Kukla's Korner

From the Point Too

Did Sunday’s victory over the B’s give any clues to line combos moving forward?

The Penguins and Bruins played a spirited game on Sunday afternoon on a national television stage, but the most interesting thing about it was the way that Penguins’ head coach Dan Bylsma entered the laboratory to experiment with a handful of different line combinations.

Though he downplayed it after the game telling me that he just wanted to get ensure that his team had a physical edge in the offensive zone that was able to pressure the Bruins the defensemen, it still seemed as if he was doing some forward thinking when mixing his combos up this afternoon.
Sure, a case could be made that he was doing that to get the likes of Evgeni Malkin and James Neal away from defenders such as Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg and giving Eric Tangradi a chance to show off his new physical edge, but it could also be his way of taking a hard look at how he can configure his line-up later this week when he adds another bullet to the chamber in the form of Sidney Crosby.
He spent a significant part of the first period trying different variations of his top-two lines and each had some effective moments. He shuffled Steve Sullivan, Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi throughout his line-up, with the only constant being that Malkin and Neal were never separated.
Both Sullivan and Tangradi took shifts on the left wing with the top unit and found success, as chances were generated and the team’s second goal, scored by Matt Niskanen, came with Tangradi banging around in the right wing corner and going to the net. 
Chris Kunitz spent time skating with Jordan Staal and Pascal Dupuis giving the staff a look at how that unit would fare if it was employed moving forward. He eventually slid back into his regular spot alongside Malkin and Neal on the team’s top line scoring a goal and adding 4 shots.
All of it begs the question: What will the line-up look like come Thursday night when (or whenever) Crosby makes his long awaited return to the line-up?
Well, based on what we have seen here today, it is safe to assume that Bylsma is going to keep Malkin and Neal together and I think most out there would agree with that decision. It may be the only constant that we will see moving through the first few games that Crosby is back on the ice. Kunitz will certainly continue to log minutes there, but he may be on the move to another line.
It is also probably safe to assume that the staff will at least give a strong look at using Crosby alongside his old line-mate Pascal Dupuis, which obviously breaks up a very effective second line. Will it stick? Well that depends on how everyone performs.
They very well may go Crosby/Dupuis and Malkin/Neal while having Chris Kunitz serve as a sort of swing man playing on both units, swapping in and out with Sullivan.
They could then put together a third unit that employs Staal, Sullivan when he isn’t skating on one of the top lines and Tyler Kennedy. It puts Kennedy in a comfortable situation in which he has previously be successful as well as opens up the door to having Matt Cooke reunite with a duo in which he has been quite successful himself.
The bottom line has more than a few bodies available to pick from, with Craig Adams, Arron Asham, Richard Park, and Joe Vitale all available and comfortable playing that role.
Things will also get a bit more interesting once Dustin Jeffrey works through his illness and is available to the team, as he has shown to be an effective winger and could be a candidate to play with the top couple of lines, at least in spot duty.
If I was forced to construct the line-up right now for Crosby’s first game back, it would look something like this:
Kunitz – Malkin – Neal
Sullivan – Crosby – Dupuis
Cooke – Staal – Kennedy
Asham – Vitale – Adams
Extra: Tangradi, Jeffrey, Park
This may not all sit very well with Jordan Staal, but based on the way the team is currently constructed, it may give them the best combination for success. They also have options in the form of Tangradi/Jeffrey who have shown an ability to play a number of different rolls to varying degrees of success. Could one of them catch fire and be a huge performer down the stretch and during the post season? Certainly…
The good news is that Dan Bylsma has already shown a willingness to tinker with his combos – Malkin/Neal aside – and will likely look like a circus juggler during this week’s full practice sessions in determining what will best work for the system.
We will be following the lines and combinations as the week rolls on… while we wait what would you guys do if you were fleshing out a line-up for Crosby’s return game?

Filed in: Pittsburgh Penguins, | From the Point Too | Permalink
  Tags: evgeni+malkin, marc+andre+fleury, sidney+crosby

Comments

Evilpens's avatar

Sorry Metz you’re wrong

Lines when Sid comes back will be

Sullivan-Geno Neal
Kunitz-Sid Dupuis
Cooke-Staal-TK
Asham - Vitale-Adams

Reasons = Simple Sid wants Kunitz & Dupuis on his line & what Sid wants, Sid Gets

Posted by Evilpens on 03/11/12 at 06:47 PM ET

Avatar

Reasons = Simple Sid wants Kunitz & Dupuis on his line & what Sid wants, Sid Gets

I am not sure why there is always this sort of tongue-in-cheek sid/staal hatred from you all the time.  Why is it again that you like the penguins?

