FanPost

Pittsburgh Penguins 1st Quarter Grades



With 12 games under their belt in this 48 game season, the Penguins have now completed their 1st quarter of play, so lets take a look at individual player performance thus far.

Forwards

Craig Adams - B

Adams normally mans the right wing on the 4th line, although he does get a respectable amount of time on the PK as well. He is not looked to for goal scoring, he is out there in tough situations when they need to keep the opponent from getting it into the net. In that respect, he is doing fairly well. He has so far gotten 1 Assist and is at a -1 rating, and while he isn't often called upon to take faceoffs, he has a respectable 47.4% nonetheless.

Zach Boychuk - C

Boychuk has only been with the Pens for the past 5 games, so it is still a little early to tell if he will be a good fit for the 2nd line. At the moment he is the very definition of the word average... he has no points, is at a +0 since he was on the ice for both 1 goal for and 1 goal against, he even managed to even out his giveaway/takeaway number by having 1 of each. He looks decent on the ice, but he is young/inexperienced, and small for an NHL player.

Matt Cooke - B+

Cooke is usually manning the left wing on the third line, and is an integral part of the 3rd overall PK in the league. He is expected to put up a lot of points, but has already managed 2 goals and 2 assists, and is at a +1. He has an impressive 25 hits and a respectable 6 blocked shots. He does what he is put on the ice for and does it well.

Sidney Crosby - A+

Crosby skates and plays the puck like he is still the best in the league, and after his slow start has come back strong. He has managed to put up 5 goals and 12 assists, 1 goal and 5 assists of which came on the power play, and has an impressive +7 rating. He also continues to be an excellent faceoff man, winning 53.9% of his faceoffs. The one major critique I have is that he has a habit of trying to make fancy passes rather than shooting the puck. When it works, it works well obviously, but there are times when they make one pass too many and turnover the puck.

Pascal Dupuis - A

Dupuis benefits greatly from being on Crosby's wing, so far netting 4 goals and 4 assists with a +6 rating. He is also a major figure on the 2nd powerplay unit, 1 of his goals coming on the PP, and a significant defensive force on the PK. He plays a complete game, putting up points, playing physical (16 hits and 9 blocked shots), and getting turnovers (5 takeaways to only 2 giveaways).

Tanner Glass - B-

Glass primarily mans the left wing on the 4th line and lends a hand on the PK. As such, he is not out there to put up points. Though still, having 0 points and very few opportunities is still a bit disconcerting, as is his -3 rating. However, he is physically dominant, racking up a team high 32 hits and a respectable 9 blocked shots. He is the only forward who hasn't been on the ice for a Penguins goal, so despite the -3 rating his ability to stop the opponent from scoring is impressive.

Dustin Jeffrey - C

Jeffrey has the least ice time of any player on the entire team. When he does play, they usually toss him on the 4th line. He has the skill and ability to score, he looked quite nice in the limited opportunity he got to play on the 2nd line, but he doesn't have quite the physical ability to be a 4th line grinder. He unfortunately got his shot on a bad day when nobody was managing to rack up points. Despite this, he is at a +1, is one of the only players who was never on the ice when an opponent scored, and has an impressive 55.6% in his few faceoff opportunities. He is a casualty of numbers, and could be a Top 6 forward on most other teams, but never really gets an opportunity in Pittsburgh.

Tyler Kennedy - C-

Kennedy is usually found on the right wing on the 3rd line, although he isn't nearly as physical as one would expect from a traditional check liner. However, he is also not overly impressive as a scoring forward, which is why his short stint on the 2nd line didn't work out. He has 1 goal and 1 assist (the A came on the PP), and a -2 rating. He is decently physical, putting up 13 hits, although only 2 blocked shots. He just doesn't seem to be good enough defensively to grind on the check line, and isn't skilled enough to be up on the scoring lines.

Chris Kunitz - A+

Kunitz is putting up points at an unprecedented rate so far this season. I don't expect it to last, but boy is he on a major hot streak. Playing on Crosby's left wing (and the top PP unit) he has put up an amazing 6 goals and 8 assists (3G and 2A scored on the PP) and a +7 rating. He doesn't have Crosby's raw talent and pure skill, but he plays a physical game, racking up 28 hits, playing well both offensively and defensively.

Evgeni Malkin - A-

Malkin seems to be fairly inconsistent so far this season. When he is on his game, he is one of the best players on the ice. However, he has a habit of getting lazy, especially when the team is trailing, and was guilty of quite a number of turnovers in the early blowout losses. Despite this, he managed to get 3 goals and 12 assists, 2 goals and 6 assists of which came on the power play, and a +0 rating. His biggest drawback though seems to be his tendency to take bad penalties. He currently leads the team with 24 penalty minutes, not something you want to see from your team's alternate captain, but also its a significant loss to have one of the league's top scorers spending so much time in the box. Lastly, his 47.0% faceoffs are less than impressive.

