PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 07: Mark Fayne #29 of the New Jersey Devils attempts clear the puck as Joe Vitale #46 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates in during the NHL game at Consol Energy Center on January 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Devils defeated the Penguins 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
In theory, 42 shots should be more than enough for a team to score a sufficient number of goals to pull out the win. But a lot of things work well in theory until applied to reality where they fall flat. This is, sadly, one of those things.
Pittsburgh launched 42 pucks at Martin Brodeur Saturday night and he managed to stop all but one. Obviously one of the best goaltenders in the history of the league possesses the ability to do this on any given night, but the Penguins' inability to score on said shots may also be a reflection of their own inner workings.
The other day, in the Rangers' recap, I asked for some help on identifying what the biggest issue with the Penguins is right now. Some of you said defense, others said injuries but Outcast made an interesting point as well - just not enough bodies in front of the goaltender.
If goalies like Henrik Lundqvist or Brodeur are going to have a clear look at 35 - 45 shots on goal without anyone in front of the net to screen or deflect, odds are each of them will stop 35 - 45 shots on any given night.
This sort of thing is hard to find though. Back in 2005 - 2008, Ryan Malone was that kind of guy. He wasn't necessarily the biggest guy on the ice, but he knew how to use his body to his advantage in front of goaltenders to pick up some dirty goals or deflect in some rockets from the point. The risk-reward was always high with him on either front, as you may remember when he took sticks and pucks off his face as a result of his play. In a way it comes with the territory.
Bill Guerin was the next guy to come on board in 2009 to do the exact same thing. Much bigger than Malone, Guerin could battle his way in front of the net, get some solid positioning and just use his puck sense to dig for the rebound or tip in the shot.
In theory (we'll keep with the trend), Tyler Kennedy has the makings of a Malone. Jordan Staal more like the build of Guerin. And yet each of them rarely contributes in this sort of way. With the exception of his rare snipes - in between a shoot it into the pads and see what happens shot - Kennedy has scored a number of goals by just hanging around the crease. Staal, while possessing a much larger frame, has some slick hands and deceptive speed, so he is rarely used in that way as well. Plus he was out of the lineup for the Devils game with a knee injury. If anything James Neal would also be a strong candidate for this sort of positioning, but lately he doesn't need to put his face on the line to get us goals. He's doing just fine with what his game plan is.
Against the Devils, a team that often has a stigma of limiting offenses on all fronts, the Penguins managed to put up over 40 shots. Outside of Evgeni Malkin's first period go-ahead goal, the Pens didn't see the lamp light up much on the Devils' end. Even with two power-play chances the Pens were unable to capitalize, but the Devils also possess the league's best penalty kill (91.2 percent).
And don't get me started again on shorthanded goals. Friday night it was Brandon Dubinsky. Saturday night Adam Henrique. That's two consecutive nights where the Pens have allowed shorties. How exactly is that going to help things?
On the bright side, congrats to Marc-Andre Fleury, who appeared in his 400th career game Saturday night. Although he's been allowing a few goals recently over the Penguins' four-game losing streak, let's not overlook the fact that he's been hung out to dry a number of times, remains second in the league for wins among goaltenders and has been one of the biggest pieces on this team.
Pens are back at it Tuesday against the Senators. Puck drops at 7pm.