by Tony on 02/04/13 at 12:06 PM ET
What a difference five days make.
After the Penguins got absolutely embarrased by the Islanders at home this past Tuesday night, fans were ready to jump off any of the 446 bridges in Pittsburgh.
That seems like months ago now, after three decisive victories against the Rangers, Devils and Capitals have vaulted the Penguins into the Atlantic Division lead.
Chris Kunitz led the charge today with his 3rd career hat trick, and should eventually be rewarded with a fourth goal, in the Pens' dominating 6-3 win over the Caps at the Phone Booth in D.C.
UPDATE: The scoring has indeed been changed, and Kunitz has been awarded his fourth goal of the game.
So, um, what happened?
Well, if I knew that, I wouldn't be doing this crap, now would I.
But uneducated opinions from this schmuck include:
- Defense - Smothering is a pretty accurate description, by the entire unit as a whole. The Paul Martin Reclamation Project is in full swing, and it is a marvelous thing to continue to see. Whatever sort of deer antler spray he's using, it's frickin' working. They haven't missed a beat after losing Matt Niskanen to an ankle injury, and that's somewhat surprising. Recent callup Robert Bortuzzo, at least after a couple of games, appears to be the solid defensive defenseman the Penguins have needed. If Bortuzzo keeps up his solid play, and if Simon Despres continues steady improvement, that could spell the end of the road for Ben Lovejoy.
- Timing - You could just see that they were just a bit off the first several games, most likely attributed to the lack of any preseason games or realistically any training camp. Also, I want to point out that IMO timing and "flatness" are two different things. Coming out flat to me is more along the lines of a lack of intensity, rather than being rusty and not having your timing down.
- Sid - Um, if he isn't all the way there, he's damn close. Watch out, NHL scoring lead.
- Fleury/Vokoun - If Tomas Vokoun hasn't been successful in keeping Marc-Andre Fleury more focused already, I don't know what else it's gonna take. Vokoun has been outstanding so far, with a 3-1 record so far. Naturally, we're not suggesting any sort of goalie controversy, but I don't think it's outlandish to suggest that the Fleury/Vokoun tandem is right up there among the best in the NHL right now.
- Faceoffs - Winning faceoffs is often times overlooked, but it's quite simple, the more faceoffs you win, the more possessions of the puck you get. The Penguins are among the top handful of teams in the NHL right now in faceoff percentage.
- Boychuk - OK, I know, it's still very, very early in Zach Boychuk's tenure with the Penguins. But after two games, you can easily see Boychuk's talent and playmaking ability. At least for right now, he doesn't seem to be out of place with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal at all.
Not exactly everything is coming up roses for the Penguins, though.
- Power play - Statistically, the Pens look fine on the power play, 10th in the NHL at a 23.5% clip. But overall, this is still an unorganized unit. Kris Letang needs to improve as a PP quarterback, not to mention shooting more. And there is still the propensity for the Pens to make the extra, pretty pass, rather than getting the puck on net and crashing for the rebound.
- Tyler Kennedy - Frankly speaking, TK has been horrible lately, while a forward with better hands in Dustin Jeffrey is in the press box eating popcorn. I think TK needs to sit for a few games, because he certainly doesn't deserve playing time right now.
- I mentioned it during the power play section, but it also applies to even strength, with the Penguins passing up legitimate scoring opportunites to force an extra pass.
The busy schedule continues for the Pens, with games against the Islanders, Caps and a home & home series with the Devils next week.
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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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