James Neal - A-

Neal is Malkin's right wing, and unfortunately seems to be suffering from Malkin's inconsistent play so far this season, or perhaps it is the loss of Kunitz on the other wing and the inability to find a quality replacement. Either way, he has been struggling on even strength, having the worst rating on the entire team at a -4. However, he has been extremely impressive on the power play, with 4 of his 7 goals and both of his 2 assists coming on the PP. He does play a nice physical game though, with 19 hits and 7 blocked shots. If he can improve his even strength numbers, him and Malkin will return to being amongst the best players in the league.

Brandon Sutter - B+

Sutter mans the 3rd line center and gets opportunities on both the power play and penalty kill. When they traded for him, most people were upset at the loss of Staal, so everybody is expecting him to put up the same type of numbers. However, the check line isn't there to put up points, their job is to shut down the opposing offense, and as a defensive force he is far superior to Staal. He has managed to put up 3 goals and 3 assists (1G and 1A on the PP) and a +1 rating, which while it isn't as good as Staal, are still quality numbers for a 3rd liner. He won 50.0% of his faceoffs, only had 6 hits, but 9 blocked shots. If people quit expecting him to be Staal 2.0, they will see his is more than capable of fulfilling his role on the check line.

Eric Tangradi - D

Tangradi has had a number of opportunities the past few years to prove he has what it takes to play in the NHL, culminating in this season being handed the starting job on the 2nd line wing. He has no points, though was lucky enough to get a +2 rating. They had been expecting him to use his size to be a power forward up in front of the net, and to manhandled defenders and win battles along the boards. However, he seemed to be incapable of this, constantly getting overpowered, and very seldom having an impressive play. He didn't fare much better when moved to the 4th line, and has since been a healthy scratch. He could have a future with another team, but I don't see him being much more than a 3rd or 4th liner, and could possibly be a career AHLer.

Joe Vitale - B

Vitale mans the 4th line center and sees time on the penalty kill, and like the other 4th liners, he isn't expected to be putting up a lot of points. So far he has 1 assist and a -2 rating. Despite his lack of offensive acumen, he has won an amazing 63.0% of faceoffs, has 11 hits, 5 blocked shots, and 5 takeaways to only 1 giveaway. While he hasn't managed to score, he has had some incredible bursts that show his skill as a skater and with stickhandling. He does an excellent job defensively, and while it would be nice to see him get one on the board, his lack of scoring isn't a significant drawback for a 4th liner.

Defense

Robert Bortuzzo - B+

Bortuzzo finally got an opportunity to show he has what it takes while Niskanen is out with an injury. He has only played 6 games, but he has proven to be an impressive shutdown D, and could become the new Orpik on the team as he declines in age. Don't expect the scoring to continue, he is a defensive d-man, but he has already managed 1 goal and 1 assist, netting a +6 rating. He only has 9 hits, 8 blocked shots, and 1 takeaway, but he is still a rookie and is getting used to the transition to the NHL. Expect his defensive skill to improve as he gets more comfortable, but it is unlikely we will see many more goals. Also, keep in mind that playing primarily on the 3rd pair (although recently with Letang out they became the 2nd pair, and he has minimal PK time) he isn't getting challenged by the top stars, although he did an amazing job keeping pace and shutting down Malkin in scrimmage. The other thing to watch out for is that when Niskanen returns, he could wind up back to the bench, or splitting time with Engelland.

Simon Despres - C+

Despres is an anomaly... he was the top prospect when drafted, shined at rookie camp and training camp the past few years, and looked like he was going to be a big star like Letang. Yet as good as he looked in juniors and in the offseason, he struggled when it came to professional hockey. He started this year in WBS, getting surpassed by rookies and bumped to the 3rd pair. Then the lockout ended and they controversially kept him and lost Strait to waivers, only to see him struggle to function. He played in camp with Letang, but wasn't doing well so he started the season on the 3rd pair. He made a lot of sloppy mistakes, a few costly turnovers, and ended up getting benched for a few games. But then Niskanen got hurt, and he got his opportunity to play with Letang. Since then he has been one of the best players, playing like he never wants to be benched again. He has racked up 2 goals and 3 assists (1A on the PP) and a +4 rating. He's been on the 2nd D pair, the powerplay, and the penalty kill. He is finally using his size to his advantage, with 16 hits and 8 blocked shots. If he continues like he has the past few games, he will be an amazing player, but if he reverts to his early performance he will be on a bus back to WBS.

