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Penguins One Timers: Malkin, Pettersson, and a Winger for Sid

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pittsburgh penguins sidney crosby

Despite the visceral reaction to the lackluster performance on Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins are a wildly different team. They are lightyears better than the team they’ve been in the last two seasons, and without significant players in their lineup, they’ve been better than their opponents. Thursday night in Boston was a bit of a clunker, and those happen.

One of the reasons it happened was Sidney Crosby.

No, Crosby did not display faulty play or gift Boston goals via turnovers. The Penguins underwent a significant change this week. They got their captain and best player back, and it is human nature to take a breath during the adjustment phase.

“They were quicker to second and third pucks,” said Patric Hornqvist, who also engaged in the first real fight of his long career. “You have to give them credit. They were in our faces, and we couldn’t really battle back. I don’t know why but luckier it happens now and get it out of the way. We have a new game tomorrow.”

One thing defining character trait of this Penguins team is they haven’t played two clunkers in a row.

Evgeni Malkin

The Pittsburgh Penguins center has been so good this season that he’s drawn comparisons to his 2012 Hart Trophy season. Zdeno Chara and Boston have always presented a unique challenge for Malkin.

Thursday night, Malkin’s decision making wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be. Malkin didn’t get pucks behind the Boston defense, but instead, he tried to carry pucks into the zone. That option wasn’t available as often as he tried.

He was credited with three turnovers and just two shots.

Crosby’s return will be the most significant adjustment for Malkin. Head coach Mike Sullivan doesn’t believe Malkin will drop off now that he isn’t required to save the day. However, historically, Malkin does slip back. It is something to watch.

“I think he will (maintain his elevated play). He’s had a certain drive since Day 1 of training camp this year. He’s really elevated his play through the first part of the season when we’ve had to endure all of the injuries,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “And he’s a huge part of the amount of wins we’ve been able to accumulate to this point.”

“I think Geno and Sid have the ability to be the best one-two punch in the game, or one and 1A, I should say.”

It would be a huge disappointment to see Malkin giveback the gains which he’s made this season. But let’s not sound the alarm over one game, or even a handful, eh?

Marcus Pettersson

The defenseman was tabbed as one of their four best D-men in the preseason by Sullivan. However, it hasn’t gone as well this season as it did last year. Perhaps the protracted contract negotiations in which the Penguins weren’t able to find the money they wanted to pay Pettersson, or it’s a young player feeling his way through things, but Pettersson hasn’t been as effective.

One reason he doesn’t appear as effective is his defensive partners. That’s not to blame Justin Schultz or John Marino, but they’re skilled puck movers and skaters. Last season, Pettersson meshed well with and was able to help elevate the play of the stay-at-home bruisers Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson. In turn, Pettersson’s defensive partners did the dirty work to keep Pettersson clear.

Now some of that dirty work falls on Pettersson, which is an entirely different game. However, the Penguins don’t have any right-side stay home defenders, so this will be Pettersson’s role.

Two weeks ago, Pittsburgh Hockey Now was able to report contract talks were set to begin and the Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford called the deal a priority. One has to wonder if this season’s play will affect the contract.

A Winger for Sid

Let’s play Devil’s advocate. Does Crosby really need a Jake Guentzel-replacement from the trade market? Can the Pittsburgh Penguins do better than Jared McCann on the trade market?

McCann gives the Penguins leverage in any trade talks because the Penguins don’t need to make a move. They could upgrade the right side, which is currently occupied by Dominik Simon, and if Rutherford chooses that route, the Penguins could make a good old fashioned hockey trade, too. On the right side, the Penguins have only Bryan Rust, who now appears attached to Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, but Hornqvist and Crosby don’t mix.

So, the current right side options for Crosby are Simon, Dominik Kahun, or to break up the Aston-Reese, Blueger, Tanev trio, which has been together nearly all season and put Brandon Tanev on that line.

However, “A winger for Sid” does sound like a Lifetime movie.

(Stick tap to Live Chat viewer Ellen for that joke).

Throughout the nine-day break, we’ll examine every possible winger on the market and some not on the public trade block. But don’t be shocked if the Penguins only nibble around the edges. Dominik Simon does have two points (1g, 1a) in the two games since Crosby returned. And he was one of the best Penguins forwards on Thursday night.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Herman
Herman
1 year ago

Petterson is not going to excel (the way that he could) with the current mix of D-Men on Pens roster. Gudbranson is gone & JJ also occupies the LD.

If they really want to get the most out of Petterson & this season; they might need to bite the bullet and move JJ for a defensive D-Man on RD.

Ricardo58
Ricardo58
1 year ago

As you note above, Now some of that dirty work falls on Pettersson, which is an entirely different game. IMO, 28 is not built to handle this type of play. He is rail thin and does not appear to have the strength to compensate for his frame. It would be unrealistic to expect 28 to consistently win the 1 on 1 battles in front of the net or around it. As 87 noted, the recipe shown by the Bruins will be the routine play other talented teams will take vs the Pens. 72 attempting to settle scores with his fists… Read more »

Paul Katz
Paul Katz
1 year ago

This team is not going deep in the playoffs with Simon on Sids line. You can argue analytics all you want, history and reality do not lie. Statistics lie. Forget bout this game it’s only one game after an amazing streak. But there is an important takeaway; it’s all about the Post season. Ask Jon Cooper As such Mr Rutherford needs to ask himself; What tweaks are needed for the post season? After all this team cannot exit the East w/o getting past Boston or Washington. And Coaches understand other teams weaknesses and will play accordingly. Is this lineup when… Read more »

King Penguin
King Penguin
1 year ago

This team has proved only that it can handle the West.

Until the Pens beat the Caps, Bruins and Islanders on the road, I’m off the bandwagon.

E.J.
E.J.
1 year ago

Six reasons why Pageau intriques me as a third-line center . . .

He’s a goal-scorer albeit a bit streaky (19 this season)
He plays both ends (plus 13 with a bad Sens team).
He’s dependable on face-offs, an overlooked team weakness (52 to 55 percent success rate over the last five seasons).
He’s excellent on the PK.
He’s not a whiner like Brassard.
Mario has a man crush on French men.

William Maloni Sr.
William Maloni Sr.
1 year ago

New phrase, “a bus ticket for Galchenyuk” and a “ham and egg blueliner” for Peterrsson,” someone weighing more than 180 pounds.

Addition by subtraction both ways.

Lars
Lars
1 year ago

The best bang for the buck is Rickard Rickell with his cap hit. I would trade for him and try to get a depth D-man. I think Kreider is a great choice, but I don’t see that trade happening.

RICHARD MATHESON
RICHARD MATHESON
1 year ago

Simon has 3 points in the last two games. Assisted Sid’s vs Boston, McCann’s vs the Wild, and also scored on Sid’s behind the goal-line set-up.

RICHARD MATHESON
RICHARD MATHESON
1 year ago

I mostly bring this up because I genuinely feel this to be the ideal line combo, given who they have to work with. I think the two work very well together.

Barb Riopelle
1 year ago

Sid loves to set up his wingers and Simon rarely ever finishes. We need another finisher on the top line. Simon is not a top line player, but playing with Crosby, any one is going to get points. Sid works too hard for it to be wasted by someone who can’t score. (Of course, Simon will score in the next game now, but don’t let that fool you).

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