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Penguins Need More Scoring Than 87 + 71

Things could be worse in Penguinsland, to be sure.  Tied for the most points in the Eastern Conference, only two behind Vancouver for most in the NHL.  It’s not like things are in crisis mode, I get that.

But I was perusing the stats of the Penguins’ regular starting lineup, and while it certainly isn’t breaking news, the amount of “role players” is noteworthy.  Of course, role players are an integral part of an NHL team.  Role players help teams win a Stanley Cup.

However, I think it’s always a delicate balance for coaches and GM’s not to overload your roster with too many role players, especially if those role players don’t score other than every once in a while.

After all, you need to score to win.

The Penguins have the fortune of having two world-class forwards in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  Of course, world-class centers cost world-class money.  So in some ways it’s quite understandable in the salary cap NHL that the Penguins’ roster, particularly the forwards, will consist of Crosby, Malkin, Jordan Staal and “everyone else” for the foreseeable future.

Penguins’ GM Ray Shero has compiled quite the diversified roster, complete with all of the requisite role players that are necessary to compete for a Cup.  He’s got more than enough forward enforcers in Eric Godard, Mike Rupp and Arron Asham.  Oh sure, Rupp and Asham have their offensive flashes, but those are few and far between.  He’s got one of the top agitators in the NHL in Matt Cooke.  He’s got a line of speedy wingers in Tyler Kennedy, Chris Conner and Mark Letestu that excel in puck possession.  He’s got character ham-n-eggers in Max Talbot and Craig Adams.  And finally, he’s got Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, who for lack of better words, are “the guys who play with Crosby”.

But the reality with the majority of these players, for the most part, is that they simply do not score on a regular basis.  Let’s fact it, odds are that Crosby won’t keep up with the torrid scoring pace he’s been on.  Not trying to be overly-dramatic, but after his 25 game point streak ended, he’s gone scoreless in the last two games.  Just saying, there will be games in the final 40 that Crosby won’t be on the scoresheet, someone else has to put the puck in the net if they want to win.  Malkin is as streaky as he ever has been.  Battling through a nagging knee injury, Malkin has had flashes of his ‘09 brilliance, but the consistency still isn’t there yet.

Staal is the real wildcard here.  Not only could he be a contributor in the scoring department, but he could open up space for his new linemate in Malkin.  Naturally, it’s gonna take some time for Staal to get his timing back, but his return should really help in top six scoring.

After that, frankly it’s a crapshoot, where goal scoring comes at a premium.  Kunitz is playing his best hockey as a Penguin, with 10 goals so far.  Is he the ideal linemate for Crosby?  No, but he’s definitely holding his own.  Put it this way:  No one else (other than Malkin, obviously) has earned a chance to play on the top line.  Dupuis has 8 goals, but often goes several games without scoring.  His speed at times makes up for his lack of scoring, but one would think a top-line winger should be contributing more.  I know I for one wasn’t surprised to hear HCDB’s comments about Dupuis on the “24/7” episode recently.

The goals get rarer as we go along.  Kennedy has 5 goals, but only with one goal in his last 19 games.  After an injury-filled ‘09-‘10 season, the Penguins were hoping Talbot would rebound offensively this year.  Well, so far, Talbot has 5 goals as well, but is scoreless in his last 14 games.  The remainder of the “role players” all have under a handful of goals, the majority of which having played all 40 Penguins games.

Now of course, no one expects guys like Godard or Adams to score 25 goals a year.  In addition, some could argue that the Pens’ roster has done well for itself in this same type of setup in the past, going to four straight playoffs, a Conference championship and a Stanley Cup.  That may be true, but in the Cup year of ‘08-‘09, the Penguins had 10 players score at least 10 goals.  Unless things change for players not named Crosby or Malkin, I highly doubt that will happen this season.

Is this the year that GMRS finally pulls the trigger on a trade of one or more of his veterans for some secondary scoring help?  We’ll see, but with 8 UFA and 2 RFA players at this season’s end, this might be the year.

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  Tags: nhl-hockey, pittsburgh+penguins

Comments

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He’s got one of the top agitators in the NHL in Matt Cooke.

Cooke is more than that.  He really is one of those rare players that is good at everything but not great at anything.  To me, order of importance for forwards on the pens is Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Kunitz, Cooke.

The goals get rarer as we go along.  Kennedy has 5 goals, but only with one goal in his last 19 games.

