It’s a game day after a rare two-day breather for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even my legs hurt after five games in seven days, and I badly needed to unplug. Just imagine how the players felt. Now the Penguins begin again without centers Evgeni Malkin and Teddy Blueger, neither of whom are yet skating again.
The Penguins offense has left a few drumsticks on the table with just six goals in their last three games without Blueger and Malkin.
In a not-so-surprising move, the Pittsburgh Penguins introduced Radim Zohorna to the big club on Tuesday after he began to tear it up with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He swapped in on the fourth line, which is a good sign he won’t play but he could. We’ll start the myth-busting here.
1. Give him Zohorna a chance!
With the utmost respect to my readers and fellow media colleagues who use this phrase, I think you’ve confused your curiosity with the Penguins’ knowledge. What you really mean to say is, “Give him a chance. I want to see what he can do!”
The reality is the Penguins already have a good idea. It’s not like WBS is Siberia and no video exists, or no Penguins people are coaching him every day. The organization is well aware of his development, including the pros and cons.
“I think I’m here like three months, so it’s right now is better because I’ve had more game in Wilkes-Barre, so I think it’s pretty good. Still not as good as I want, but it’s pretty good,” Zohorna said. “In Europe, the ice is so big, and so we’ve got a lot of time. Then I had my first games (in North America) and (I had) a really big problem with the ice because the players are so nearby me. Like all five players in the neutral zone. Now, it’s not so bad.”
Give him time.
From a trusted WBS Penguins source:
“He wanted to play dipsy doodle, beer league hockey when he first got here. He adjusted FAST and cut the bullshit. (Recently, he) was great in puck battles and backchecked like a demon,” the source said. “Because of his size and power, you’d like to see him utilize those gifts more often by driving to the net, taking bodies with him, opening up space for linemates. He was starting to do that more but not consistently before getting called up.”
‘Starting to do that’ is the key phrase.
In other words, Zohorna may well be on the way soon, but he’s probably not here yet. Perhaps the Penguins will take a gamble and drop him into the big show ASAP, but he’ll likely need a few practices and some chats with the coaches first. Even more likely is that he’ll get more coaching in Pittsburgh, be sent to WBS to prove it, then be called back up.
That’s how the development process works.
Zohorna is 24-years-old which means his development curve is probably MUCH shorter. This is also his first year in North America, which presents many other adjustments, too. At 6-foot-6 with soft hands, he could be a nice addition but don’t get over-anxious and angry.
The Penguins don’t need to “find out” what he can do. They already know.
It’s a sunny day. Sorry for the rainy parade.
2. Sullivan Never Gives the Young Guys a Chance!
Perhaps you’ve seen second-year pro-John Marino, rookies Anthony Angello, P.O. Joseph, and Drew O’Connor in the lineup this season?
In this case, Sullivan is a victim of his own success (or failure). In 2015-16 and 2016-17, Sullivan deployed kids Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnackl, and Matt Murray. All were integral in one or both Stanley Cups.
But don’t get confused: They didn’t excel because they got a chance. They excelled because they earned the chance.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have GM Ron Hextall and AGM Chris Pryor precisely because the pair didn’t want to rush goalie Carter Hart to the show. Philadelphia brass got impatient.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have Tristan Jarry on top of his game at 25-years-old because Mike Sullivan held the gate closed until Jarry proved he was ready. I assure you if the Penguins allowed Tristan Jarry to reach the NHL on talent and potential alone, he would not be the goalie he is today.
Also, apply this to No. 1, too.
3. The Penguins will be one and done!
I receive this sentiment often, “do you think they have a chance in the playoffs? They’re one and done!”
It’s possible, of course. But let me turn it around. In a seven-game series, can the Penguins beat Washington? Yes. Can they beat the New York Islanders, especially in current form, without Anders Lee? Yes. Can the Penguins beat Boston? Well, maybe not.
So, matchups, matchups, matchups. Root for Boston to finish second or third. So a fourth-place Penguins team would face Washington or New York. Root for the other team to beat Boston, which they can, and suddenly, the Penguins would have a proper path to the NHL Final Four.
Put Sidney Crosby on the big stage and see what happens.
Behind the Penguins, Philadelphia appears to be ready to absolutely implode. They were booed off the ice on Tuesday night. Perhaps their run, which began in January last season, has come to an end.
Perhaps (PERHAPS!) the beleaguered Pittsburgh Penguins can limp towards the playoffs until they get healthy. The Penguins are not a good team without Malkin and Blueger in the middle, but they appear to have more fight than Philadelphia.
PHN still believes a trade for a center is necessary, probably yesterday. But two games against Buffalo will help buy time and points–HOWEVER–if the Penguins don’t get at least three points, if not four, be afraid.
Be very afraid.