.  Whether you have Goc or Sutter as the 9th doesn't really matter.  What matters is that under any and all circumstances, Tanner Glass and Taylor Pyatt should be scratched.  Vitale and Gibbons are better options.  And so is Deryk Engelland as a fourth line winger -- he isn't worse as a forward than Glass or Pyatt, and at least you'd also be able to use him on D.  Tanner Glass running around hitting people is great for the R.O.I. on the Subway Sandwich of the Game campaign, but it's not particularly useful when the team is getting out shot-attempted 21-4 while he's hitting these people.

Next on the reading list: How to Catch Passes
5. The most impressive thing about Beau Bennett's game since his return has been his confidence.  He doesn't hesitate or defer, and he's got just the right amount of young guy swagger.  We've said a million times that to avoid staleness, the Pens need an infusion of energy from an unlikely source.  Deadline acquisitions Stempniak and Goc are nice players but they don't have the young naivete that comes out of nowhere to win playoff series.  Beau B. might.  Think Torey Krug for Boston last year.

6. Speaking of Boston, we heard that Patrice Bergeron was mentioned during the NBC intermission show as a guy warranting MVP consideration.  It's fashionable late in the year to throw out longshot names for MVP, but this is absurd.  Bergeron is an excellent -- EXCELLENT -- player and we want no part of him in the playoffs, but he's on a stacked team that allows him to focus on being the game's premier defensive forward.  If he was on a team that wasn't so deep ... hmmm, say, Pittsburgh -- would his 56 points be acceptable?  Or would circumstances require that he try to score more at the expense of his defense?  The simplest way to think about it is this: switch Bergeron and Crosby.  Would Pittsburgh be as good?  No.  Is it possible that with Boston's roster, Sid would already have 120 points and be a +55?  Yes.  Despite the best efforts of some, there's no suspense in the MVP race this season.

7. Stempniak knows what he's doing.  Nothing fancy, but not at all out of place with Crosby and Kunitz.

8. You don't increase your chances of getting into heaven by Tweeting "I hope Toews is OK. #Classy."

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