By Brian Metzer
What a difference a week makes.
The Penguins kicked of their season last weekend with back-to-back victories over the Flyers and Rangers. Sadly, that hot start has since been squandered with back-to-back, leaving the team at 2-2 after four games.
The 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night wasn’t a mirror image of the loss to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, but it was similar in that the team lacked consistency. They squandered a 2-0 lead and were on their heels from the start of the second period on.
Evander Kane led the way for the Jets, scoring two goals on the evening. They also got goals from Andrew Ladd (GWG) and Dustin Byfuglien. Ondrej Pavelec made33 saves in the victory.
Here are a few key stats, thoughts and observations from the loss last night in case you missed it.
- Sidney Crosby had a pretty good night for the Penguins. He picked up two more goals; the second was of the highlight reel variety. He took a pass from Matt Niskanen in the neutral zone, cut into the zone and across the high slot where he launched a backhand shot that beat Pavelec. Credit Pascal Dupuis with going to the net and running a bit of interference. It was the type of thing that Crosby does when he is on his game. The Captain finished the evening with two goals, three shots on goal, four hits, and two blocked shots. He also won 57-percent of his face-off.
- Tomas Vokoun got the start and again looked impressive. People might point to a goal or two and say that Vokoun should have made the stops, but his performance was the reason that the Penguins were down just 3-2 until Kane scored into an empty net late in the evening. Thus far he has been everything that the team expected upon signing him.
- Simon Despres was a healthy scratch, which got the trade rumors flowing with full force. My Penguins Radio Network colleague Rob Rossi actually was one of the first to start stirring that pot early Friday afternoon as he speculated that Despres could be had in the right deal. This news is not surprising, as I am pretty sure that Despres was available in the right deal dating back to last season. Ray Shero just hasn’t found that deal as of yet. The Penguins have a TON of young defensemen and eventually those pieces need to be flipped to help other areas a la Alex Goligoski/Ryan Whitney.
- Evgeni Malkin started the season looking like the best player on the ice throughout the Penguins’ first two games. Unfortunately he has gone in the other direction during the two game losing streak. Malkin has made bonehead plays with the puck, which have resulted in giveaways. He has taken too many penalties (7-minors) and is looks like there is going to be a period of adjustment after spending 37-games in the KHL. Don’t get me wrong, he is still wheeling, dealing and getting scoring opportunities, but he is taking too many chances. He needs to keep it simple, get pucks deep and play slot-to-slot.
- Geno did do a better job of getting pucks to the net, picking up eight shots in the game. He and his linemates James Neal and Tyler Kennedy combined for 16-shots on goal in the game.
- Tyler Kennedy held played ok on the line, but it is clear that he isn’t the answer in that role. He can keep the seat warm for a few games, but hopefully it doesn’t drag on. It might be worth giving the newly acquired Chad Kolarik a look on that line. He has three times scored 20 goals at the American Hockey League level and that scoring touch could translate to the NHL. Time will tell.
- Overpassing – Not sure what the heck is going on lately, but the Penguins have become a pass happy group. They are back to making horrible drop passes in the neutral zone and at the blueline, they are passing up prime shooting opportunities for passes and it is impacting their offense. Keep in mind that no Penguins’ player other than Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby has scored a goal over the last two games.
- Seems as if Brandon Sutter’s period of adjustment is beginning now. After a few solid games he is beginning to struggle a bit in the faceoff circle and is falling into the over passing trap.
- Ben Lovejoy played in the place of Despres and acquitted himself well. I have seen some fan criticism today, but he made no egregious mistakes, got the puck up ice when given the opportunity and finished the night even. He played over 13 minutes on the night and probably earned at least another game.
The Penguins admittedly didn’t take the Maple Leafs as seriously as they should have and that also seemed to be the case with the Jets. Hopefully a day of practice today was enough to get their focus back where it needs to be. They’ll get their first chance at redemption Sunday afternoon against the Ottawa Senators.