Deryk Engelland - B

Engelland spends his time on the 3rd pair, gets a little bit of time on the penalty kill, and is the Pens only real scrapper. His offensive numbers are not impressive, only managing 1 assist, but you don't look to Engelland for points, he is almost pure defense. Despite only having 1 point, he has a +6 rating, indicating he is quite effective at minimizing the opponents' ability to get goals. He has 18 hits and 15 blocked shots. He is good at what he does, just don't look to him when you need to score.

Kris Letang - A-

Letang is easily the best defenseman on the team, and one of the best in the league. He spends time on the 2nd pair, and is one of the primary figures on the power play and penalty kill. He has 3 goals and 6 assists (3A on the PP) and a +4 rating. He is also quite capable in his own end, with 11 hits and 17 blocked shots. Yet what is holding him back is A) he managed to get injured in practice, causing him to miss games, and B) he has a whopping 15 giveaways and only 2 takeaways.

Paul Martin - B+

Martin had an abysmal season last year, and in general struggled since coming to Pittsburgh. However, he seems to have bounced back this year, and he is playing well enough to prove he deserves to be here (although $5M is still a bit much). He is on the top D pair and gets time on both power play and penalty kill. So far he has 1 goal and 5 assists (1G and 2A on the PP), but a -3 rating. To be fair, he is out there against the top scorers the opponents' have to offer, but as a shutdown D, having a negative rating doesn't look good. His 20 blocked shots are impressive though.

Matt Niskanen - C

Niskanen got injured after only playing in 5 games, but before that he was on the 2nd pair with Letang and on the 2nd powerplay unit. He racked up 1 goal and 2 assists (1A on the PP) in that short time, but has a -1 rating. He isn't overly impressive defensively, with only 3 hits and 3 blocked shots, plus 1 giveaway to his 2 takeaways, not is he overly impressive offensively. With the emergence of Despres as a meaningful addition as Letang's partner, Niskanen will likely be getting demoted to the 3rd pair when he returns. Even there, with the impressive play of Bortuzzo and the quality shut down play by Engelland, Niskanen may be vying for ice time, since he isn't really good enough defensively or offensively to demand a roster spot.

Brooks Orpik - B+

Orpik is getting older, he seems to have lost a step, and doesn't offer as many crushing blows as he used to. Of course, this could be due to changes in rules and increased awareness of player safety. He is on the top pair and one of the most important parts of the penalty kill. He has 17 hits and 33 blocked shots, one of the highest in the league. Even with no points, he has a +1 rating. Yet despite being an amazing shutdown D, it would be nice to see some points, and the fact that he has 6 giveaways and no takeaways is a little troubling.

Dylan Reese - C

Reese is a temporary call-up while the team is dealing with injuries to both Niskanen and Letang, he has only played 2 games on the 3rd pair with Despres. He should be heading back to WBS soon, which is good for them because he is currently the top scoring D down there. He has no points, a +0 rating... his only real stat is 2 blocked shots. Despite this, he did look good out there, nice passes, good hustle to the puck and ability to win the battle along the boards. I really hope they resign him and he gets a shot in camp next year, but with so many D in the system it is hard to say what will happen.

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury - C+

Fleury has the skill to be one of the best goalies in the league, but he seems to lack the consistency needed to be the best. He had a couple of really nice games, and a couple of really bad ones, and the shutout seems to elude him, they always manage to get past somehow. He has 5 wins in 8 starts with a 2.46 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. These are pretty good numbers, and quite a few of the goals that went by were really not his fault. He suffered a lot in the early turnover filled games and in the massive amounts of time on the penalty kill. Yet he has the ability to be better, so lets see if he can accomplish it.

Tomas Vokoun - B

Vokoun impressed a lot of people early by getting a shutout victory, and has quite an impressive ability to gather up the puck and prevent rebounds. He won 3 games in 4 starts with a 2.08 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Those are very good numbers, putting him amongst the league elite. However, he only played 5 games (called in for the 3rd period in one of Fleury's losses), so that one shutout really skews the data. He let up 3 goals in each of his other 3 games. If we look at just those 3, he has a 3.02 GAA and a .899 Save%. That is why Fleury is still the starter and Vokoun is just a backup. The difference being that Vokoun is much more consistent and is actually living up to his potential.

The content expressed in fanposts does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff here at Pensburgh.com. FanPosts are opinions expressed by fans of various teams throughout the league but may be more Pittsburgh-centric for obvious reasons.

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