I think it's time to admit that the Pens were not as good as they looked a few weeks ago. A lot of us wrote that. By the same token, it's premature to admit that the Pens are as bad as they have looked in the last three games. Nonetheless, I am a little steamed about a couple of things:
1. After Sid and Malkin were shut down by two of the best defensive teams in the league-- San Jose and Anaheim-- people clamored for a breakup of the dynamic duo. Some of us did not. Some of us figured that they couldn't score every game. Some of us saw the overall effort of all of the team's forward lines against the Sharks and the Ducks and thought if Sid and Malkin kept plugging away things would be fine. It's time to recognize that Sid and Malkin are the only two forwards on the Pens capable of playing well with one another with any consistency. It's not an ideal situation, but there should have been much greater appreciation for the fact that it was going to take time for Sid and Malkin to learn to play with one another and for Malkin to learn to play the LW and that they couldn't score every game.
2. Did anyone else notice Malkin on the PK yesterday? Malkin has not impressed me defensively. I chalked that up to his jumping between LW and C and having to think too much on the ice at 5 on 5. But, in limited PK time yesterday, I saw exactly why everyone talked about his PK prowess. He takes away passing lanes. He clears the puck. He pressures. In other words, why haven't the coaches used him on the PK until yesterday?
3. Michel Ouellet is not a panacea. I know Therrien treats him that way for whatever ungodly reason. I know he scores more consistently than most Pens forwards. But, he is slow, his defensive positioning is o'k on a good night, and he doesn't win battles along the boards. Put simply, he doesn't have the skill set to play with Sid and/or Malkin.
4. One of the consequences of all of the line juggling is that Staal has been a yo-yo. Oh, he's not playing as well as he was, but I do have two problems with the way he is being used. First, the Ekman-Staal-Recchi line (a) was stable and (b) put Jordan in a position to succeed. Second, I don't understand using Staal as the lead forechecker. With his reach and anticipation defensively, he should be used, as he was early in the season, to clog up the neutral zone.
5. With all due respect to the Moore trade, the Mark Eaton signing has been proven to be Shero's move of the offseason. The Pens defense cannot clear the puck, no longer is keeping play to the perimeter, and is a liability in transition and the offensive zone.
6. By extension, the problem with the Pens PP should be pretty obvious. Teams will make sure Goch doesn't get a clean look from the point and that Sid and Malkin are kept to the perimeter. The reason they can do this with four players is twofold. One, the other forward on the PP, whoever he is, is a non-factor on the perimeter. Two, the opposing PK has no fear about a shot from the other point (be it from Recchi, Whitney, or the other defender). A little imagination-- and perhaps Sid or Malkin on the point-- would help. Perhaps it might help to keep Sid and Malkin further apart on the PP also. It's a lot harder to attack them when they're not within 10 feet of one another. I'm not saying it will work, but, with all of the juggling, maybe trying something here would work.
7. With all of the line juggling, would someone please explain to me why Talbot and Moore-- two players who are playing with a lot of jump-- aren't getting their regular shots on the first two lines?