Twitter is awesome, however people love to use it to criticize the work of others. Sheesh I do it with the Department of Player Safety.
Being a Penguins fan I have noticed a big shift in the rhetoric of the fans over the past month, well since the start of December really.
We have been used to seeing this franchise win game after game, no matter who is in the line up.
That was the benefit of the way Dan Bylsma coached, he brings the level of a teams worst players up, but limits the ceiling of a teams best players.
With a new coach comes new ideas and different usage of players, what has not changed is the amount of man games lost for this Penguins squad.
The month of December was a killer for the Penguins, they had a PP that was dysfunctional and a rotating roster on the wings for both Malkin and Crosby. With their PP not bailing them out their lack of 5 on 5 scoring chances started to catch up with them.
The two big take aways from the chart is, the process is working under the new regime. 20 days into January and the Penguins have more scoring chances than October and November combined.
Once Hornqvist and Comeau are back in the line up, players like Spaling and Downie play in correct depth in the lines and this team will be ok.
I think the biggest issue for this team is on the back end and the usage of Despres, Bortuzzo, Harrington and Scuderi, and we know the loss of Maatta has probably been the biggest spanner in Mike Johnston's plans.
There have been a lot of games this season where Sid and Geno have not played many minutes and they have been chewed up by Suter, Spaling, Downie and recently Zac Sill. If this trend continues it is a problem but for now it is a good thing.
Whilst you do not play to lose a game, this team does have points on its side to find out what they have in their players. I have been just as guilty as anyone screaming at the TV trying to understand why player X is getting more ice in certain situations than player Y.
At least Johnston is looking at different options, last year, you knew the Penguins line up, even if players were injured, you knew who was filling the roster spots. It is why the team could handle the injuries.
Move forward to this season and holding onto the puck requires skill, the Penguins skill level right now is not up to the task, once again their bottom 6, specifically their 4th line is not capable of playing a puck possession game.
Gunner wrote about how the two superstars have been carrying the team of late, well getting that depth back from injury will help reduce the load on 87 and 71.
One other reason Sid and Geno have been able to tear it up of late are the d men who are on the ice with them. They are getting more shifts without 4 and 47, in other words Johnston isn't sheltering the only true possession anchor (Scuderi) as often, allowing 87 and 71 to dominate most nights.
As important as the depth in the forwards is going to be, I think the roster choices and usage of the back end are going to be more important in the success or failure of this Penguins team.
Show some courage, trust the youth, you only have them cheap for a short amount of time. Play Harrington, Bortuzzo, Dumoulin, Pouliot, and Despres now, play them often and play them in situations that challenge them so they can learn.
Getting burnt here in the NHL and watching the tape, seeing what went wrong at NHL speed is going to develop Harrington and Dumoulin more than going back to the AHL. Harrington is not going to get used to the extra strength of the NHL if he goes back to the AHL and play against forwards who are weaker and slower than NHL forwards.
At least the youth has got games this season, and they haven't gotten benched when they have played. Despres and Harrington have made some egregious blunders this season, but they don't miss a shift, they get sent back out there, I am assuming after they have had a chat with Agnew, to learn how to handle that situation better next time.
The Penguins are blessed with a true number 1 d man, and two very capable number 2/3 d men, being conservative with the choices for the other 3 defensive places on this team will hinder the output of the superstars up front.
Why waste another year leaning on experience?
Thanks for reading.
Do you like the content at Hockey Hurts? Would you like to support us? Do you buy stuff on Amazon? If the answer is yes to all of the above click on the Amazon banner at the top of the page anytime you are looking to make an Amazon purchase. It doesn't cost you anything and we get a little kick back for you going through our link. Thanks!