Just Sayin'....

The Penguins looked like their old selves for the second period against Carolina. All of the lines were humming, and even though the Canes were playing a pretty good game, the Pens were no match for them. It’s tough to beat a team when their 4th line center (and one of their lead pugilists) makes a move on an All Star goalie that makes him look silly. Mike Rupp might as well have had his number reversed – he looked more like Malkin on that play than a mere 4th line center/winger. Having Godard and Rupp on that line is a luxury if you need to fight. But having Rupp for the playoffs is even better. He can enforce…and play the game of hockey: a rare mix.

But this is where I digress.

Some of the key players of the Penguins haven’t really been playing hard. When I say key, I’ll give you this list: Malkin, Crosby, Guerin, and Gonchar. The statistics don’t show this to be a horrible performance by Malkin, since he leads the Penguins in scoring with 9 points. But he’s a guy that I remember flying out there just months ago. No way he should have -1 plus/minus at any point in time. He played well in Carolina, but put in very minimal effort in the other games. It is very reminiscent of Lemieux: he could play the whole game with average effort level, barely be seen, but next thing you know you look at the score sheet and he has two or three points. I think it just speaks to the talent level of these two great players.

Crosby and Guerin will be lumped in the same boat here, since I would not be surprised if Guerin hasn’t taken the lead role in this development. I’m sure Billy has taken Crosby aside and said ‘Kid, don’t burn out. You just won the Cup, you’ve played more games over the last 2 years than anyone. You have the Olympics coming up. And then we go play hard to win the Cup again. Relax. Play hard – but nothing excessive. It’s the long haul.’ And I am not going to say this as a criticism. It should be much more important to us as fans to have the Penguins ready to go in March. I know Crosby would love to have the scoring lead every year, but I think he has realized what is important: championships. These two will be ready to go when the time comes.

And Gonchar (and Orpik by default)? He’s a -5 on the season, with his defensive partner a -3. A minus five! Now, it is just a seven games into the season, but that trend is a little bit disturbing. No player of Gonchar’s ability should be at this level. I know he has been really ill during the last couple weeks though, so maybe the aberration is a result of that sickness.

In the end, no one should be overly critical of the Pens. It is way too early to be concerned (unless of course the Pens were 1-6 and not 6-1). But despite the youth, this is a veteran team now. They understand that this is a marathon and not a sprint. It might actually be a good thing that the Penguins have not remotely been on full throttle, and they are still beating the best teams in the East. I’m just suggesting that some of the Penguins are ‘taking it easy’. And that is probably a very good thing.

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