Dec 9, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma (right center) talks to defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) and defenseman Kris Letang (58) and center Brandon Sutter (16) during a time-out against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When Healthy, This is How the Pens' Lines Should Look


 

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ jumble their lineup during the game more than any other team I have watched this season.

Part of this has to do with the injuries that have plagued them seemingly every week, and some of the adjustments have to do with putting the appropriate players on the ice to match-up with the opposition.

However, some players shouldn’t even be in the lineup at all, and it bothers me. That, or they don’t belong on the line they’re assigned to.

Balancing out the pairings is important. It creates more opportunities to capitalize, diminish mistakes, and win.

If I had it my way, Pittsburgh’s lines would look something like this:

Forwards

  1. Kunitz-Crosby-Megna
  2. Jokinen-Malkin-Neal
  3. Gibbons-Sutter-Bennett
  4. Glass-Sill-Vitale

Defensemen

  1. Letang-Scuderi
  2. Niskanen-Maatta
  3. Martin-Engelland

This is all based on performance this season. And despite how awful Letang has played, he’s still an important piece to their power play. That, and I just don’t see the team sitting him, given the size of his contract.

When you look at the lines, notice that defenseman Brooks Orpik and forwards Craig Adams and Taylor Pyatt are missing.

Adams and Orpik have gotten props for being excellent penalty-killers. I don’t know about you guys, but I have yet to see that. Both of them are a combined minus-12, and just because they log most of their minutes shorthanded, doesn’t mean they’re good penalty-killers.

Yes, they sacrifice their bodies, and are superb shot-blockers, as-well-as forecheckers; however, that only goes so far. They’ve each looked sluggish. And in a league where speed is a strong determining factor towards the outcome, both look like age is catching up with them.

I have the utmost respect for the two of them. Their contributions throughout the years with Pittsburgh have been memorable and vital, but this season, the performance-level is clearly down.

As for Pyatt, sure he’s got size, but is he a good fit? See what I did there (ha-ha).

Exiled from the New York Rangers a few weeks back, Pyatt has been shuffled around the lineup since he’s been with Pittsburgh. He is playing better with time, I’ll give him that. However, like with Adams and Orpik’s case, he’s slow.

His play might be fine for the regular-season, but as for the playoffs, I’m not sure how he’ll be effective. Because he’s had little time to understand the system, I will cut him some slack, and assume he’s due to improve with more game-action. However, the Olympics are going to intrude on his development.

Feel free to disagree with my choices, everybody has their opinion on how the lineup should look, but the pairings are what I feel gives the best chance at winning.

Either Gibbons or Megna will probably be sent down at some point, Sill is no guarantee to return – even though he should – and Adams and Orpik are going to keep being rolled-out there.

The one aspect that’s good out of all of this, is that they have options. And depth is always beneficial.

Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Pivot

    What the heck are you Pens fans complaining about? You have a 15 point lead on the division and 7 points on the next team (Boston) in the conference. It’s not good enough to be the top team in the East? I’m sure Shero will grab someone at the deadline to load up his top 9 with scorers like he does every year. Oh and Pyatt played for the Rangers last year in which Tortarella was the coach. Torts uses the same strategies & systems as Bylsma. 2-1-2 forecheck and a zone defensive zone coverage. Low zone collapse when the puck is below the hash marks. Maybe he will get it this time around because he was pretty bad in NY.

    • Johnny

      The regular-season doesn’t mean anything. You should know that.

    • TomD

      A pattern seems to have developed with this team . . . finish at or near the top of the standings during the regular season . . . then perform poorly in the playoffs. This year is shaping up, in many respects, to look like recent years, granted that the injury situation has been worse this year. Injuries have had a major impact on the team’s consistency. Inconsistency in the regular season, whatever it’s source, can be overcome; during the playoffs it is much harder. And based on his performance in recent years, who knows how Fleury will play in the playoffs and the backup situation in goal is even less certain this year.

      I would not be at all surprised, given the way the team is performing from game to game now, for the Penguins to finish first in the Eastern Conference and lose in the first round of the playoffs. Hope that doesn’t happen, but that would not surprise me in the least.