For me, I would not mind seeing Kennedy, Goddard, Asham, or Conner go.  I wish Dan would play Rupp more.  He is the kind of guy that would flourish in front of the net on the powerplay or even on Malkin’s wing.  He played great last year, but for some reason has had a diminished role on the team this year.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 04:33 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

TK is on the 2nd Line with Geno & Ray’s Boytoy Staal is Embarrassing ! TK couldn’t finish a wet dream.

Still don’t have a Clue why Shero signed Asham ! He is a RH version of Matt Cooke, Except Asham is a more willing & accomplished Fighter were as Cooke is a MUCH better PKer, Overall though same players

Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 04:33 PM ET

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Ray’s Boytoy Staal

The problem with you is you wanted to trade Staal a while ago, and people called you out on it.  Staal gets better and better each year, and you are stuck with the problem of either eating crow or coming up with something even more ridiculous… that being that somehow he is on the penguins team because Ray Shero has some sort of loyalty to him because he drafted him.

Wake up, and realize you were wrong for thinking they should trade him, and embrace the fact that Staal is an amazing two-way player… or just keep spewing stupid phrases like BoyToy.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 04:38 PM ET

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And finally, he’s got Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, who for lack of better words, are “the guys who play with Crosby”.

Come on, there are better words. You make it sound like there’s a team, and then there’s those two filling space while Crosby does everything on his own. Probably not what you meant.

Kunitz… Is he the ideal linemate for Crosby?  No, but he’s definitely holding his own.

I disagree, he’s a perfect linemate for Crosby. His passing is ideal for Crosby, the gives-and-goes, chip plays, cross-ice passes, his speed, his forecheck creating turnovers, puck retrieval, havoc in the crease, his defensive reliability, and he just knows how to be effective with Crosby.

Whether it’s a ‘sniper’ on the other side, or Dupuis, I believe Kunitz is the right man for Crosby’s left side. He needs a mucker & grinder with skill on one of his wings. There’s a reason he’s been on Crosby’s wing every game they’ve played together, and why he’s the go to LW on the powerplay.

Posted by NathanBC on 01/04/11 at 04:41 PM ET

cs6687's avatar

Staal such a horrible player. I mean, a single Selke nomination and rookie of the year nomination in just four seasons? Pfft. It’s not like he scored a series-changing shorthanded goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals or something. Oh wait, nevermind.

Posted by cs6687 on 01/04/11 at 04:41 PM ET

Tony's avatar

We’ll agree to disagree, Nathan…. wink

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 01/04/11 at 04:43 PM ET

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Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 01/04/11 at 01:43 PM ET
Ok… but, (sorry smile )
Who or what type of player do you think would be ideal?

Still don’t have a Clue why Shero signed Asham !
Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 01:33 PM ET
He’s a ‘Shero & Bylsma’ type of player. If he didn’t sign a guy like Asham (character, physical, offensive upside), he would have to sign a player like Mike Comrie.

He is a RH version of Matt Cooke. Except Asham is a more willing & accomplished Fighter were as Cooke is a MUCH better PKer,
Why did I even try to answer when you already answered yourself?

Who or what type of player should he have signed instead?

Posted by NathanBC on 01/04/11 at 04:53 PM ET

cs6687's avatar

The Penguins are seventh in the NHL in scoring, and fifth in goals per game.  That’s with an inconsistent Malkin and average-at-best power play. Kunitz is on pace for 20 goals, Dupuis will get his 15 or so per year, and Staal will open up space for Malkin. There’s really no reason to panic.

Posted by cs6687 on 01/04/11 at 04:57 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Well, in an ideal world, Crosby needs, as you said, a sniper…. He needs a finisher…. The fact that he’s done so well without one is simply a credit to his greatness….

I give full credit to Kunitz for his production this year, it’s great to see, but I think you’d also admit that it hasn’t been the norm for him….

Now if Crosby had that sniper/finisher, then I’d have no problem with Kunitz remaining on the first line as that excellent forechecker….

I agree that of the two, Dupuis would be the one getting replaced….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 01/04/11 at 05:02 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Who’s panicking ? There’s no reason to put words in my mouth, either….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 01/04/11 at 05:03 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

gretzky_to_lemieux   well sooner or later Geno or Staal are going to be traded !! Take your pick & I’ll Make you feel better The ONLY player who is more Untouchable for Shero than Sid is Staal !! So You Will Continue to see a Real Good 3rd Line Center as a 2nd Line Center

By the way, every time Staal is elevated to the 2nd Line do to an Injury to Sid or Geno he has Failed Miserably

When your are spending 17.4 million on your top 2 C’s you CAN NOT pay your 3rd Line Center 4 Mill a year

Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 05:09 PM ET

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Now if Crosby had that sniper/finisher, then I’d have no problem with Kunitz remaining on the first line as that excellent forechecker….
Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 01/04/11 at 02:02 PM ET

Ok yeah, that’s what I was trying to get at, if the right side had the ‘right player.’