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 03/11/12 at 07:16 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Reasons = Simple Sid wants Kunitz & Dupuis on his line & what Sid wants, Sid Gets

Posted by Evilpens on 03/11/12 at 04:47 PM ET

Then Sidney is not a team player nor a good captain and is stupid to break up the very obvious chemistry the Kunitz-Malkin-Neal line has.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 03/11/12 at 07:22 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

Really can’t wait for Thursday.  I’m trying to talk my wife into skipping out of work early, hopping on the train and heading to MSG.  Ticket prices are a little crazy, especially since we’re already heading to the ‘Burgh for the Jets/Pens game next week over my spring break.  But…stranger things have happened.

I still think breaking up the Neal/Malkin/Kunitz line would be crazy.  But, pairing Kunitz with Sid would make sense - Kunitz was having a fantastic year before Sid got hurt last season.  I think a Sid/Dupuis pairing is probably a given.  They have some pretty good chemistry together.

With all the talk about moving Staal to the wing in the offseason, I’m wondering if they put him on Sid’s line at some point.  Neal/Malkin/Kunitz and Staal/Sid/Dupuis or Sullivan would be a pretty good top 6.  When Jeffrey comes back, he could slide into that 3rd line center roll…have him with Sully/Dupuis and TK?

Maybe Tangradi gets a look with Sid at some point when he gets back?  He was pretty good today…threw his body around quite a bit.

Posted by Evilpens on 03/11/12 at 04:47 PM ET

Yeah, I’m probably going to listen to someone that writes about the Penguins for a living rather than the conspiracy theorist that told anyone who would listen the Pens would never win a Cup with Fleury in net and Jordan Staal as their 3rd line center.

Thinking back on those days…I wonder if that’s why you’re so negative about a guy who’s played 48 games yet still has 22 goals and 38 points.  Sour grapes about him proving you wrong (and the fact that you’d look like an even bigger jackass shouting from the tops of every message board that the Pens should trade Fleury)?

You, my dear, are the epitome of a Yinzer.  If it was in the dictionary, comments like this would be directly underneath the word.  With unlimited ampersands and random capitalizations and all.

Even behind the shroud of a computer screen, I have no idea how you’re not completely embarrassed by some of the things you type.  Baffling, really.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 03/11/12 at 07:29 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

NO Liek Most great Players Jagr & Mario among them they think what is Best for them is what’s best for the team. That is all, Not being a team player It is a Mindset they have had their whole life, When do you think the last time a Coach or whatever told Sid NO you are Not getting that?

G2L their is NO hatred of Sid Or Staal I think Sid is great but watch & see, Staal is the best 3rd Line C in the League But I believe he is a Luxury they can not afford with a salary Cap & the Staal Bots always say “Well they won the Cup with Staal” Yeah the Won the Cup but that was with Geno & STaal on ELC’s, They Now make a combined 12.7 Mill a year

Posted by Evilpens on 03/11/12 at 07:32 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

“Well they won the Cup with Staal” Yeah the Won the Cup but that was with Geno & STaal on ELC’s, They Now make a combined 12.7 Mill a year

Pay to play…pay to play. You think Staal is worthless? I see him no different than I look at Valterri Filpulla…but Fil’s cap hit is a bit less than Staal’s, yet they’re both essentially 3rd line centers or 2nd line wingers…and for what they sacrifice for offense to play outstanding defense, they’re worth every penny.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 03/11/12 at 09:39 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Not when the cap is going DOWN & you have Sid & Geno @ C ahead of Him & Neal as the only bonafide sniper at wing. & again NOT saying Staal sucks just saying & you have to be a Pens fan to know this so I don’t blame you there is not a Wing Prospect within 3 seasons of Pgh.

Posted by Evilpens on 03/11/12 at 10:29 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

22 goals.  38 points.  In 48 games.

TRADE HIM FOR…um…for…

...

...

And whey do they need wingers?  Neal = 31 goals.  Kunitz = 20 goals.  Dupuis = 18 goals.  Sullivan = 14 goals.  Cooke 12 goals.

That’s 95 goals from just those guys at the wing position.  Add in TK’s 6, Park’s 6, Asham’s 4, Adams’ 4 and Jeffrey’s 4…that’s 24 more goals from the wing position.

Total? 119 from their wingers.

