Lots of Penguin action this weekend with back-to-back home afternoon games on Saturday and Sunday. It was a nice looking home stand for the Pens as they won both games outright and took over the number one spot in the Atlantic division. No Sid the Kid, no problem as plenty of other’s have stepped their game up in the captain’s absence.
Pens were the only action in town this weekend, but gotta show some love to the ‘Stache and his Pitt football program. Wannie had one heck of a recruiting class this year with 14 recruits coming from Pennsylvania (9 from WPIAL/ 6 of the top 11 in the state). This was such a good recruiting year that it was best in the Big East, and ranked No 25 in the nation by Scout.com and 29th by Rivals.com.
It is good to see Wannie’s hiring paying off with three solid draft classes in a row. Pitt definitely went entirely too long without recruiting players from the area, especially the WPIAL (where there is plenty of talent to go around). The QB position will be the biggest concern, with Bill Stull, Pat Bostick, and JUCO transfer Greg Cross all in the mix. Getting back Derek Kinder and adding 6’5” recruit receiver Jonathan Baldwin will certainly help the cause of whoever is chosen to be the signal caller.
Note from Diego: Pitt athletic directory Steve Pederson has decided to lower season ticket prices in order to sell out Heinz Field for Pitt football games this season. Pretty smart if you ask me as its always good to have that extra home field advantage. It’s a lot easier to get fired up playing in front of a full house as opposed to a half empty stadium.
No Sid, No problem
Those were two great games this weekend by our Pens. Here’s hoping that Geno’s parents stay in Pittsburgh forever, if that is the way he is going to always play whenever they are watching in person(7 points in two days). Also, winger’s Sykora and Malone are both increasing their production as well. Malone is just bullying players from around the opponent’s goal, especially with the man advantage; while Sykora is finding open ice and has been on the receiving end of a lot of Malkin’s assist’s. The chemistry between these three players has led Pittsburgh to three victories in a row at home, and given them 1st place in the Atlantic division.
So is it just me or is it a little weird how the Pens are now scoring like madmen on their power play? Part of the reason may be that the team is playing with a chip on their shoulder because many believed they would struggle to keep their composure with Crosby out with injury. Now the Pens are playing great hockey, and Sid is ahead of schedule and is practicing already with the team. As reader Benny’s Ghost suggested in the comments, with Sid due back in the lineup and Gary Roberts and the Flower coming back as well, Shero and Therrien have to make some tough decisions lying around the corner.
The first line- LW- Malone C- Malkin RW- Sykora
Malkin had 33 goals in 78 games played last season, but this season he already has 31 goals with 26 games remaining. Malkin had only 5 goals per month in October through December, but in January he had 13 games played, 12 goals, and 5 assists. So far this month he’s been equally impressive scoring 4 goals and 11 assists, in only 5 games played. There are 9 games remaining this month and Malkin hasn’t showed any signs of slowing down as he constantly looks like the best, and fastest, player on the ice, no matter who the opponent. Furthermore, scoring from Malone and Sykora has also increased, along with the team’s power play that is now ranked 3rd in the NHL. (scoring on 21.2% of all PP’s).
This is the line Therrien has been looking for all year, and breaking them apart right now would be silly. It is unlikely that this line will keep producing on the same pace it is right now; but it still makes sense to keep Malkin and Sid on different lines, once Sid returns. One reason that its important to keep the two superstars split up is so teams can’t stack all their best defensive players on one line against them both. The question remains, which other player’s should Therrien pair up with Sid?
That answer to that question may not be so simple, but Colby has shown some chemistry and scoring ability when playing along the Kid. As for left wing that may be a little trickier as the line of Staal, Christenson, and Talbot has also been playing very well together as a whole. As reader Beanie suggested, players like Sid make everyone around them better, just look how Lemieux did it with Bob Erray. Should the Pens give Kennedy a shot on Sid’s line? Or do they need more firepower then just Armstrong and TK? What about Roberts? He could fit in well with Sid. We will have to wait a couple weeks to have this question answered, but who knows by then Shero might make a move that shakes up the whole roster. This leads me to my next topic the trade deadline.
Trade Deadline- February 26
Last year it was ‘Scary’ Gary Roberts and Georges Laraque, who will it be this year? There has been plenty of talk about Ray Shero wheeling and dealing at the trade deadline again this year, but there hasn’t been any action yet. Who is the most expendable?
With the improved play of Malone and his emergence into a 20 score threat, does this mean that Staal could be on his way out the door? As Tim Benz stated on his morning show on 105.9 the X today, its not like they are going to get a scoring winger for Taffe and a bag full of pucks. If the Pens wanna make a move chances are they are going to have to give up some young talent, and Staal and Fleury have been two of the names coming up most frequently.
My belief is that Staal should go before Fleury, I would hate to see him leave but Sabby as the back up goalie in the playoffs is down right scary. On the other hand I don’t wanna just get a rent-a-player for one season because it wouldn’t be worth giving up such quality young talent for one shot at a title. What do you think the Pen’s should do?
Note from Snack - I still think we should try and get Hossa from Atlanta, as a line of Crosby - Hossa - Armstrong along with a Malkin - Malone - Sykora line looks pretty damn good heading into March...