Penguins notebook: Crosby-Malkin pairing could get more ice time
Despite not producing a goal, the line pairing of superstar Penguins centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on Saturday received high marks from teammates and coach Dan Bylsma.
“They were in the offensive zone buzzing all night,” winger James Neal said of the two players who have combined to win four of the past eight NHL scoring titles.
Crosby and Malkin skated with winger Chris Kunitz during a 3-1 win against Columbus in Game 5 of the Penguins' first-round playoff series.
But it wasn't so much the performance of “The Two-Headed Monster” itself Saturday that could portend its reemergence as this postseason progresses. It was that the Penguins' other lines also had strong games.
Bylsma was pleased both with the “bottom six” forwards and a second line of Neal, Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen.
“I thought they were very good in Game 5 as a line, as a group,” Bylsma said while eight players took part in an optional practice. “And that almost gave you more confidence to look for times and ways to have Sid and Geno and Chris Kunitz play together as a group (in the future).”
Crosby, Malkin and Kunitz accounted for 25 shot attempts Saturday — albeit some of that coming during power plays (Crosby assisted on a Kunitz power-play goal). Neal, Jokinen and Sutter combined for 17 shot attempts — and Sutter assisted on Jokinen's winning goal.
The team's other six forwards — playing in some different combinations over the course of the game — combined for 14 shot attempts.
Penguins excel in 5-on-5
The Penguins weren't too much better than an average team at 5-on-5 during the regular season. They didn't have to be — not with their power play and penalty kill both ranking among the NHL's best.
During the playoffs, though, Bylsma believes that even-strength play is “when we've been at our best.”
The Penguins were dominant at it during Game 5, outshooting Columbus, 39-20. They have outscored the Blue Jackets, 9-6, during this series when each team has five skaters on the ice. During each of the Penguins' losses in the series, they produced just one 5-on-5 goal. During each of their three wins, they enjoyed long stretches of controlling the play at even strength. “We've done a good job of playing 5-on-5 and even doing a good job of eliminating their forechecking opportunities with the way we've played with the puck and played in the offensive zone,” Bylsma said.
Finally, a safe 3-1 lead
The lack of ability for either team to hold a lead during this series has bordered on the comical.
So Bylsma took the opportunity at the podium Sunday to crack some one-liners about it.
“We were pretty proud of holding a 3-1 lead for (one minute and one second), because that's been pretty hard to do in this series,” Bylsma said, referring to the small period of time after Kris Letang's empty-net goal in Game 5. “So we're going to take pride in that and say we've changed the trend.”
Bylsma also suggested — tongue-in-cheek — that the Penguins were happy to let Columbus score first in Game 5.
“We actually had a joke,” Bylsma said, “maybe should just give them the 1-0 lead before the start of the game.”
Around the boards
Bylsma provided no update on injured players other than to confirm that defenseman Brooks Orpik is out with an injury. … Defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Rob Scuderi were the only players who appeared in Saturday's game to take part in an optional practice Sunday. Backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff and forward Brian Gibbons (upper-body) took part. Orpik did not.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
- Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
- New Pens winger Fehr ready for defense-first role
- Reliving the moment a decade ago that shifted the Penguins' history
- Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
- Penguins to appear on national TV 18 times in 2015-16
- Sutter: Staal effect felt on 3rd line with Penguins