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Pens Ups and Downs are Mostly Up

The past week saw four games, and four wins for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Though they had a few defensive issues (to put it nicely) the team's top line is clicking and powering them to wins.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Four games last week and a perfect 4-0-0 record for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But their play in the games, was far from perfect- highlighted by a disastrous first period in Philadelphia and some lackluster efforts in the 2nd period against Tampa and late in the game in Toronto on Saturday night. Still, they don’t ask “how”, they ask “how many” when it comes to wins, and for a team back to their winning ways, you’ll take a 4-0-0 week anytime you can get it.

Keep in mind, role and relative expecatations are judged here.

Goalies Performance Comments
Marc-Andre Fleury On the surface it looked like a sloppy week for Fleury, with a .847 save percentage (61 saves on 72 shots) and of course the debacle in Philly, giving up four in the first period and getting the hook after that. But Fleury also did he what he could (as in- it’s not his fault if the team leaves Steven Stamkos open in front of the net twice) and he also was 2 for 2 in the shootout to help the Pens get the gimmick point. Toss in a 2-0 record, and it’s about a wash.
Tomas Vokoun After a few tough weeks, Vokoun really earned his keep. He came in cold in the Philly game and shut the door totally (14 saves on 14 shots) and reportedly had words for the whole team to help inspire them to the comeback. Then he played well against the Islanders allowing just 1 goal (on a defensive breakdown) in 24 shots. Big time week for a veteran backup.
Robert Bortuzzo Bortuzzo was a healthy scratch all four games this week and is pretty firmly entrenched as #8 on a defensive depth chart that’s 8 deep. But it doesn’t mean he didn’t have a highlight and showing off some athleticism when he dunked a basketball in practice.
Simon Despres Despres had a decent game to open the week vs. Tampa, then got scratched against Philly. Got into the last two games of the week, where his highlight, unfortunately, was blowing a tire in the Islander game which allowed Brad Boyes to walk in and snipe NYI’s only goal. Despres’ is at the mercy of the coach for playing time and something like that can’t help for a team that’s going to juggle personnel a lot in order to find the best defensive lineup.
Mark Eaton Eaton alternated playing and being a healthy scratch this week, and that’s probably what to expect going forward. When he’s in, he’s capable of being a pretty decent bottom pairing guy, smart enough to know his limitations and try to play to his strengths of keeping it simple. But when he’s out of the lineup, you probably won’t even notice he’s missing. Or sometimes even if he’s playing, it’ll be hard to notice. Which is probably a good thing.
Deryk Engelland A healthy scratch for the first time this season, Engelland was on the ice for four goals against in the first three games of the season. As we’ve pointed out, he shouldn’t be an automatic entry in the lineup every night, and the coaching staff is starting to see it that way too. Engo could take a page out of Eaton’s book and just try to play a simple defensive game and remain effective in front of his own net. (I.e. don’t let Zac Rinaldo score on you).
Kris Letang It was a great offensive week for Letang: 0 goals, 7 assists (including at least a point in every game and thee multi-assist nights). In all, Letang was on the ice for 12 total goals for (including PP) and only 3 goals against all week. Throw in 8 blocked shots and some ridiculous ice-time accumulated in the games that were the closest the longest (28:19 vs. Tampa, 30:23 vs. Philly) and you’ve got some monstrous stats accumulated.
Paul Martin Returning from injury, Martin was on ice for 5 even strength goals for and just 1 against. Throw in a goal and an assist vs. Toronto and 5 blocked shots on the week and it was really solid. Also funny stat of the week: the Philly credited Martin with 3 hits. You don’t wanna go in the corner against P-Mart.
Matt Niskanen Took a pretty bad minor penalty in each of the first two games, and also had a pretty physical week with a total of 10 hits and 5 blocked shots.
Brooks Orpik Orpik was on the ice for 8 goals for and just two goals against at even strength, which is good. He was on the ice for 4 PP goals against, which is bad but hard to single him out for the struggles of the entire unit. Add in 11 blocked shots and 9 hits on the week (both team leading) and it was a fairly decent one. Now, to just solve those PK problems..
Craig Adams Quiet week for Adams, wasn’t torched for a lot of goals like last week at even strength, but didn’t generate anything offensively. 4 hits and 3 blocked shots to his credit.