There are no more than 6 teams that have gotten that much production out of their wingers (from my quick math - Chicago, Dallas, Philly, NJ…I can’t remember the exact numbers from Ottawa and Phoenix, they were close also).

That’s a fact, jack.

So, I would say the wings are pretty okay in Pittsburgh.  But…don’t let the facts and statistics slow you down, there, fella.  Keep making a fool out of yourself.  It’s funny to me how out of touch with reality you are sometimes.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 03/12/12 at 02:48 AM ET

Avatar

I actually think Staal has forced Bylsma’s hand into putting him in a top 6 role other than in specific situations where you absolutely need to get the three centers out against specific lines on the other team, which isn’t really a regular season thing. He’s just too productive at this point to saddle with a low-IQ player like Kennedy and a non-scorer like Cooke.


Then Sidney is not a team player nor a good captain and is stupid to break up the very obvious chemistry the Kunitz-Malkin-Neal line has.

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 03/11/12 at 05:22 PM ET

Eh, crosby’s on record as not wanting that broken up. Just as recently Kunitz said he has a better feel for Crosby’s game and would prefer to reunite with him, if possible, though that isn’t his call. Think it will all be moot, because JS just creates too much offense now to put back on a third line and he doesn’t make a ton of sense with Malkin + Neal (because of Neal, not Malkin). Staal’s also shown a ton of chemistry with Dupuis. So that probably means him, Crosby and Dupuis will go together, imo.

Posted by larry from pitt on 03/12/12 at 04:16 AM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Yep Flashadork that is why the Pens were looking for a winger who could score at the trade Deadline & that’s a Fact Jack ! Oh See I can do that too

Posted by Evilpens on 03/12/12 at 10:00 AM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

Yep Flashadork that is why the Pens were looking for a winger who could score at the trade Deadline & that’s a Fact Jack ! Oh See I can do that too

Posted by Evilpens on 03/12/12 at 08:00 AM ET

1.  Dork?  Why, because I threw a bunch of numbers at you that you weren’t expecting/don’t understand?

2.  Do you know what a “fact” is?  Or did you just like that it rhymed?  Fact = what I said, backed up with statistical information.  Speculation/Hearsay = what you said.  Huge difference.  Look it up int he dictionary or something.

3.  If you can name me some teams that weren’t looking for a winger that can score at the deadline, I’d be impressed.  That’s about making your team better.  They were probably looking for a 3rd line center, too.  And a 5 or 6 dman.  Just like pretty much any other team that’s a Cup contender.

I even said myself that David Jones would look good in a Pens sweater.  Mostly to give Crosby a guy that can score (had 27 goals last season) on his line when he comes back - since Neal/Malkin/Kunitz probably shouldn’t be broken up.  But, like Larry said, the play of Staal as of late might force Bylsma into sliding Staal up onto a wing with Crosby at least some of the time.  Neal/Malkin/Kunitz and Staal/Crosby/Dupuis?  I’ll take it.

Staal scored 29 goals in his rookie year on Malkin’s wing.  A guy that can play the wing AND center?  What an awful player to have…

4.  You never specified who they should trade Staal away for.  Specifically, I’d like at least one winger who is within 2 years of his age (either way), has 22 goals and 38 points or more (in 48 games or less, mind you), logs as many minutes on the PK as he does and makes less than $4 million per year (but isn’t on an entry level contract).  Good luck!

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 03/12/12 at 12:27 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Sorry Dork Unlike Gerbil Boy Rossi, Molinari has sources within the OrganIzation & does do Idle gossip

Yep Jones TK Part 2

Staal disd NOT score 29 Goals on his wing that is MORE Pens Media BS someone on lgp.com went back & Checked a Majority was either with Geno not out there or Shorthanded Goals Sorry to Burst your Kool-aid inflated Bubble

Posted by Evilpens on 03/12/12 at 02:22 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Majority was either with Geno not out there or Shorthanded Goals Sorry to Burst your Kool-aid inflated Bubble

8 of his last 13 were… in 32 games.

Staal’s goal scoring pace went way up when put on Malkin’s wing.  Is the argument that Staal can’t score as Malkin’s winger?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/12/12 at 03:11 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

J.J. not this season. We are talking about the past

& flash is probably 1 of the geniuses who wanted Staal to be 2nd Line C while moving Geno to wing this past offseason because Geno had a couple (For Him) subpar seasons. The guy is the favorite win the Hart trophy & amazingly enough theses Geniuses have crawled back under their rocks

Posted by Evilpens on 03/12/12 at 03:22 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Oh, and after Staal’s rookie season (2007 through now), his goals/60 minutes pace is more than twice as good with Malkin on the ice than it is without. 