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Oh, and we’ve all forgotten the production from the blueline. Letang relieves a lot of the winger’s lower production (obviously not that it wouldn’t be great to have both), and Goligoksi, gets his points.

Add in Fleury who is also there to help balance deficincies throughout the roster.

Posted by NathanBC on 01/04/11 at 05:11 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

NathanBC   Look above ! He couldn’t sign anyone !! because of paying your top 3 C’s 21.4 Million a year + 16.25 Million a year for your top 4 D men & 5 million for MAF !! Very little Money left

Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 05:15 PM ET

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There’s a reason he’s been on Crosby’s wing every game they’ve played together, and why he’s the go to LW on the powerplay.

Umm, because on this top-heavy roster there’s no one else?

Yes, Kunitz looks good compared to players like:

—Guerin (older than Methuselah, who went from our first line to retired). 

—Recchi (who went directly from Sidney’s line to waivers just to get him the hell out of town)

And these are the “good” linemates Sidney’s had.  So saying Kunitz is the best linemate Crosby has ever had is like complimenting a girl by telling her she’s the thinnest girl at the fat farm.  It also seems to be completely forgetting the brief but (for me, memorable) tenure of Marian Hossa in a Penguin uniform.

I’ll agree with Tony—I can live with Kunitz because there is no one else, but a finisher would be needed.  And I would argue that we have seen the perfect linemate for Crosby—albeit briefly.

Let’s harken back to 2008.  The year when Marian Hossa finished third in the league in playoff scoring (right behind his linemate, Sidney Crosby.

Kunitz has played 37 playoff games with the Pens (and pretty much all with Sid) and scored a grand total of 5 goals.

In the one playoff year Hossa played with Crosby (only 20 games, mind you), he more than doubled Kunitz’s career Penguin playoff output by scoring 12 goals.  Now that’s a perfect linemate for Crosby.

As Tony said, Kunitz is okay.  But as Bylsma noted ominously in 24/7, if Dupuis is going to play up there, he’s got to do something.  Sadly this is really an idle threat because there is literally no one else . . .

I understand Hossa’s not coming back, but just wanted to point out that he and Crosby, once they got it together, were fantastic.  As surely Crosby would be if he had a player somewhat commensurate with his talent to play with regularly.  And Chris Kunitz, for all he brings, is not that. 

And I do hate the idea that Crosby will spend his whole career playing with second/third liners like Kunitz while we all pretend this is just fine, fine!  Because they do all the little things and isn’t that great.  For me, it’s not.  And it means that we won’t ever see what Crosby could really do.

At least until they trade Malkin, that is.  wink

Posted by Lex Talionis on 01/04/11 at 05:23 PM ET

Stilly's avatar

Chris Kunitz wasn’t healthy at all last season.  I really think he’s a great compliment to Sid’s game.  Kunitz is a straight line guy who plays with speed and physicality.  He’s also the only top 6 winger on the roster.  I think he’s a big reason for Sid’s streak.  Imagine Kennedy in that spot?  Yikes.  I think 14-87-9 is a good mix of speed, tenacity, and physicality.  Add Sid’s pure ability and that’s a decent line.

Lex, your analysis doesn’t take into account how Crosby has added to his game since those ‘08 playoffs.  He just doesn’t need an elite finisher.  In case you haven’t heard, 87 is a pretty good finisher himself.  What he needs are linemates to retrieve the puck and open space for him.  I think Kunitz and Dupuis are more than capable.

Posted by Stilly on 01/04/11 at 05:46 PM ET

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So saying Kunitz is the best linemate Crosby has ever had…”
Posted by Lex Talionis on 01/04/11 at 02:23 PM ET

Looks like you’re talking to me. Where did I say the above?

.
Kunitz has played 37 playoff games with the Pens (and pretty much all with Sid) and scored a grand total of 5 goals. “
In the one playoff year Hossa played with Crosby (only 20 games, mind you), he more than doubled Kunitz’s career Penguin playoff output by scoring 12 goals.

