NHL

Vague Trade Scuttle and addition by subtraction

Vague Trade Scuttle and addition by subtraction

There’s a vague trade leak floating around that Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall is looking for options…just like any other GM. However, for Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman to explain it on his recent 32 Thoughts podcast, it probably means there’s a little more heat than the record average. The Penguins’ stars are shining, defensemen are turning their seasons around, and the bottom six lineup is significantly better in the less expensive setup.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. You have plenty of stuffing (not dressing) for me.

1. The bottom six shuffle, Kappy Out

It’s no fun hitting a player who’s already down. This is for the people of Twitter, who seem to revel in the macabre just to add another two cents. However, the Penguins lost Kapanen’s last eight games (0-6-2).

Ouch.

There are no easy answers, or the penguins would have applied them. There was nothing left to do but make Kapanen and his $3.2 million salary a good draft pick. Not only are the Penguins 4-1-0 since sending Kapanen out for press nachos, they’ve been a different team. The Penguins have been a defensive minded team (Chicago notwithstanding) that has gotten production from their bottom two lines.

Brock McGinn was Kapanen’s third-line replacement on Jeff Carter’s line, and the game is dramatically different. How many Grade A chances did the line have Wednesday night? five They didn’t allow any. ]

The resurgent line has also benefited from a better fourth line. Teddy Blueger, Josh Archibald and Ryan Poehling have created offensive zone time to pass to Sidney Crosby and defend the opponent’s top line, saving Crosby some wear and tear.

By the way, Crosby has been stuffing the stat sheet and was the #1 star in the NHL.

“That line has established an identity with our team, as far as how we deploy them,” Sullivan said. “We have the utmost confidence in this line and their ability to defend. They have a lot of (defensive) zone, they start to play against other teams’ front lines if we need to, and they do very well for us. They were involved offensively in this last trip by road, which is even more of an advantage.”

Looks like Sullivan pulled the plug. Without injury, Kapanen is a spectator; it’s a puzzling turn for a player whose rights were the subject of a trade bidding war.

2. D-Men Rebound Bodes very, very well

Defenses were a bit of a mess during their seven game winless streak. Trainwreck may be more apt. Brian Dumoulin was getting hit like a hired mule. Jeff Petry often zigged, when he should have zagged. Kris Letang was making more mistakes.

Marcus Pettersson is the most prominent defender and is at the top. Who saw that coming?

Pettersson’s confident appearance, combined with Petry jelling, and Dumoulin is working well in the third-pair role with Jan Rutta. Sullivan and associate coach Todd Reirden have built a strong defensive corps.

On Wednesday night, Dumoulin and Rutta were able to keep Calgary out of the fold. Tristan Jarry saw more shots and made more saves.

Like the bottom six, the pieces of the Pittsburgh Penguins puzzle were there. Sullivan had to figure out where those pesky corner pieces go.

It might not be commendable in a few months. The base seems a little shaky, but so far so good.

3. How funny are Crosby and Malkin?

Sidney Crosby’s game is not the same as it was five years ago. Ever the tactician and hockey mind, he’s got it figured out. Crosby and Jake Guentzel are even more dynamic than before. They’re making no-look passes every night, finding passing lanes that don’t exist and stuffing the net.

Evgeni Malkin has resurfaced. Yes, there’s always the nod to the ever-vocal minority of fans who take the passes to nothing. He does, yes. He’s also dancing between defenders, pouncing on loose pucks like he really wants them, and giving Jason Zucker scoring chances like a truck stop waitress making eggs and bacon.

There is a constant flow and it looks amazing.

Malkin moves better. His confidence with the puck and within the game plan is also high. He’s playing 200 feet. Imagine.

3A: Hello, Jason Zucker.

Zucker is also finally exploding on the score sheet. He is healthy and producing. His points per game total has fallen just short of the mark with recent defensive struggles, but Zucker is reading Malkin and pulling shots between the spots. He and Bryan Rust are also demon dogs in record recovery.

If only Zucker’s shot was harder, eh Jagr?

Dave Molinari asked the question: If the penguins re-signs Zucker now?

The Penguins are undefeated in regulation (7-0-1), with Rickard Rakell playing Crosby and Rust playing Malkin.

Hats off to the fans who were crazy about the initial change of those tandems. You were right.

4. Mike Sullivan is fine

There was some chatter from league sources: Mike Sullivan is done and “his bag of tricks is empty.” He has become overconfident, over-friendly with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ star players and unable to discipline them effectively.

There was a litany of theories, and the longer that winless streak went on, the more plausible those murmurs became.

However, even the PK is back in the 80% range.

It appears that reports of Sullivan’s disappearance were greatly exaggerated.

The penguins are still missing some ingredients. They could use another spark plug and some jam. The team never seems more than a breath away from another skate, but fielding a team without much freshness will. If Hextall is shopping the NHL trade market, there’s the starting point.

No, we won’t be repeating the moves of the offseason, not even signing Kapanen, although I suspect some of you are already typing. The Penguins’ fourth mark has been a wild ride of steep highs and cavernous lows. It’s better to go up at this point in the season than down.



#Vague #Trade #Scuttle #addition #subtraction

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