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Pens Ups and Downs

Defense be damned, the Penguins played three road games: dropping 6-4 and 4-1 contests in Florida and Carolina, respectively, before going to beat Montreal 7-6 in a wild, OT goal-fest.

Richard Wolowicz

Yeah, so that was some week, huh? Throwing defense out the window and caution to the wind the Penguins played three games on the road this past week, running and gunning a 6-4 loss in Florida before dropping a 4-1 decision in Carolina and then they somehow pulled out a 7-6 OT thriller in Montreal. It was a whirlwind and we saw more red-lights this past week than you would in a high speed police chase.

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

Goalies Performance Comments
Marc-Andre Fleury Fleury only played in one game, the middle game of the week in Carolina. He held his own, but his team’s indifference to playing with any structure in front of the net directly led to goals against. But if history is any indication, Fleury could shine in what’s been his favorite month (51-18-10, 2.35 GAA, .916 sv %, 7 shutouts career in March).
Tomas Vokoun Another rough week for Vokoun, who gave up 4 goals on 22 shots to the last place Florida Panthers before getting pulled in his first outing. Then he got a surprise start against Montreal, where he yielded 6 goals (including the last one that he’d definitely want back). True, Vokoun did make 33 saves and did earn the win that night but a weekly save percentage of .852 in two games is again not what he should be delivering, even if the defense in front of him has been leaky.
Robert Bortuzzo Bortuzzo played the first two games of the week, before being a healthy scratch in the conclusion. Despite being on the ice for two Carolina goals in the second period, he got more ice-time in the 3rd period (which may have been a function of the Martin injury, but still). Bort didn’t look bad, but he’s a 12 minute a night guy on the fringe of the lineup.
Simon Despres Curiously a scratch for the first two games, Despres got back in the lineup and made it count in Montreal with his play in OT to set up the winning goal. Despres also got 15:50 that night, was on the ice for 3 total goals for, 0 total goals against and for not being physical enough for Coach Dan Bylsma, was credited with 3 hits. In short, after a performance like that he deserves to be in the lineup.
Mark Eaton Eaton got in his first game of the season against Montreal (thanks to the Martin injury) and played relatively well for a 35 year old playing his first live-action game in almost 11 months. 19:04 played, 1 giveaway, 1 blocked shot, even ranking (2 goals for, 2 goals against). No major demerits to Eaton, who still looked like he has a little in the tank. Also- the coaches shifted Eaton to playing with Letang in the 3rd period. Remember that these two played together a lot in the 2009 playoffs, might be a comfortable fit for both going forward.
Deryk Engelland Another quiet week for Engelland- a seconday assist vs. Montreal, no shots on goal, 2 giveaways, 1 hit and 6 blocked shots were his totals. And since he doesn’t play a lot of minutes, he wasn’t on the ice for a lot of goals for or against all week (2 goals for, 2 goals against).
Kris Letang Letang can be maddening. In the course of a week he can have a 4 assist game (vs. Montreal), but also be on the ice for 4 goals against (vs. Florida), 5 goals against (vs. Montrela), take an undisciplined penalty after a goal against (roughing vs. Florida) and have a pinch in cost a goal against. In the end, Letang generates more good than bad when he gambles, but his untamed play can make you shake your head (good or bad) every time he’s out there. In a perfect world, he can control his game and focus a little more, but big picture he plays the way he plays and he also leads all defensemen in the league in points, largely because he takes risks, plays with an edge and uses his physical gifts more than mentally slowing the game down.
Paul Martin Missed a game skate leading up to the Carolina game, which was called “maintenance” then he failed to finish that game with what’s been described as a lower body injury, missing the Montreal game and already ruled out of tonight’s game. Couldn’t have come at a worse time for a team to lose their steadiest defenseman in a stretch when defensive stability is nowhere to be found.
Matt Niskanen Remarkably, Niskanen played 22:39 against Montreal and wasn’t on the ice for a single goal against. Which almost balances out the Florida game where he was on the ice for no goals for and four goals against. Throw in no significant offense this week, but also no penalties taken and it was a pretty even week for Niskanen, all things considered.
Brooks Orpik Orpik was on the ice for all four goals Montreal scored in the first two periods and then he got his lowest period of ice-time (6:21) all week. Hard to say that’s a pure benching, but the coaching staff may need to reduce his minutes and assignments. Other than that, Orpik did have two assists on the week and was only on the ice (while short-handed) for 1 goal against in the other two games of the week. Still, for a team that needs more strength and structure in front of the net, it’d be nice if more Orpik (who’s supposed to be one of the top defensive defensemen) was part of the solution, not less.
