After the morning skate on Saturday, Head Coach Mike Johnston told reporters the Pens just needed to 'get back to the way we want to play'. This was after the team had blown leads of 3-0 (vs Anaheim), 2-0 (vs Dallas) and 3-1 (vs Detroit). It was all too common of a result for the Penguins over the last few years as the team struggled to protect leads .
Sidney Crosby scored in the first period for his fifth goal of the season but the more important result of this game was the way the team's captain bounced back after two lackluster performances against the Flyers and Red Wings.
In the third period against Detroit, Crosby allowed himself to get agitated because the referees didn't call a penalty, he missed a breakaway coming out of the box and then he went out of his way to cross-check Henrik Zetterberg.
Crosby is the best player in the world but his lack of patience and self control can at times take himself out of a hockey game better than anyone could do themselves.
That's why Crosby's performance Saturday night in Nashville with a goal and two assists was a nice bounce back performance for he and the team.
Johnston noticed the difference in the team in the third period telling the media after the game, the team made 'a big step tonight, played the right way. Everybody committed to our defensive game, it didn't really take away our offensive game."
A subtle message sent saying 'Gino and Sid played outstanding defensively."
As for not forcing the puck, Johnston said "When you force offensively, then you get on the wrong side of the puck and you take chances. You can't force it, I didn't think we forced anything tonight."
Malkin Not Buying In?
The story that just won't go away.
Dejan Kovacevic's Friday Insider column had this nugget...
"If it looks like Evgeni Malkin isn’t yet buying in, that’s because he isn’t. Not all the way. That’s all I’ll say on that one for now."
As I had reported last week, Malkin's agent, J.P. Barry, denied the Penguins center disliked new Head Coach Mike Johnston.
Is Malkin mad because Neal was traded, because he wasn't told, or maybe was it disappointment that after losing Neal, he had hopes to play alongside fellow countrymen Nikolai Kulemin.
Even during Saturday night's game against Nashville, Root Sports Pittsburgh color commentator Bob Errey even mentioned Malkin having to get used to the new system.
If Malkin isn't buying into the system, scary to think what his production will be when he does buy-in since he's got three goals and seven assists in the first seven games of the season.
If you need a ride to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Penguins defensemen Scott Harrington has your ride covered thanks to the up and down assignment by the Penguins between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barres/Scranton. It is a curious decision by General Manager Jim Rutherford to basically shutdown a defensemen that would appear to have a possible future as a top six NHL blue liner. The Penguins did the same thing with Simon Despres to the detriment of his development and concern here is the same thing could happen with Harrington.
Penguins started the season with their top two defensive units as Christian Ehrhoff-Kris Letang and Paul Martin-Olli Maatta. After one game, it changed to Maatta-Letang and Ehrhoff-Martin and has remained that way for six straight games. Saturday night, the trust and reliance on the top four is evident as Martin played 25:20, Ehrhoff 24:16, Maatta 19:08 and Letang 22:56.
Meanwhile, Rob Scuderi played 2:15 of his 14:20 while on the penalty-kill and Simon Despres had 10:51 time on the ice, none on the power play or penalty kill. It is quite clear, Johnston and his staff don't trust Scuderi and Despres. The lack of special teams time for Despres and with the Penguins needing some size and grit on defense, when Robert Bortuzzo returns from his undisclosed injury, will it be Despres eating nachos in the press box or will Johnston look to develop Despres, unlike his predecessor.
Digging for Stats
The Penguins entered the third period leading 1-0 on Saturday with a 29-24 CORSI and 23-14 Fenwick advantage at even-strength. Though they scored two power play goals from Malkin and Pascal Dupuis, Predators dominated even-strength going 18-2 CORSI and 13-1 Fenwick while outshooting the Penguins 10-1. There is still work to be done.