We thought this questions and answers post went over well last week, so we're bringing it back to add a little spice to tonight's preview. The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins are set to battle it out at Madison Square Garden tonight, for their second meeting of this shortened season. So we joined forces with PensBurgh this week for a little Q and A. If you would like see their set of questions they asked us, you can view it here.
Anyways, here are three questions regarding the Penguins.
1) Blueshirt Banter: The Rangers use Nash-Richards-Gaborik all on a top line. The Penguins have done (and still do) that with Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby. Do you see the benefits when the Penguins employ that strategy, or would you rather see them broken up?
Lately the Penguins only use Malkin-Crosby together at even strength in a pinch (down by a goal in the 3rd period) or the shift after a penalty is killed, and for good reason. It's pretty easy for opponents to get their best defensive pair and/or checking line out there to shut the stars down, then you have to wait for two or three lines without much offensive punch before things cycle back around. The benefits when you can sneak your stars out there to load it up can be great- it takes talent to play with talent- but it can be risky and result in a disjointed shuffling of lines. I think finding the balance is important, but if the chemistry of the top players is there with one another, it's hard to keep that apart.
I think it's better for the Rangers because Nash and Gaborik are natural wingers and Richards is the prototypical playmaking center. For Pittsburgh, their two stars play the same position, so it's always a little awkward (including on the powerplay) when both guys are used to going to the same spots on the ice.
2) Blueshirt Banter: Marc-Andre Feury has taken a lot of heat since the Penguins' loss to the Flyers in the playoffs last year. Is it deserved?
It's deserved because he played really bad last spring and would be the first to admit it. I think it can get out of hand, though. We all know there's quite no position like goalie where you're either the hero- which Fleury was in the Pens two run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2008 and 2009 or you're a bum that, in the eyes of many, should be traded. There's often no in between in Fleury's game- either he's on his game and playing terrific, or he's struggling and things are off the rails. That's sort of been the story of his career in terms of not really finding consistency.
3) Blueshirt Banter: Biggest pleasant surprise surprise of the season so far for the Penguins?
To be honest, at this point I can't say I have one. The stars (Crosby, Malkin, Neal) have played well but pretty much everyone else up and down the lineup has stunk. It hasn't been pretty, especially lately. I guess I could say the bright spot on the team has been that there's no drop-off in the Malkin/Neal chemistry. Any questions if James Neal's 40 goal season was sustainable has definitely been put to rest. Other than that, the Penguins still need to get a lot more, to a man, out of each and every player. Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis (the first line wingers) look very rusty and have contributed very little. The Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy third line has combined for a putrid grand total of just 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 games.
We hope you guys enjoyed this weeks questions and answers. Don't forget to check out PensBurgh for Blueshirt Banter's answers to their questions!