Craig Adams Adams was on the ice for a total of 21:09 this week and saw 6 goals go into his own net (4 of them at even strength too). 0 goals went into the other net. That’s not a winning proposition.
Beau Bennett Bennett got two assists on the week, but only played 5 shifts (3:20) in the second and third periods of the wild Montreal game. He’s a guy only getting 10-12 minutes a night as the team gradually gets him up to NHL speed of the game. That might be too slow for some fans, but the biggest thing is Bennett looks like he belongs and he’s getting some power play opportunities. It’ll be on him to keep working hard every day in games and practices to prove to the decision makers that he has earned more and more shifts.
Zach Boychuk Zach Boychuk update: still on the team, still not playing. If Malkin can come back this week, the team will need to make a roster move to stay under 23 players. If they don’t put Martin on IR, it might be the end of Boychuk’s run with the team.
Matt Cooke 2 big time goals against Montreal might be enough for the up arrow in a normal week, but Cooke’s also doing the little things right- this week he had 7 hits, 4 blocked shots, a takeaway and played 5:48 of scoreless SH time in the last two games of the week.
Sidney Crosby A goal and five assists for Crosby, who took over the lead in the NHL point scoring race this week. He directly generated offense in every game this week, won 60.4% on an incredible 86 draws, played an average of 24:40 in all situations in the three games. It would be hard to ask a single player to do much more than that, and Crosby definitely did his share.
Pascal Dupuis Second straight week of being apart from Crosby and second straight week of being held off the scoreboard for Dupuis. He’s hustling, still trying to get pucks to the net (6 shots, 11 more shots blocked/missed this week) but the points just aren’t there right now.
Tanner Glass Played a team-low 6:31 against Montreal (including just 0:39 in the 3rd period) after taking a penalty and being on the ice for a goal against. Played the second lowest minutes against Carolina (including just 2:05 in the 3rd period) after taking a penalty and being on the ice for a goal against. Played the second lowest minutes against Florida (including just 1:53 in the 3rd period) after taking a penalty and being on the ice for a goal against. Apologies for the repetition, but it was a repeatedly bad week for Glass, who offers nothing offensively and increasingly little defensively.
Dustin Jeffrey Scored a goal against Florida, but was dreadful in the faceoff circle (32% on 31 draws) and is only getting 10-12 minutes a night as the 3rd line center. Jeffrey might flash a little more than other bottom line forwards in terms of creating scoring chances and making smart decisions with the puck, but as we’ve seen before, it’s going to be on him to find ways to make an impact so that he’s not the odd man out when Malkin returns to the lineup.
Tyler Kennedy Narrowly took more shots on net (5) than minors penalties committed (3) on the week, which paled in comparison to the number of shots blocked or missed net (8). Add in no goals, assists or points and it was another fairly brutal week for Kennedy, who’s use for this roster appears to have run its course with every passing game.
Chris Kunitz Almost halfway through the 2013 season, players in the entire league with more points than Chris Kunitz: Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos- that’s it, that’s the list. Kunitz has been awesome, this week no exception- he scored at least a goal in every game (two in Montreal) and tacked on 2 assists. We all wondered why they didn’t put Kunitz with Malkin/Neal, because he was good for them. There’s only one puck to shoot and Kunitz on Crosby’s line maximizes everyone’s value.
Evgeni Malkin Geno’s recovery from concussion took a positive turn, as he’s been on the ice, including a “contact” practice yesterday with his teammates. No setbacks have been reported, which is a great thing. Even better- Malkin’s admitted in interviews he needs to take things slow and get a few more practices under his belt. From the guy who seriously tried to lobby his way into the playoffs in April 2011 (coming off of ACL surgery two months earlier) it’d be easy to conceal symptoms. Let’s hope he continues to feel well and can come back when ready and 100%.
James Neal 1 goal and 2 assists this week for Neal, who was moved off Crosby’s line and seemed to find more success for a game playing with Cooke/Sutter. If Neal can keep treading water until Malkin comes back, perhaps the two can breakout again once reunited.
Brandon Sutter Huge OT winning goal (to end a game with 7 total shots on goal) for Sutter, who added 5 hits, 2 takeaways, 3 blocked shots to his 50% faceoff week. He does the little things well and can chip in offensively, a great band-aid for the Malkin injury.
Joe Vitale Quiet week for Vitale, who’s getting 7-8 minutes a night and almost exclusively at even strength. Would be nice, especially given his faceoff ability, if he got the chance to be sprinkled into the short-handed unit a little more.