Worrying about the depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins

2 Comments

penguinslogo.gifIt’s Sunday morning and that sometimes means I get to thinking a bit wacky, but hold steady with me here through this one. There’s a very popular NHL team that, outside of a couple of signings, has been relatively very quiet. They improved one area that needed strengthening rather badly and that will certainly help them improve greatly. There was another nagging area that still hasn’t been fully addressed, and it’s an area that seen them even lose helpful players and it makes me worry a bit about them.

So who is this perplexing yet highly talented team? It’s the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens made their big splashes of the off-season by signing Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek to help offset the loss of Sergei Gonchar and strengthen their back line. While neither Martin nor Michalek have the offensive prowess of Gonchar, they’re outstanding players nonetheless and Martin will take over Gonchar’s role as the team’s puck-moving defenseman.  Aside from those two players, the only other signing of note they’ve made is the one made just the other day to lock down forward Arron Asham. The Penguins’ forward depth, as it stands now, looks to be worrisome.

Yes, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal are brilliant players and the amount of offense they bring to the table is more than impressive. With Staal and Malkin tentatively set to be playing on the same line together. That’s uniting Staal and his 49 points from last year (21g, 48a) with the other-worldly Malkin (28g, 49a in 65 games) in a partnership that should see both their numbers rise.Throwing a guy like Matt Cooke next to those two might even help him snap out of being more of a distraction than a helper.

Sidney Crosby, at the moment, seems like a man on an island. He’s looking at Pascal Dupuis as his main man on right wing now that Bill Guerin has seemingly moved on. Having a 51-goal scorer and annual MVP candidate find ways to make other players around him better is nothing new, but getting that complimentary piece on the right wing for him would be great. Chris Kunitz does a fine job playing the physical winger has its toll. He played in just 50 games last year for the Pens and scored 13 goals. Maybe it’s just a signal of what it’s like for the Pens in the salary cap world, but a potential Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis first line doesn’t really grab you by the collar and shake you up.

What’s working for the Pens is that their third and fourth lines are going to be real pains to deal with. Maxime Talbot, Tyler Kennedy, Arron Asham, Craig Adams,  helps balance out their bottom two lines and gives them a bit more skill there. What the Pens have waiting in the wings in guys like Chris Conner and Mark Letestu make for decent depth players to fill holes when needed.

The Penguins are built like a team that will be a major pain in the rear-end come playoff time and there’s little doubt that they will be a playoff team, but is there enough offensively talented depth here to help them sustain a series against a team that throws the clamps down defensively? After all, we saw what an other-worldly goaltending performance and a defensive-centric approach did against the Pens in the playoffs last year.

While Staal’s time on the ice won’t suffer from being on the third line anymore, stressing time with just two lines, one of which that sees the team’s best player become even more of a target to clamp down on has to be a bit of a worry. This isn’t to say that the Pens are going to suffer, they won’t. You can’t suffer when you’ve got two of the best players in the league on your roster. Things might just not be as simple as they’ve always seemed is all.

Video: Oshie’s sweet dish sets up a nice Backstrom goal for Capitals

Leave a comment

There’s time for the Pittsburgh Penguins to flip the scrip, but so far on Monday, it looks like the patterns continue to go the Washington Capitals’ way.

The Caps are aiming for a 10th straight win (and Pittsburgh’s fourth consecutive loss) after taking a 2-0 lead through the first period.

The strong play of Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie stands as one of the reasons why Washington has been blazing such an impressive path, and they combined for a really nice goal to give their team that added cushion. Both Oshie’s pass and Backstrom’s goal are impressive in the clip above.

Also, here’s the Andre Burakovsky goal that began the scoring:

And, just for the heck of it:

Shane Doan isn’t asking to be traded by Coyotes, but isn’t saying no either

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 15:  Shane Doan #19 of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Coyotes defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in an overtime shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

Imagine, for a second, Shane Doan wearing another team’s jersey. Apparently it’s not out of the question.

During the weekend, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Doan would be willing to waive his no-trade clause for the right situation. Despite his 1,500+ games with the Jets/Coyotes, Doan responded mostly in the affirmative to NHL.com, although the rugged forward notes that it would take a “perfect” scenario to make everything work.

(He said that he hasn’t been asked to waive his no-trade clause … but he might be open to suggestion.)

“I’d talk about it with my family and make a decision on that if it was to come up but it would have to be so perfect and so right that it’s pretty hard for it to all line up perfectly,” Doan said. “It would have to be exactly perfect and that just doesn’t happen too often in our sport.”

The 40-year-old interestingly notes that the discussion has come up before, only word hasn’t surfaced in reports. He even said that there were times when he gave his approval, although in most cases, his answer was “No.”

What is perfect?

What’s the perfect situation? That’s where things are fuzzier, as Doan explains that picking a “contender” can be a little trickier when you consider where, say, the Penguins and Sharks were around this time last year.

Doan says family matters, yet he also seems somewhat flexible in that area. After all, it might just be for a few months as a “rental.”

Measuring his value

On the other end, of course, you must also wonder who will want him.

The pluses are easy to see: he’s big, physical and checks off a ton of the “intangibles” boxes. Chances are, a perspective team would weigh his 28 goals from 2015-16 more heavily than his mere 12 points in 42 games this season.

That said, at his age, and considering his numbers this season, there’s the obvious question regarding how much he has left in the tank.

Then again, if the price is reasonable – and the Coyotes certainly are looking to sell off expiring contracts – then it could make for an interesting situation.

If anything happens at all.

WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11:  Evgeny Kuznetsov #92 of the Washington Capitals and Carl Hagelin #62 of the Pittsburgh Penguins fight in the third period at Verizon Center on January 11, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Last time, the Washington Capitals were just a little hotter than the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning the game as Alex Ovechkin crossed the 1,000-point threshold.

A week or so later, the Capitals are still red-hot while the Penguins are waddling through some uncertainty. Pittsburgh aims to end a three-game losing streak while the Caps hope to get their 10th win in a row on Monday night.

You can check out the action on NBCSN, watch online and also via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Watch Jonathan Drouin’s assist of the year candidate

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 29:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in action against the New Jersey Devils during their game at the Prudential Center on October 29, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Getty
3 Comments

Jonathan Drouin‘s been playing some of his best hockey of late, with five points in his last four contests.

He isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, either.

This is Drouin’s effort from today’s Lightning-Kings game at Staples, setting up Tyler Johnson to even the score at one late in the first period:

Not bad. Tanner Pearson may still be looking for his protective undergarment.

Little has gone right for Tampa Bay lately — or this season, to be honest — but Drouin could be on the verge of changing that. He was terrific in December, with eight goals and 15 points in 13 games, and appears to have carried that form over to the new year. He’s been a point-a-game guy in January, a trend that continued this afternoon.