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Johnston Wanted Playoff Effort, Crosby Leads by Example

Pens lose 4-1 Saturday night in Long Island as Islanders pickup four points in back-to-back games.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Penguins Head Coach Mike Johnston wanted a playoff effort during the back-to-back games against the New York Islanders.

What he got, well, let the man speak for himself after tonight's 'effort', "Need Sid, Kunitz and Comeau, they are under checking pressure, but they need to break through as well."

Let me interpret that coach speak for you. He got nothing.

Captain Sidney Crosby is gaining a reputation of coming up small in tight-checking, tough games. You know, playoff style hockey.

When your coach wants to see playoff style hockey and the best your star player can do in the two games is 1 shot, 2 hits, 2 blocks, 1 giveaway, 20 of 42 on faceoffs and play an empty 38:32, that's a problem.

As for Crosby after the game, he said, "Tied game going into third, definitely had an opportunity, didn't give ourselves a chance. They raised their level, we didn't."

Maybe next time Johnston wants a playoff effort, he's sure his captain and team is ready for it.

Bortuzzo over Despres

Johnston's decision to scratch Simon Despres on Friday night at home against the New York Islanders had the expected result. Robert Bortuzzo and Rob Scuderi as a defense pairing were abused shift after shift. It was concerning to read Dejan Kovacevic's thoughts on the game as he saw a visibly down Despres post-game but he didn't let that effect him Saturday night against the Islanders as he was strong again. If Johnston wants to play the rotation decision game, maybe it should be with the "solid" Scuderi.

In fact, you have to wonder how much longer the team and staff will consider the need to rotate as Bortuzzo has struggled this season.

Player Name GP CA60
MARTIN, PAUL 19 49.74
MAATTA, OLLI 13 51.39
LETANG, KRIS 19 52.00
SCUDERI, ROB 19 52.31

Replacing Dupuis

Dupuis is a fast skater, works the corners, backchecks hard, can pass/shoot the puck, and most importantly, was part of the top two forward unit on the penalty-kill. There's no doubt the Penguins will miss the off-ice leadership of Dupuis but they need to replace his on-ice role.

What team is ready to unload a top six winger capable of playing 1:30-2:00 minutes per game on the penalty-kill and has the skills to play with Crosby or Evgeni Malkin?

This week, TSN's Bob McKenzie said earlier this season the team kicked the tires on Buffalo wingers Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford.

One player to watch could be Ottawa Senators LW Milan Michalek.

If the Senators continue to struggle and if Dupuis possibly decides to retire because of the blood clots, then maybe Michalek could interest the Penguins.

Michalek, who turns 30 on December 7th, has a $4 million cap hit per season through 2016-2017.

It feels like Michalek has been in the league forever as he made his NHL debut during the 2003-2004 season with San Jose for two games. Then came the lockout season and upon the league's return for 2005-2006, Michalek was a regular for the Sharks playing in 81 games scoring 17 goals and 18 assists. Throughout Michalek's career, he's averaged 70 games played, 21 goals, and 23 assists. This season, Michalek isn't doing much offensively for the Senators with 2 goals and 5 assists in 19 games played. Michalek is averaging 1:56 TOI per game on the penalty-kill.

It will be an interesting test for GM Jim Rutherford as he has little to offer in trades but draft picks and defense prospects. Does the team wait until they try a few games with Jayson Megna on a line with Crosby and Kunitz before making a move?

Pens Even-strength 5on5 Team Stats vs Last season

Corsi Against 60: 51.37 vs 53.94

Fenwick Against 60: 36.88 vs 39.40

Pens Even-strength 5on5 Team Stats with rank this season

42 Goals For (8th) / 26 Goals Against (4th) / 16 Team Goal +/- (2nd)

52.80% Fenwick % (7th) / 51.95% Corsi % (10th)

102.85 PDO (3rd)

Prospect Update

Jeff Taylor, D, Union College - 3 goals, 10 assists in 12 games. Last season, he had 3 goals, 13 assists in 41 games. Taylor is getting more responsibility this season with Shayne Gostisbehere off playing for the Flyers in the American Hockey League.

Breakout Breakup

If you are familiar with the history between the Penguins and Islanders, current Head Coach Jack Capuano was the man most responsible for devising a way to shutdown the stretch pass breakouts demanded by Dan Bylsma. It was all too familiar of a result seeing the Islanders easily breaking up the breakouts on Saturday by placing pressure on the Penguins defensemen with two forecheckers in the middle of the ice, clogging up the zone for Crosby and Malkin to get a clean pass.

When the center did manage to get the puck, they would immediately be confronted by another Islanders forward to wall them off to one side of the ice but due to the herky jerky timing of the breakout, the other two forwards in the neutral zone were not moving through, which allowed the Islanders defensemen to keep a tight gap at the blue line without fear of having anyone get behind them.

It was evident the breakout was busted by the Islanders in the first period but Johnston failed to make any adjustments and the team continued to get slowed by the unique forecheck.

The Islanders, Rangers, and Jets have put on tape, what it takes to disrupt the Penguins by playing a fast, aggressive forechecking style to pressure the defensemen and to limit options on the breakouts. We'll have to see if Boston and other teams recognize the approach and have the team speed to do it.