Tony Ferrante oragnized a roundtable of Pens bloggers over the summer to discuss the Penguins and he’s at it again. This is the second installment, one-third of the way in to the season. Below are the list of bloggers that are participating in the second installment:
Sean Leahy (SL) – Going Five Hole
Chris Wassel (CW) – The Program
FrankD (FD) – Pensburgh
Stephanie (ST) – The Steel City Sports Fan (Penguins Edition)
Hooks Orpik (HO) – The Sweater Ted
Greg Wyshynski (GW) – Puck Daddy, Yahoo! Sports Blogs
Chris Gates (CG) – Pittsburgh Puck Talk
Seth Rorabaugh (SR) – Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Empty Netters
Matt Bodenschatz (MB) – Faceoff Factor
Brian Metzer (BM) – Hockeybuzz.com
Jesse Marshall (JM) – Faceoff Factor
Pensblog Staff (PB) – The Pensblog
Tony Ferrante (TF) – Kukla’s Korner/The Confluence
1. Taking the plethora of injuries so far this season into account, what grade would you give the Penguins’ overall performance and why ??
(SL) I’d give it a B+. As frustrating as it’s been to see a handful of games lost from collapses, there’s nights where, despite the numerous injuries, the Pens look scary good. This can only be encouraging and make me wonder how solid this team can be once they are finally healthy.
(CW) Looking past all the injuries and I mean all the injuries folks was tough. The Penguins are actually doing a bit better than what I expected, especially since Gonchar and Whitney were out from Game 1. At 16-9-4, they are in the playoffs if the season ended today. I had them 8th in the East until Whitney came back. But with the additional injuries to Gill and Fleury expectations do have to be tempered some. Right now I am giving the Pens a B-, a bit above my expectations but I do think Therrien needs to manage this team better. There were times particularly in the Devils 4-1 win over them Wednesday night where Therrien kind of brushed off the teams’ lack of discipline at times. That may be something to look out for as the season goes on.
(FD) Man, that’s a tough question to start things off. I guess if I had to grade the Pens I’d give the whole team a ‘B.’ As far as I’m concerned the team has been playing at an average level of play but has the [obvious] potential to really step on the gas. The fact that they are winless in the division come December, after starting it off undefeated (in regulation), says a lot. Then again the Pens were not fairing too well in the division last year either but eliminated two Atlantic rivals from the playoffs. So really, as long as they all get on the same page and the injuries take a break this can reverse itself easily.
(ST) B-. POSITIVES: Once again they’ve overcome the obstacles of all the injuries since the beginning of the season and proven to be a better team than everyone gave them credit for, especially since this is their best start since 1995, which is truly a great accomplishment considering all of these adversities. Players like Crosby and Staal were off to slow starts this season which appears to be typical of seasons past, but have made great contributions to the team since recently overcoming their slumps, especially Crosby, who is second in the league in points. Lastly, Malkin continues to be a big asset for the team and comes through for them time and time again. If it was not for him, I do not think the Penguins would be in the position they are within their Conference.
NEGATIVES: The powerplay has been a real problem for them and is still something they continue to struggle with. They are really not as physical as they should or could be especially with the absence of Kennedy who is good for racing to the corners and along the boards to fight for the puck creating greater puck posession and control. With all the players they lost, I believe that not having Ryan Malone has had the biggest negative impact on the team since there really has not been a sufficient replacement to stand and score goals in front of the net like he was successful at.
(HO) If you compare the NHL season to a horse race, at this point we’re just coming out of the first corner. Doing great now (see 2007-08 Ottawa Senators) means nothing if you fall flat. All a team really needs to do is hang in the pack and position themselves for the stretch run. I guess I would give the Penguins about a “B”, I think they’re about where they want to be, especially considering Marc-Andre Fleury’s been out for almost a month now.
(GW) Giveʼem a B. The injuries to the defense and to Fleury are substantial, and to be sixth in the conference as of Sunday is an accomplishment. That said, the special teams have been middling and inconsistent, as has the coaching. And the top four scorers have more points than the other 18 combined. Thatʼs a slight problem with offensive balance, me thinks.
(CG) B +. About two weeks ago this grade might have been an A. However, the Pens have struggled severely over the last few games. It seems that the injury bug is catching up to the team and leadership is needed at an all-time high. Thus, I give the Pens a B +.
(SR) B. Prior to their little skid here as of late, they were off to the second-best start in franchise history. To accomplish that without their top two defensemen and their franchise goaltenders is a bit of a minor miracle.
(MB) I would have to give the Penguins a B, as they have stayed afloat, despite a recent drop in the standings. Anytime a team has extreme injury issues, it’s difficult not to be impressed with a strong start. I fully expect that, once Marc-Andre Fleury, Ryan Whitney and others return, this team will, once again, be among the elite in the East.
(BM) Though it hasn’t been all peaches and cream, I think that we have to be very pleased with what the Penguins have accomplished to this point of the season. Not only did they lose a number of regulars from last year’s team, but also are missing arguably their top two defensemen, their number one goaltender and a smattering of other contributors. Considering where they rank in the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic division I think it is fair to give them a B- to this point.
(JM) I’d give them a B. They’ve done very well without the services of some key players, but ultimately there’s no excuse for failing to close out games where you have a big lead. Putting together a full 60 minute effort is the thorn that prevents this team from being among the top teams in the NHL.
(PB) We’ll go with a B-minus. An “A” would entail not blowing some of those third-period leads.
(TF) Overall, I give them a B-. They’ve done well keeping their head above water while Gonchar and Whitney are out, as well as Sabourin for Fleury. While I acknowledge they’ve started with nearly their best record in team history, they could have had about 6-8 more points if they didn’t take their foot off the throats of their opponents.