Since 2007, Jordan Staal’s goals/60 pace with Malkin on the ice is 1.52.  Without Malkin, it’s 0.70.

For reference, Steven Stamkos’ G/60 this season is 1.86. Michael Ryder is 4th in the league at 1.49. 

The 0.70 guys? Nick Spaling, Sam Gagner, Kyle Wellwood, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Dan Cleary, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Jones.

Again, is the argument that Jordan Staal can’t play on Malkin’s wing?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/12/12 at 03:22 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

J.J. not this season. We are talking about the past

That was in his rookie season.  In 2006-07, 8 of Staal’s last 13 goals came with Malkin on the ice.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/12/12 at 03:23 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

& what was the total for the Yr. HMMM nice trying to cherrypick stats huh?

NEXT!

Posted by Evilpens on 03/12/12 at 03:30 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

& what was the total for the Yr. HMMM nice trying to cherrypick stats huh?

NEXT!

Posted by Evilpens on 03/12/12 at 01:30 PM ET

14 of 29. A majority of Jordan Staal’s goals came without Malkin on the ice… by the thinnest of possible margins. It’s not cherry-picking to add context to these numbers.

And like I said, his pace went WAY up when he started playing minutes with Malkin.

If the argument is that Staal can’t play the 2nd-line winger for Malkin, then the numbers absolutely do not bear that out.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/12/12 at 04:04 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

& flash is probably 1 of the geniuses who wanted Staal to be 2nd Line C while moving Geno to wing this past offseason because Geno had a couple (For Him) subpar seasons. The guy is the favorite win the Hart trophy & amazingly enough theses Geniuses have crawled back under their rocks

Posted by Evilpens on 03/12/12 at 01:22 PM ET

It’s funny…because this is someone that’s been railing against a 23-year-old, two-way center that’s averaged .71 ppg in 2010-11 (59 point pace over 82 games - he only played 42 in 10-11) and .79 ppg (65 point pace over 82 games) in 2011-12.

Also, 22 goals this year in 38 games.  .46 gpg.  15th in the league.

I was one of the geniuses that thought putting them on a line together would be a good idea, yes.  Because they had chemistry their rookie years.  Who was centering who didn’t matter…if they had chemistry.  It was worth a try to see if they could spark Geno again…and it would put an end to the “trade Staal” nonsense if they clicked and both of them had big years. 

Who really knew if it was solely injuries that slowed Malkin down the past two years?  On paper it seemed like a good idea.  Neal sort of put a nix on that, though…not to mention Kunitz (yeah, yeah, yeah…Kunitz Will Be Back on Sids Wing when Sid Comes back Because That’s WHat Sid wants & WHat Sid wanTS SId geTs &&&&&& - I know, EP).

My genius thinks that pairing Staal and Crosby would also be an experiment worth trying, also.  Because Staal has shown an improved scoring touch this season…put him with a player that can get him the puck on a consistent basis and who knows?  I’m a believer that Staal could end up being as good as Kesler in Vancouver.

But that’s probably just the Kool Aid talking.

Staal’s goal scoring pace went way up when put on Malkin’s wing.  Is the argument that Staal can’t score as Malkin’s winger?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/12/12 at 01:11 PM ET

The argument is that if I say anything good about Jordan Staal, I’m some sort of mindless drone that just follows along with whatever the Penguins brass apparently put out in the media.  Because anyone that disagrees with the all-knowing EP and his abundance of ampersands and random capitalizations is wrong and probably something that’s derogatory, misogynistic or offensive in nature.

Is there some sort of website to figure out statistics like that, though JJ?  I’d love to have that at my disposal.  I love stats.  I guess I’m a stats dork, if you will.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 03/12/12 at 06:23 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Flash, I took all the stats from three sites. The first was NHL.com’s game-log and game summary sheets for what happened in Staal’s rookie season.

The with/without Malkin pace came from figuring with numbers from hockeycssi.com, where you can look up a lot of different types of stats going back to the 2007-08 season for players/teams and by strength/score differentials. The ability to look up a player’s ice time with and without any other player on the ice is huge (and can be used for teammate or head-to-head looks).

League leaders this year for goals/60 pace comes from behindthenet.ca’s player scoring breakdown.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/12/12 at 06:39 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

Thanks, Double J.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 03/13/12 at 03:11 PM ET

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