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Mark Madden

LEGIT CONCERNS

 
Posted March 1st, 2013 @ 1:10pm

No need to panic about the Penguins. 13-8 = GOOD. Atop the division = GOOD.

But there are legit concerns.

*LAZY PLAY. The Penguins committed five penalties in their 4-1 loss at Carolina. That's still too many. The Pens finished second in just about every race to the puck. They look spoiled and entitled. Their only emotion is frustration.

*SOFT PLAY. Carolina dominated the ice around the Penguins' net. Marc-Andre Fleury looked like he was in the middle of a mosh pit. Fleury played very well. But he kept getting jammed into the net. Buried in the blue.

*PREDICTABLE PLAY. Watch the Penguins' breakout: Short D-to-D pass, then funnel it to the middle; or short D-to-D pass, go up the boards, then funnel it to the middle. Watch the Pens in the attacking zone: Gain the blue line, go down the boards, pass it cross-rink. The breakout is incredibly predictable; the East-West play in the offensive zone a bit less so, but it still repeats itself too much.

Foes have the breakout clocked. They watch video. They sit there, waiting. Carolina got two chances directly off intercepting passes in the Pens' slot.

Going East-West in the offensive zone works just often enough that the Penguins don't see a problem. Consider Sidney Crosby's pass to Chris Kunitz for the Pens' goal: Great cross-rink dish. Tape-to-tape. Kunitz buries the one-timer.

It worked. In the first period. Then didn't work again.

The Penguins play too much by rote. Get your head up and create. Hockey is not paint-by-numbers. The Pens need a Plan B, and a Plan C.

These Penguins remind me of the '91 team. There's a Stanley Cup-winner in there somewhere. But it needs a shakeup.

The third and fourth lines don't compete. The defense is candy-ass. There's too much commitment to talent and finesse on the Penguins, and not enough understanding the reality of hockey. It's a TOUGH GAME.

This isn't about lacking a top-four defenseman, or a top-six winger. This might be about lacking BALLS.

I'm convinced more than ever that the Penguins need a pragmatic veteran presence in the locker room. Brooks Orpik is the team's conscience. But they need a guy with credibility and charisma to stand up and point the way.

Crosby isn't that guy. He's a good captain, but he's like Mario Lemieux. He mostly just wants to play. The Pens need a supplementary leader. More than just leadership by example. Bill Guerin was a great complement to Sid.

If the Pens have a PR problem, it's suffering by comparison to the Chicago Blackhawks. 13-8 is terrific. But it's not 17-0-3.

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