November 24th, Penguins Live
Steve Kolbe pointed out the Pens had received just one power play in the two games prior heading into Boston, suggesting that meant they weren't skating enough in the offensive zone. Jason Mackey agreed, saying they weren't forcing the issue enough. "They aren't working as hard. You get power plays by creating them. You get power plays by making the other team uncomfortable and forcing them to take stupid penalties. The Penguins just haven't forced the opposition to chase them."
The Pens effort definitely fell off during this power play drought, so that does explain it in part, but not completely. There have been several instances where blatant penalties have gone uncalled. I don't quite believe the refs are intentionally sticking it to the Pens, though I do believe many refs have a vindictive streak in them. I just think the officiating isn't very good and the way the game is called as a whole favors less skilled players.
Brian Metzer talked about recent criticism of Sidney Crosby, who had just two points in his last six games going into Boston, suggesting it was a little unfair. Adam Gretz said "I think one of the biggest failings we have in analyzing hockey right now is how little we appreciate the fact that every player in the league is streaky to some degree when it comes to point production. They're all going to have stretches where they go dry for a little bit. There's only five goals scored in an average NHL game and the winning team is only scoring three of them. There's only so many goals to go around. I think sometimes we overreact to that and wonder what's wrong. Sometimes the puck's just not going in for you."
This is a pretty level-headed, rational look at things. Clearly, it has no place on talk radio or the internet.
November 24th, Mark Madden Show
Phil Bourque joined guest host Dejan Kovacevic for some really good hockey talk. They talked line changes up front, lack of power plays, the third line, Simon Despres, Christian Ehrhoff:
Interesting that Bourque went to plus-minus when Ehrhoff came up. As they said, that isn't the most telling stat in the world, but when one guy is that far ahead of his teammates, it is worth mentioning. Other advanced stats, such as 5v5 goal differential, also paint Ehrhoff in a positive light. Kovacevic had a nice nugget in his last Friday Insider that talked about a recent conversation between Ehrhoff and Gary Agnew that got him on track.
November 24th, Penguins Hotline
Mike Johnston on the OT winner: "I really like [Crosby and Evgeni Malkin] together. I was hesitant early in the year; I wanted to get a little bit of balance, but I thought they had some great chemistry out there 4 on 4, and they're dangerous on the rush as you saw. It was a great play from Sid to Geno, and really what made the play was Kris Letang going to the net."
Johnston pushes all of his chips to the middle and it pays off big. In previous instances, that group had played overly fancy, but not here. A basic center lane drive by Letang opened a seam for Crosby and Malkin one-timed it home.
November 25th, Penguins Live
Josh Yohe on Marc-Andre Fleury: "He was terrific last night. This is, I think, the best start he's ever had to a season. He's been lights out every night. You can't play a whole lot better than he's playing right now. To get 300 wins at 29 years old, that's only been done two other times in NHL history. I know a lot of people are going to say, 'well, he's always played on a great team with Crosby and Malkin' and there's some truth to that, but he's been a big part of it too. The way he's played this season, you can certainly make an argument that as good as Crosby and Malkin and [Patric] Hornqvist have been, Marc-Andre Fleury is the MVP of this team right now."
Fleury continues his stellar play. People notice locally, but he'll need to keep on keepin' on for a while longer before he gets recognition outside of Pittsburgh.
In talking to Sam Kasan about Fleury's 300th win, Metzer mentioned that ESPN failed to realize Malkin's quote about it was in jest.
Because Geno best, here are those quotes for the three of you that haven't seen them yet:
Even if you don't follow the Pens, I don't know how you don't get that was joking around. Maybe someone just saw a transcript somewhere. ESPN TV is terrible (or at least it was when I stopped watching over 10 years ago), but the NHL coverage on their website is usually pretty good.
November 26th, Penguins Hotline
Johnston on the win over Toronto: "I believe we were inconsistent tonight. We had a pretty good start, even though the shots weren't in our favor. We had some great chances that we missed some touches around the net. I thought we had the better scoring chances through two periods, but I didn't think we had the energy. I didn't think we had the speed. We made some mistakes with the puck. We have to better in that area. We weren't sharp."
Just more of Mike Johnston breaking things down, matter-of-factly. I continue to be impressed with the job he's doing.
Bob Grove reported Crosby was the sixth fastest to 800 points. The ones that did it faster? Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Peter Stastny, and Jari Kurri.
Not bad company to keep for #87.
Bourque on Malkin's game: "When you see him stopping and starting, not taking any shortcuts, paying attention to his defensive zone coverage, and then doing everything he does on the offensive end with so much energy and so much passion... when he does stuff like that, you just shake your head and go 'what a competitor this guy is.'"
November 28th, Penguins Live
Grove on Malkin's season so far: "He has been so good recently. I said to Phil on the postgame Wednesday night, I thought it was his best game of the season. He had a goal and two assists, and it wasn't just the points. I thought he had a lot of energy, he was making good decisions with the puck, he had a great night in the faceoff circle, he was a handful. Right now, he's a machine. He's on pace to score more points on the power play, more points on home ice than he ever has before."
71 was at the top of his game that night and did everything he could to help them get a win. Always fun to see him going like that.
November 28th, Penguins Hotline
Johnston on only getting one power play: "Basically, they've been low penalty minute games. The games we've played in have all been low penalty minutes. Maybe we come out with one less, but there's not a lot of penalties called either way. I still believe in the end, if you're going to get penalty calls, you have to earn them. You have to work, you have to be quick to the net, quick out of the corners and force the defense to hook you or hold you."
Everything Johnston said was true, but the officiating stunk. The best thing you can say about it was they missed stuff at both ends. A Cane ran Fleury, knocking off his helmet. Crosby interfered with Ward on Letang's goal. Lindholm held Crosby behind the net. Crosby gave him the gourmet shot. All perfectly fine in the eyes of this crew. Amazingly, the group that worked the following night found a way to be even worse.