While it was relieving to see forwards Beau Bennett and James Neal returning to the lineup last night, the team knows that they’re currently having trouble putting the puck in the net.
Specifically top stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Crosby, who was named the NHL’s ‘Second Star’ for the month of October, has not gotten a goal since Oct. 25 in a game against the New York Islanders. And even though he’s more known for his playmaking ability instead of goal-scoring, the captain has just five assists in the past five contests.
Malkin has had difficulty scoring all season, but not burying the biscuit in 11 games is certainly a disturbing stretch. Being without winger James Neal for a whole month might have contributed to this frustrating slump; however, what might be more alarming is that he’s not taking shots-on-goal.
In the past four games, Malkin has taken a total of four shots-on-net — one in each contest. And because he’s not firing shots at opposing goalies, he’s turned the biscuit over unbearably at the most inopportune times — leading to odd-man rushes against the Pens’ defense.
Besides winning a hard fought game against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 30, Pittsburgh has gone 2-2-0 since, and two of those victories came against the last place Columbus Blue Jackets. If the Penguins want to start winning they’ve got to start getting that two-headed monster going (Crosby, Malkin).
When Pittsburgh is at it’s best is when they take the early lead. Usually when the team is potting tallies in the early stages of the game, they prevent themselves from pressing later on. So in order for them to start registering points on the board, the first-period is crucial for the team because it resonates throughout the lineup thereafter.
The long layoffs in between games seems to have a residual effect on the offense as well. Amidst a ten-day stretch where they only play two contests, the team has seen all of two goals up on scoreboard. We saw at the beginning of the season when they were performing in more frequent contests, the team was consistently scoring, so perhaps after next Wednesday’s matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers the Pens’ will start to get the ball rolling offensively.
However, in order for that to happen Crosby and Malkin got to start producing. Crosby’s had his chances, and was close to potting a goal in last night’s loss to St. Louis, so I wouldn’t worry so much about him as you should Malkin. The Russian dynamo has got to start getting back to what he does best — scoring.
Despite his determination to become a better all-around player in terms of puck distribution, Malkin is who he is because he can score goals. The power play without a doubt wants to see him taking that rocket of a slapshot he has, because right now it misses it. Hopefully the addition of Neal back into the lineup will help spark him, but it’s imperative for him to start taking more shots.
The next game for Pittsburgh is against the Flyers next Wednesday, and it is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.