The hours and days following an insignificant loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins have the same buzzing fan activity as a Tuesday morgue or Pirates game in April. After an impressive five-game winning streak in their last six games, passing and outscoring various opponents, the Penguins looked lifeless. They never found their spark in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabers at KeyBank Arena.
A better team than Buffalo would probably have kicked the Penguins out of the arena.
“I mean, you don’t want to use it as some kind of excuse, but I think playing back to back is never easy. I mean, you have to give them credit too,” the defender said. Penguins Mike Matheson.
Fair enough. Buffalo didn’t offer enough to get the Penguins’ dander up, and in the second of a streak…it happens.
But in the SO’s loss to Buffalo and the last six games, we’ve learned a lot about what the Pittsburgh Penguins might look like after the final game of the regular season on April 29, and the prospect might start to excite. the Penguins. Fans.
Even the most ardently disgruntled and pessimistic commentators on this website were jubilant after the Penguins knocked out the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 on Tuesday night.
The Penguins’ high-intensity puck-pressing game and linear offense are back, but this time with most of their players healthy.
Before I dive into that, I sympathize with all the fans who exclusively watch games on TV and watched this TNT broadcast on Wednesday. I caught intermission for the first time since October, and… that yuk-yuk intermission routine was nothing short of a disservice in hockey. The studio show includes great hockey players and people. The network must let them talk about hockey.
My blood boils when hockey is treated as a sideshow and network executives try to attract casual fans by avoiding talking about hockey. You have Rick Tocchet and Anson Carter in the office. Both are very good at talking about hockey for the greater good of the public. Let them do their thing.
You don’t understand this nonsense on Hockey Night in Canada.
3 Pittsburgh Penguins point shots:
1. Rickard Rakell on Crosby’s right wing
I pitched the idea when it was acquired and did it again Wednesday morning. It’s possible. He’s a right-handed winger and is comfortable playing left or right. However, Evgeni Malkin is left-handed. This means that in the rush, Malkin would give Rakell point chances with backhand passes.
It’s not terrible, but not ideal.
“I would say I’m really comfortable playing both sides. I actually played left wing most of my years in Anaheim, so I’m fine anyway,” Rakell said Tuesday night.
Rickard Rakell, 28, played around seven minutes alongside Crosby on Wednesday. It was a significant bump on the line with Evan Rodrigues, although they didn’t score.
“I thought (Rakell) was pretty good. In many ways, I expected this one to be more difficult for him than (Tuesday). When you think about it, he travels across the continent. He’s red-eyed and didn’t get much sleep last night. He plays on adrenaline (Tuesday)…” Sullivan conceded.
“I thought he competed hard. You know, we had some good changes with Sid’s line. We tried him out there a handful of times. I moved him around to see where he could go. to integrate… “
Letting Malkin keep Bryan Rust adds a lot to the Malkin line. Crosby is naturally a puck devil. He fights for every puck and is one of the best workers in the industry. Rust adds that dimension to Malkin’s line and adds a healthy dose of offense.
Rakell’s proficiency with Crosby, while Rust adds dimensions to the Malkin line, might be the best balance.
Imagine this top nine:
Not bad huh ? Here’s the final verdict: Head coach Mike Sullivan has time to figure out who has chemistry and let the players decide where they stand.
2. Malkin, Rakell, Matheson and Beating Carolina
We will explore this topic further over the next few weeks.
It took almost two months, but Evgeni Malkin is finally on his game, not including Wednesday night. Malkin plays a strong and simple game. He attacks pucks on the forecheck, fights for space and creates space with his skill and speed as only he can.
Rakell, as noted above, creates an incredibly deep lineup of Penguins.
By losing two of three games to the Carolina Hurricanes over the past month, the Penguins showed they were just a little behind Carolina. Sebastian Aho has shown he can incapacitate Sidney Crosby, making high-level battles a washout.
This puts Malkin against Vincent Trocheck and Jeff Carter against Jordan Staal.
Caroline had the advantage.
Now I think the Penguins have the advantage.
I also think the Penguins have the best goalie, Tristan Jarry.
And Mike Matheson playing his best hockey of the season narrows the gap between the production of the very active defensemen of Carolina and that of the defensemen of the Penguins.
Maybe the Washington Capitals will catch up to the New York Rangers for third place, because Washington is a much better match for the Penguins (soft goalie, less productive last six). If the Pittsburgh Penguins draw the New York Rangers in the first round, Igor Shesterkin looms large, just like Carey Price did in the 2020 bubble.
If the Penguins make it to the second round and get Carolina, they’ll be tied. I didn’t think that was the case before the deadline.
This opinion is based on the extrapolation of the next 16 games. I reserve the right to improve or reduce the Penguins’ chances.
3. Farewell ZAR & Simon
Hextall and Sullivan also said thank you.
Both have served the Pittsburgh Penguins well over the past few years. Simon was the fans’ constant goat. And putting Simon in the lineup meant that Mike Sullivan was kind of oblivious.
Much like when (trigger warning) Jack Johnson found work elsewhere, I’m kinda glad the player can’t stand the nagging criticism on social media. Simon was on a two-way $750,000 contract. He did the minimum.
Be very confident, Sullivan put Simon in the lineup because Simon created offensive chances, possession of the puck and did everything but finish. Hey, not every player will score 20 points. Simon made the Penguins a better team when he was on the ice. It was as simple as that. No coaching diary.
Here is an untold story by Zach Aston-Reese.
Last week he talked about Brian Boyle and Boyle’s strength on the ice. However, Zach put together a few words that made sense in a hockey context, but were also a pretty funny double meaning.
He grimaced immediately. In the small Penguins media room at the UPMC Lemieux Complex, a few of us tried not to laugh. I don’t know if we made him lose it or he made us lose it, but we all laughed within seconds.
It was yet another low-key and enjoyable moment with Aston-Reese and, ultimately, our last. I maintain he has 10-15 goalscoring ability, but he is narrow-minded and sometimes doubts he has that much to give. For him, sometimes, he’s still the undrafted kid from Northeastern.
Maybe Anaheim will take it to the next level. I hope so.
Farewell, boys. Enjoy SoCal.