Yes, Kunitz should’ve scored more goals in the 08/09 playoffs.

But be fair with the stats:
07/08: Crosby - 20games 6goals 21assists - 27pts
07/08: Hossa - 20games 12goals 14assists - 26pts

08/09: Crosby - 24games 15goals 16assists - 31pts
08/09: Kunitz - 24games 1goal 13assists - 14pts

09/10: Crosby - 13games 6goals 13assists - 19pts
09/10: Kunitz - 13games 4goals 7assists - 11pts

07/08 Crosby passed to Hossa
08/09 Kunitz passed to Crosby
09/10 They both were closer to middle ground

I originally said, regardless of his RW, Kunitz is a perfect compliment to Crosby.

He’s the best option on the Penguins for Crosby’s LW whether Hossa’s there or not (assuming Hossa would go on the right. I’m not saying he’s a better option than Hossa overall).

Posted by NathanBC on 01/04/11 at 05:56 PM ET

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I understand Hossa’s not coming back, but just wanted to point out that he and Crosby, once they got it together, were fantastic.

I was amazing watching those two play.  I can’t even think of another player in the league that has Hossa’s scoring ability, size, speed, and defensive play that would mesh well with Crosby.  Maybe Nash, but his defensive ability would be in question.  That is what made Hossa so great, he backchecking was amazing.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 06:00 PM ET

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well sooner or later Geno or Staal are going to be traded !!

I don’t agree with that statement.  First of all nearly every team in the league is envious of our top 3 centers and there is a reason for that.

Secondly, it’s not like having your top 3 players on the team playing center prevents you from being competitive.  We have gone to the finals and won the cup with that configuration.  What about spending your money on the big three centers is a problem exactly?  Yes, it would be nice to have a winger or two that is considered to be elite, but the formula has been proven to be successful, so why mess with it?

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 06:09 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

gretzky_to_lemieux What color is the Sky in your Make Believe World ?

Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 06:12 PM ET

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What color is the Sky in your Make Believe World ?”
Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 03:12 PM ET

Hahahahaha, that’s funny.

.
It’s possible the cap goes up 3 million after this season.
Five forwards are signed for next season (add in Tangradi).
Six defensemen are signed for the next two seasons, and Goligoski for next season (add in Depres).
A couple players in the AHL are ready to contribute next season in third and fourth line roles.

And out of that a ‘scoring’ winger emerges.
Maybe even at the deadline. Trade a defenceman. Shero has a lot of options.

Posted by NathanBC on 01/04/11 at 06:21 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Most likely trade is Gogo, But what is his Cap hit ?? 1.8 million?? Do you feel comfortable with Engelland as 5th D Man & Lovejoy as 6th & Hutchinson 7th?

Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 06:26 PM ET

DigitalGypsy66's avatar

All Pens fans’ comments in here.  Amazing, and a first for KK.com! wink

There needs to be more balanced scoring, or at least the gap between Crosby and Malkin’s scoring needs to be lessened.

Posted by DigitalGypsy66 on 01/04/11 at 06:36 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

All Pens fans’ comments in here.  Amazing, and a first for KK.com!

Huh?  smile

It’s not like he scored a series-changing shorthanded goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals or something.

The sniper I paid serious money for missed. Dammit.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 01/04/11 at 06:38 PM ET

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What color is the Sky in your Make Believe World ?

What part of what i said was make believe… The part about us going to the cup finals, the part about us wining the cup, or the part about us being competitive with the three centers we have?

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 06:39 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

The part about Geno or Staal NOT being Traded

Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 06:43 PM ET

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Most likely trade is Gogo… Do you feel comfortable…”
Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 03:26 PM ET

Not really, that’s the problem. It would be simple enough to reduce the 5th d’s minutes to where Engelland is (I’d be comfortable enough with that), but that takes away the guy who’s played the second most minutes after Letang on the powerplay, not to mention his points, and he’s young, he’s only getting better and better, with a nice little contract.

So I guess I am left with being comfortable at the moment, and with the faith I have in Shero that he knows what he needs to do, as he’s shown year after year. It’s obvious to everyone that Crosby has done quite well with what he has, but that there is another level he can get to with a player who elevates him.

