I know I am cutting this week a bit short, only running from last Thursday night through Monday night's game, but with holiday traveling I have to do in the next few days I will not be able to put together a decent column. With that in mind I am going to write this week's column based on the two Islanders games and the Bruins game. I will get Wednesday night's game against the Leafs in next weeks column.
Fancy Stats and Graphs
For contextual purposes here is a graph that shows the games in focus for this column.
Patric Hornqvist had a great set of games this past week. Against the Islanders Friday night him and Malkin were teaming up for some great scoring chances and were showing great signs of chemistry developing between them. Saturday night did not go as smooth as Friday, but Hornqvist still registered an assist early. Monday nigh found him on the first line with Crosby, and while he did not register any points, Hornqvist was a big factor in the game. According to Tuuka Rask:
"He crashes the net. I think their whole team did today. I think that’s a little different than in the past with them. We knew that was going to happen. They had a lot of opportunities because of that. Hornqvist is one of those guys that really brings that."
He also registered the highest Fenwick rating on the team in the three game span. Solid output by Hornqvist, in a series of games that saw him play with two different lines.
Simply put, Evgeni Malkin was a beast this week. Like Hornqvist, Malkin registered 3 goals and 2 assists in the three games. But it was the timing and manner of his goals that really stand out. He notched the overtime game winner on Monday night in Boston, this followed an early goal that came when the game was in question. Saturday night his goal against the Islanders was the first of the game. These are certainly not garbage time goals, but are prime time output by a prime time player.
This was a hard decision for me, I really liked the effort of Brandon Sutter this week but ultimately this decision was made when Letang made his great center lane drive on the OT winner Monday night in Boston. But beyond that Letang did a great job of getting the puck on net, he registered 13 shots in three games. He showed great poise in some tight, emotional games against the Islanders, and Boston (2 PIM total). In past years he would have lost his mind in the Islanders series and gone postal, it was nice to see a change in his demeanor. He also averaged nearly 27 and a half minutes of ice time in the three games. Great week by Letang.
I know, I know, I know the sky isn't falling, Crosby had a three point night against Boston Monday night. But in my eyes when you log 28 shifts in nearly 21 minutes of ice time and register ZERO shots, and then follow your invisible showing Friday night with a one shot in 17 minute performance Saturday you are having a bad week. Throw in his abysmal faceoff percentage of 40% on Saturday night and you have a poor showing. To Crosby's credit he rebounded nicely against Boston and put up three points. But to me, if you are the biggest star you need to show up in the biggest games, not do the opposite and disappear.
This was a simple choice to me. Guy has been battling back from an injury only to be blocked in the lineup by the decent play of Simon Despres and the amazing regeneration abilities of Olli Maatta. He finally gets his opportunity to play when Mike Johnston decides to sit Despres and play Bortz in his place. Rather than seize the moment, Bortz pisses up his stomach and craps down his leg. He did play very physically Friday night against the Islanders, but he was often out of position and forced his partner Rob Scuderi to play beyond his skill set to try and make up for it, and this led to scoring chances, and goals for the Islanders. Hope Bortz can rebound and settle into his role next time he is given a chance.
Timely and costly penalties against the Islanders, Downie racked up another 19 PIM in the two games against the Islanders, one of which led to a crippling power play late in the game. Simply put Downie needs to reign it in a bit in order to be a productive member of the team. Even coach Mike Johnston agreed in his comments to reporters this week:
"We talked to [Downie] about cutting down in that area, for sure. Especially the minor penalties. If you’re engaging — if there’s a fight or something like that — that’s different. But the minor penalties, we’ve got to cut down."