Monday, February 19, 2007

Penguins still learning to fly

I caught the tail end of the Islanders’ 6-5 win over Pittsburgh today, and I don’t know if it was due to the fact it was a President’s Day matinée, but it sure was a nutty contest. Eleven goals in all, including a Ryan Malone hat trick (his second against the Islanders this season) and four assists from Sidney Crosby, who was the subject of a nice shadow job by Trent Hunter all game long.

Well-travelled veteran Mike Sillinger ended the scorefest with a tally of his own with just 29 seconds remaining in the game, a goal that saw defenceman Mark Eaton screen netminder Marc-Andre Fleury while Sillinger’s flutter puck beat him glove side.

And while the Penguins have been uber-impressive the past few weeks, with a 14-0-2 record in the 16 games leading up to today’s match, the fact that Eaton was on the ice for the end of a tie game tells you all you need to know about where Pittsburgh’s at in their development process.

The most troubling thing for the Penguins should be that, while they were winning, in their most recent games the opposition has been able to pot more than their fair share of biscuits. Fleury has allowed four goals or more in his past five starts, something that’s been attributable as much to his poor play as to the fact the likes of Rob Scuderi and Josef Melichar are playing 20+ minutes a night.

Defencemen are going to be in high demand prior to next week’s trade deadline, and you have to think Penguins GM Ray Shero has his eye on one or two if he envisions any kind of playoff succes.

But the question is: Do you try and make a run now when this team is so obviously built for the future?

It’s a tough call, but given the way they’re currently constructed, I can’t see Pittsburgh amounting to much come May.
  • No one is talking about the Islanders, but their makeshift lineup looked surprisingly adept today. Coach Ted Nolan dealt huge minutes to Tom Poti, Brendan Witt and newcomer Marc-Andre Bergeron, and all played reasonably well (with MAB clocking in at +2 in his first game as an Isle).

    It’s sort of a ragtag group with Alexei Yashin and Radek Martinek out of the lineup, but they play well as a team and will outwork anyone in the Eastern Conference.

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At 5:37 p.m., February 19, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

Excellent analysis, James. While I love the youth and energy of this team, their defensive game leaves much to be desired. That was obviously evident in today's game, as well as their recent tilts against Toronto and New Jersey.

That's not a knock against M-A Fleury, who's developing quite nicely as their starter, but the overall team defence is their achilles heel.

They'll make the playoffs and might make it to the second round, but that's apart as far as they'll go without improving their defence.

I doubt Shero will make a big splash now. He may await the off-season to dip into the UFA pool.

At 8:47 p.m., February 19, 2007, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

If I'm Pittsburgh, I absolutely do not trade any significant part of the future to shore up the defense right now. This isn't a team that has to win now because they aren't going to get any better. Adding one or two players to this squad isn't going to improve it enough to make it a real threat in the playoffs. Keep the powder dry, and sort out what your roster is going to look like next year. Let the kids get a taste of the playoffs; I'm not a believer that playoff experience is the be all and end all of Cup success, but it can't hurt.

The only reason to make a move is if their are financial reasons why winning this year is a lot more important than winning down the road. That depends upon information I'm not likely to be privy to any time soon, so it's a non-factor in my analysis.

At 9:41 a.m., February 20, 2007, Blogger Fauxrumors said...

1) The pens should play to win now. This is the 'new NHL'. Their young super stars in this salary capped NHL can't stay together for years like the Oilers of the 80's
2) If you have a shot at the Cup, you go for it!

At 4:49 p.m., February 20, 2007, Blogger Black Dog said...

James, when you say "nice shadow job" is that tongue in cheek? Four assists - would not have liked to see a bad job by Hunter.

At 4:57 p.m., February 20, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Crosby picked up one of his assists on the power play, where you can't really shadow an individual, and finished a -2. His team also lost the game after some strong defensive work by Hunter led to a Penguins turnover that resulted in Sillinger's winning goal.

The box score doesn't tell the whole story.


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