Posted by NathanBC on 01/04/11 at 06:44 PM ET

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The part about Geno or Staal NOT being Traded

I think you are a Flyer fan trying to create problems with Penguin fans.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 06:45 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

I think you are a Flyer fan trying to create problems with Penguin fans. & I think Crack is Really Bad for You gulp

Posted by Evilpens on 01/04/11 at 06:50 PM ET

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Crack is Really Bad for You

You don’t win many arguments do you?

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 07:14 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

In case you haven’t heard, 87 is a pretty good finisher himself.  What he needs are linemates to retrieve the puck and open space for him.  I think Kunitz and Dupuis are more than capable.

Not trying to butt in here, but I’ve got a question about this.  I haven’t been watching as many Penguins games as I did in previous years, so I’m curious about your take on this. 

What I read from a few people was that in the Islanders game that snapped Crosby’s point streak, they were able to key in on them trying to constantly feed him and shut that down, which helped shut the whole team down.

Now, I know this is one game in December without playoff implications and with some of the depth still missing, but then again, it’s the Islanders who did it.  I would imagine that playoff teams would be even more suited to not allowing Kunitz and Dupuis to accomplish their mission of opening space for Crosby to do all of the offensive work. 

Is this a valid concern?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/04/11 at 07:23 PM ET

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Is this a valid concern?

What you read was correct, but they were mostly discussing was what was going on in the third period.  At that point, it was obvious they were trying to get Crosby the puck.  Specifically on the power play, you could see Malkin motioning Crosby to go to his normal wing position.  This is not typically how the penguins play, but was a reaction to Sid’s scoring streak being in jeopardy.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 07:44 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I see; thanks.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/04/11 at 07:47 PM ET

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Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/04/11 at 04:23 PM ET

I didn’t think they ‘shut him down’ as much as others have, but they definitely took his time and space away. Bailey I believe, was in tight to him all game. He hit a crossbar in the 1st, and Dipietro made some real nice saves all game long, he played real well. In the third his linemates definitely pushed the puck toward him instead of making the ‘right’ play (though Malkin refused to pass to him at the end, he wanted to take weak slappers that went three feet over the net instead - three times).

It was one of those games where you got an inkling that “something might be off tonight” by the middle of the first. The Islanders also broke the Penguins win streak (8? 9?) I think three seasons ago, and if Pittsburgh doesn’t beat them 6-1, the Islanders always seem to pull one out over the last few years.

.
I would imagine that playoff teams would be even more suited to not allowing Kunitz and Dupuis to accomplish their mission of opening space for Crosby to do all of the offensive work.  “
I think it’s probably more neutralize Crosby, and Kunitz & Dupuis can’t create enough on their own. It’s a concern as far as what we’ve discussed above. It’s a concern when the Penguins play a team that concentrates on him (more shadow than zone or man-to-man), because then he needs others to break free, or others to make a difficult play to him once he breaks free, and Dupuis therefore is a concern. That also makes Kunitz a concern in as much as he then has to raise his game enough to make up for it.

Against Detroit in ‘09 his line struggled getting possession of the puck until Malkin got put with him at times. Malkin was able to open space for both of them, and get Crosby the puck.

I’m not too concerned overall.

Posted by NathanBC on 01/04/11 at 07:50 PM ET

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What I read from a few people was that in the Islanders game that snapped Crosby’s point streak, they were able to key in on them trying to constantly feed him and shut that down, which helped shut the whole team down.

Probably not.

What the Islanders bet on was that Crosby’s point streak was more important to the Penguins than a throwaway game against the 2nd to last team in the league, and they were right. Their strategy left plenty of good looks at the net for Malkin, Letang and Kunitz (especially in the third period and OT), which were passed up to force the puck to a not-open Crosby, so he could get a ‘touch’, resulting in turnovers.

Malkin might not be producing the way he has in years past, but leaving him with clear looks at the net is not a viable strategy for victory, imo.

I’m far more worried about aftereffects of the Steckel hit on Crosby than I am that other teams could have success against Pittsburgh using the Islanders’ strategy now that the point-streak is over and Staal’s back.

Posted by StevieSteve on 01/04/11 at 07:54 PM ET

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I’m far more worried about aftereffects of the Steckel hit on Crosby

Me too.  I would not have a problem at all if 3-4 penguins are suspended after the penguins 3rd game against Washington.  Its about time one of our “role-players” played Oveckin a little harder as well.  For some reason after these penguin/capital games, we are always discussing how a capital took some unnecessary run at a penguin.  The league never does anything about it, so its time the penguins took matters into their own hands.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 01/04/11 at 08:01 PM ET

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Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

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