November grades and Player of the Month

To see the report card from October, click here.  You voted Alex Goligoski the player of the month, garning 50% of the vote to easily out-pace the other finalists of Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Tyler Kennedy and Jay McKee.

While the training staff and doctors probably deserve MVP status for all their hard work, let's look at the players performances for the month of November.

Overall the Penguins were 8-6-0 on the month, but it was a month of stretches.  They lost five of seven games from Nov. 5th to the 19th.  Then they won five of seven from Nov 20th to month's end.

Goalies

Grade Comments
Marc-Andre Fleury C+ (7-5-0,  .891 save percentage on the month) A rocky month for Fleury, who got pulled twice.  Considering the makeshift defense in front of him, it was about holding on and winning games; which he did reasonably well by month's end.  The bar is set high, so allowing three or more goals 6 out of 12 outings is not ideal.
Brent Johnson B- (1-1-0, .887 save %) Again Johnson's save % almost exactly matches the starter, and Johnny has done well to stay sharp, despite not getting into many games.
Defensemen         
Mark Eaton B+

(2 goals, 1 assist, -1,  6 penalty minutes) Who would have thought Mark Eaton would be the Penguins' defensive ironman?  Eaton picked up a lot of slack in terms of ice-time, being the lone defensive constant.

Alex Goligoski I

(1g, 3a, -1, 0 PIM in seven games) Battled illness and then eventually missed seven games.  Continues to play well when he's been in the lineup, but gets an I for Incomplete since he missed half the games and is back on the shelf.

Sergei Gonchar B (1g, 4a, -3, 4 PIMs in seven games) Points in four straight games, fair to say he's rounding back into game shape.  Now it's time to get those PP numbers up.  We'll give him a grade, since he's been back for a while.
Kris Letang I

(1g, 3a, +2, 0 PIM in five games) Barely played due to a shoulder injury, but played very well when he was in.  His puck moving ability was sorely missed.  We'll give Letang an Incomplete, since he missed so much of the month.

Jay McKee B (1g, 2a, -2, 21 PIM in eight games)  Before the shot blocking master somehow got a finger infection, the highlight of his month may have been getting 19 PIMs in San Jose, or maybe that awesome deke against Boston resulting in a goal. 
Brooks Orpik B+

(0g, 6a, even, 2 PIM in ten games) Since his return from injury the Penguins have won four of five games and Orpik had his most proflific scoring month ever in the NHL even missing time.

Martin Skoula B+

(3g, 3a, -1, 0 PIM) Skoula proved himself to be a viable NHL defensemen still with his fill in duty.  The two goals he chipped in against Atlanta (Nov 20th) were critical in a 3-2 win.

Deryk Engelland B+

(0g, 2a, -2, 17 PIMs) Engelland was protected (he only played 16:08 a night) but he was good and physical when he was out there.  Plus three fights helped keep some sandpaper around.

Nate Guenin B-

(0g, 0a, -2, 0 PIM) The Pittsburgh product appeared briefly in two games (13:32 per night).  He didn't make any glaring mistakes, but wasn't put in many situations in where he could.

Ben Lovejoy A-

(0g, 3a, +5, 2 PIM in eight games) Lovejoy got the most responsibility of the callups, in terms of minutes and PK time and also faired the best.  He had a great plus/minus and generally didn't look out of place in the NHL.

Forwards                 
Craig Adams C

(0g, 2a, -2, 10 PIMs) Hardly generating any offensive, and his faceoff percentage is still hovering around 45%.  Adams is forechecking hard (lots of hits) and playing well positionally, but that's par for the course for him.

Chris Bourque D

(0g, 2a, -3, 6 PIMs in 13 games) Has looked like a placeholder for the injured.  And the injured are on the mend, so Bourque's time may be running short.  November was a great chance for him to prove himself, and it wasn't a smashing success to say the least.

