Five games into the season, and some of the most unusual stat-lines belong to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sidney Crosby -- the active leader in the NHL points/game -- has 0 points in 5 games, tying a career high stretch of going dry. Phil Kessel -- he of immense talent and expectation -- has just 1 goal created on the rush on his own. Chris Kunitz also has 0 points and dating back to last season has just 1 even-strength point in his last 28 games.
Ladies and gentlemen, your high powered first line of the Penguins!
The second line hasn't been much better, save Evgeni Malkin who's seemingly powering the Pens by his lonesome - and even then his excellent play has only translated into 2 goals and 1 assist. This is probably due to the fact that he's gotten almost no support/help from his wingers in David Perron (0 points in 5 games) and Patric Hornqvist (1 assist!).
The team hasn't pulled the plug on any major changes, short of removing rookie Sergei Plotnikov from Malkin's line early in the season and plugging in Perron, when it was very obvious that Plotnikov himself isn't ready to handle a scoring line role. Being as he's never played in the NHL, that's a decent excuse for him. Perron, Hornqvist and Kunitz can't say the same.
Those guys could go 10-15 games without scoring and no one would blink an eye. But Crosby? No way. The golden boy must put up his 1.35 points per game or something surely must be wrong! Trade someone, fire the entire staff!
OK, once that gets out of your system, let's get back to the land of the rational. Mainly being: is it time for the Pens to break Sid and Kessel up, or should they give it a few more games to mesh? Elliotte Friedman had some interesting thoughts in his latest 30 Thoughts:
One coach on the Crosby/Kessel pairing: "It’s early. But Kessel’s game is transition, or moving away from the puck to find space for an open shot. Crosby likes to play tight to his teammates, set up that 10-foot pass for a goal. Their games are not compatible, yet."
The bigger issue may be that Crosby and Kessel both prefer their way. Will they say, "How can we help each other?" or will they say, "I need you to change to mesh with me?" The answer determines if they can work it out.
The anonymous coach's thoughts pop out for the insight, and also because...Well whaddya know, the Penguins have an Art Ross winning center who's game is also best while in transition, and who likes to carry the puck and can create more for Kessel to get that open shot....And his name ain't Sidney Crosby.
Of course, I don't claim this as a unique thought by any means, many have dreamed that a Malkin-Kessel pair might be a better on-ice fit than a Crosby-Kessel one since shortly after the trade happened. It's a natural idea.
So should the Pens consider it?
On one hand, it could help jolt the Pens every one of whom (aside from Malkin) could use a jolt. However, maybe Crosby/Kessel can figure this thing out, both are very good players with history of production, surely a breakout is right around the corner here somewhere, right?
As time goes on the question will be brought up and debated, so why not go for it today on game day. Vote and make your case in the comments.