This past weekend was not a particularly good one for the Penguins. The New York Islanders defeated the Penguins both nights of their home and home series. What was more frustrating to see though was how the Islanders dictated puck possession and shots. The Penguins essentially played the majority of both games in their own end, a recipe for defeat.
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With the loss of Pascal Dupuis for 6 months(likely the rest of the year), the Penguins are very thin on wingers right now. They only have two top 6 wingers at the moment(Kunitz/Hornqvuist), that are a legitimate talent to play top 6 minutes. I am not including Beau Bennett because I like Johnston's approach to putting Bennett on the third line. This lineup move has caught a lot of attention of fans, because Bennett certainly has the talent of a first or second line player. I agree. He has the potential to be the most skilled winger on this team.
But remember the major flaw with team last year? Shero assembled a team that regularly gave Craig Adams, Tanner Glass, and Joe Vitale legitimate 3rd line minutes. Everyone seemed just dandy when Malkin, flanked by two skilled forwards in Neal and Jokinen, dominated teams in their own zone. But once the 3rd line inevitably got crushed the next shift everyone freaked out. It was not a shock to me that the Penguins lost to the New York Rangers last year in 7 games. Why? Because the Penguins weren't that good last year!
Jim Rutherford has brought a more balanced approach to this roster. And it's working. Sidney Crosby has two points in his last 6 games, one goal in his past 11 games. That would kill last years Penguins. This years penguins are 8-2-1 during Crosby's slump, averaging 2.9 goals per game in those 11 games. That's not bad considering the circumstances.
The Penguins are sitting on a lot of valuable assets right now. They have 10 quality NHL caliber defenseman in their organization. That's ridiculous. So the question isn't if the Penguins will make a trade, it's when.
I think they should wait. After a difficult weekend against a division rival and a legitimate contender, some may panic. But why? This team is in no danger of not making to playoffs, barring significant injury. I don't think they should make any moves too soon. I don't think they should make that significant of a move truthfully. One top six winger should suffice. My ideal forward lineup this upcoming spring would be:
Maybe replace Adams with someone from WBS, but I don't think that will happen. If it were going to it would have already happened. Another problem some of you may have is playing Comeau with Malkin. I agree this is not ideal but it's unrealistic to believe the Penguins can magically land two quality wingers to play with Malkin. This team is just assembled differently than last year, which it should be.
What makes up for this weakness is the quality of the 3rd and 4th lines. But the true strength of this team is the defenseman. It is really telling that Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, and Derrick Pouliot haven't made an appearance yet this year. They're all ready to begin their career at the NHL level. Having a blue line consisting of Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Christian Ehrhoff, Paul Martin, and Simon Despres makes it pretty tough to find these youngsters a spot. Having this talent allows the penguins to dictate play no matter what line is on the ice.
It's impossible to have a perfect lineup. I have a feeling the penguins lineup may disappoint some this upcoming spring, playing either Crosby or Malkin with one less skilled/cheaper winger. And that's ok, for once.
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