Chris Conner D (0g, 1a, -1, 0 PIMs in four games) Made two turnovers that resulted in goals against on Nov 12th, was shipped back to the minors on Nov. 13th.
Matt Cooke B+

(3g, 4a, +2, 34 PIMs) The good: Cooke supplying some offense, hitting and penalty killing.  The bad: Cooke crossing the line with hits on Shean Donovan and Artem Anisimov, drawing a two game suspension on the latter.  Gotta take the good with the bad with Cooke.

Sidney Crosby A-

(8g, 9a, -2, 12 PIMs) Much like the team, Crosby had a tough beginning of the month (only 1 point in first five games) but closed strong, highlighted by the eight points in two games the Rangers to end the month.

Pascal Dupuis A- (5g, 1a, -3, 0 PIM) Dupuis' perhaps the surprise player of the month with his offensive output.  The Penguins were 4-0-0 when he scored a goal in November.
Ruslan Fedotenko C-

(1g, 3a, -4, 0 PIM) Not much production for a guy getting top-six minutes, even worse he only recorded more than one more shot on goal in just three games.  He needs to get the puck on the net more, so he can get the puck in the net.

Eric Godard C-

(0g, 1a, even, 16 PIMs) The big guy is only playing 4:56 per game on the year, but he's really trying.  He had 4 shots on goal on Nov 25th, his center drive created a goal on Nov 28th.  He's lugging around out there with a purpose, even if many of us aren't sure just what it is.

BIll Guerin B-

(3g, 5a, -2, 13 PIMs) Like Crosby, only one point in the first five games and then a better production in the final two weeks of the month.  The goal with 0.4 seconds he scored against Boston on Nov 14th is the stuff of legends.

Tyler Kennedy I

(1g, 2a, +2, 0 PIM in three games) Kennedy is having a great year and really making things happen with the puck when he's been healthy, which hopefully he is now.  He earns an Incomplete this month, since he only got into a few games.

Chris Kunitz I (1g, 0a, -6, 4 PIMs) Thought to be nursing injury, Kunitz only played five games before leaving the lineup after Nov 12.  Let's give him an Incomplete as well.
Evgeni Malkin A

(4g, 7a, +8, 4 PIMs) It's probably no coincidence Pittsburgh's won seven of nine games since Malkin returned to the lineup on Nov 14th, and Malkin's registered at least a point in seven of those games.  He didn't look himself in October, but he certainly is back to his dominant ways now that he's healthy and rested.

Mike Rupp A- (5g, 1a, +2, 10 PIMs) Some [noted] timely goal scoring, a physical presence and no mistakes have made Rupp a cult favorite here at Pensburgh.  His hat trick on November 30th gave him a career high in goals, and he's on a 23 goal pace.  Can the big guy keep it up?
Jordan Staal B

(3g, 7a, +1, 19 PIMs) Staal found the scoresheet on 9 of 14 games this month, an important step towards his consistency in generating points.

Maxime Talbot C

(1g, 1a, +1, 2 PIMs in seven games) Understandably, it's been a little rough for Talbot to shake off the rust and catch up to everyone else in mid-season form.  He does have two points in his last three games and is getting his timing back.

Mark Letestu C+

(0g, 0a, even, 0 PIMs in two games) Didn't look out of place in his brief first taste of NHL action, but didn't stand out either.

Again I think it's a fairly wide-open debate for player of the month:  Crosby had the most points and was in all the games.  He was also named the NHL's #1 star of the week last week.  Malkin came back strong and is looking like he did last season when he won the scoring title.  Pascal Dupuis and Mike Rupp are lighting the lamp like no one expected.  Defensemen Mark Eaton and Martin Skoula literally held the fort down while the rest of the defensemen were dropping like flies.  Jordan Staal shouldered more of the load, and played well.

I'll cast my vote for Crosby, but it's certainly understandable that there will be a lot of different opinions on this one.   Feel free to cast your vote and share 'em!

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