Beau Bennett After being a healthy scratch in the first game of the week, Bennett has been getting an audition with top six linemates and a little bit of power play time and he’s continued to show he belongs at the NHL level. Two assists on the week, with a more impressive stat of being on ice for 6 Penguin goals for, and 0 goals against. Even though he took a high-sticking penalty against Toronto (that they scored on), he’ll get the up arrow here.
Zach Boychuk Claimed on waivers by Nashville last Monday, Boychuk actually scored a goal in his first game as a Predator. Maybe he’ll find better luck there in his third team of the season.
Matt Cooke Quiet week for Cooke, who only had an assist in four games for all the scoring the team did. Cooke’s not needed to be an offensive gun, but like the rest of the PK he’s needs to step up and button things down (on for 3 PP goals against this week).
Sidney Crosby Two goals and nine assists for Crosby who is just assaulting the game right now. As Jesse Marshall from Faceoff Factor pointed out, only 3 players in the entire league have as many points this season as Crosby has ASSISTS. (And one of those players is Kunitz). Sid is completely dominating games, and if not for three memorable posts/crossbars that he hit this week, his goal scoring total would be returning too. He’s the best player in the league right now, and second place isn’t even close.
Pascal Dupuis The production was there (4 goals, 1 assist) and the biggest of ‘em all might have been his first of the week, that started the comeback against Philly. Dupuis is flying on the ice now and pitching in on the highest scoring line in the league.
Tanner Glass On ice for 0 goals for, 2 goals against at even strength, and lost a faceoff cleanly which lead to a goal against on the PK. It’s getting to the point why you’re wondering why this guy is in the lineup every night. He just doesn’t contribute anything constructive.
Dustin Jeffrey Malkin’s down again, which means Jeffrey’s time is going to go up, which comes at a good time- DJ went scoreless on the week and even though he remained in the lineup over Vitale, Jeffrey can’t settle in and be an invisible player. He’ll need to make things happen in order to keep playing every night. Maybe getting minutes with Neal/Bennett will help him get back on the scoreboard.
Tyler Kennedy Like him or not, Tyler Kennedy was on the ice for all three 2nd period goals the Pens scored in their furious comeback against Philly, capped by TK getting the game-tying goal. His line has also gotten tough assignments at even-strength matching up against the other team’s top line (when possible) and only yielded one goal against in the past three games. That’ll do.
Chris Kunitz The career night of 3 goals and 2 assists on Sock Monkey giveaway night vs. the Islanders will go down as a little piece of franchise lore. Kunitz’s 2 goal, 1 assist night vs. Philly (including what would stand as the game-winning goal) was no less big. It’s been a magical stretch for Kunitz, who sits tied for third in the points standings and he deserves to be there with the way he’s played. Seemingly every time he’s touching the puck in the offensive zone these days, it’s ending up in the net. This streak can’t last forever (can it?) but it certainly has been fun to watch.
Evgeni Malkin Malkin returned from his concussion and scored a highlight reel goal against (who else) Tampa before taking a big hit from JVR in the Toronto game. He’s out 1-2 weeks with an undisclosed “upper body injury” that isn’t a concussion, according to Dan Bylsma. It’s a sad and frustrating event for Geno, but with the team rolling right now, the main concern is just getting him back to 100%...Again.
James Neal Neal scored a goal in each of the four games this week, tacking on three assists (including 2 pretty passes vs. the Isles) and the shootout deciding goal against Toronto. The consistency of this guy has been incredible. Neal just goes about his business, and his business is putting the puck in the net.
Brandon Sutter Causation doesn’t equal cause but rough week for Sutter who saw a total of 6 goals go in his own net while he was on the ice, and just one goal (that he assisted on) go in the right net. He’s playing tough and defensive minded minutes, and the PK is failing but Sutter’s been a part of that. In a perfect world, he’d be beating his tough minutes, but this week he wasn’t able to do that.
Joe Vitale A healthy scratch for the middle two games of the week (after a quiet game of 6:49 played and a goal against vs. Tampa), Vitale made his way back in the lineup vs. NYI due to the Malkin injury. Vitale played well from the 4th line, winning all seven faceoffs he took. Needs to keep that up and again keep proving himself to the coaches, so that he may remain in the lineup the next time the team has more than 12 healthy forwards.