Bennett-Crosby Chemistry More Important Than You Think


Apr 3, 2014; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins forward Beau Bennett (19) celebrates with forward Sidney Crosby (87) after scoring a goal during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

So far, Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Beau Bennett has performed exceptional since returning to the lineup.

Collecting three points (2G, 1A) in four games since being reinserted from a lengthy wrist injury, Bennett recently made his comeback to the top-line in last night’s tilt against Winnipeg, where he was slotted originally before suffering his latest frustrating ailment.

Although some may consider Bennett’s third goal of the season last night to be borderline power play/five-versus-five, he did receive a nice setup dish from captain Sidney Crosby, which was more important.

It’s obvious to state that Pittsburgh needs secondary scoring via their last two pairings, in order to ease the pressure off the top-six, but for the Pens’ playoff longevity purposes, it will come down to Bennett and Crosby’s chemistry moving forward.

Look, I recognize the inability to produce on the bottom two lines just as much as you do, but we all have to come to grips with the fact that Pittsburgh’s a two-line show now. The Penguins don’t have a Jordan Staal or a Max Talbot to backstop Crosby and Malkin’s respective units anymore.

There’s still a small hope that Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak could be the reinforcements they need, however, the Pens’ success depends on the ice-relationship between Bennett and Crosby.

Malkin and James Neal show no issues whatsoever in chemistry – and for that matter Jussi Jokinen. So, if Bennett and Crosby can develop an instant connection, Pittsburgh will be better off in the long-run. Stempniak has filled the right-wing void on the top-line pretty efficiently in Bennett’s absence, but I like how head coach Dan Bylsma is going back to Bennett executing top-three duties.

The Pens’ must receive goal-scoring from Bennett. The supporting cast desperately needs his offensive prowess. And Bylsma knows the only way to make that happen, is to place him in the top-six, because, let’s face it, he’s no use to them on the third-line. That way, Sutter can benefit off the flexible qualities that Stempniak presents.

Crosby hasn’t had a go-to scorer – except Kunitz – on his line since the days of Marian Hossa. And when Hossa was rostered, he and Crosby formed a dynamic tandem, which ultimately propelled their offensive consistently on the top-line. While it’s imperative to maintain a steady defensive game, and focus on preventing opposing goals in bunches, Pittsburgh’s greatest asset is their scoring.

If you’re reviewing how the Penguins got eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, they couldn’t escape repetitively drawing goose eggs on the scoreboard. Granted Bruins’ goaltender Tuukka Rask was absolutely shutting the door on Pittsburgh, but with the offense the Pens’ own, there’s no excuse for not scoring more than two goals that series.

Point being, is that if Bennett starts to gain rhythm with Crosby, the Penguins have a better shot at claiming the elusive chalice at season’s end. However, should they be on the wrong page, it could be a long postseason for Pittsburgh.

What I’ve observed thus far though, it’s progressing nicely.

Pittsburgh’s got the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. The game can be seen on the ROOT Network, and is set to start at 8 p.m.