"Mad Monday" with @MadChad412 (Crosby and Malkin slumping, Letang struggling) - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Monday, November 11, 2013

"Mad Monday" with @MadChad412 (Crosby and Malkin slumping, Letang struggling)

Welcome back to another edition of "Mad Monday" where I get to go off on my rants in a somewhat formal manner. So far this season I haven't had much to be upset about when it comes to the actual Pittsburgh Penguins on the ice, considering that they continue to post one of the best records in the entire league.

However, the team has been struggling as of late, losing their last two games by a combined score of 7-2, facing the New York Rangers and St.Louis Blues. The Pens laid an complete egg against the Rangers, and lost to the Blues in a tough out-of-conference match-up without two of their top-four defenceman; Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi.

Some of the concerns I have with this team are pretty much the same as before. And it's what I'm mad about; secondary scoring. The Pens' lack of secondary scoring has been a huge concern and will continue to be because of the way the league is setup. The Pens have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, both of whom make over $8.7 million per-year, and as long as there's a salary cap this will continue to make a team like the Pens very top heavy.

Listen, I'm not bitching about the salary cap, I am very pro-salary cap, I'm just telling it like it is. When Crosby and Malkin aren't scoring consistently, the Pens are going to struggle to score as a team and they're going to struggle to win games. If you disagree, go ahead and take a look at last year's eastern conference finals again. Four games, four losses, zero points in all four games by Crosby and Malkin. That's not a coincidence

Now look, I hate over-analyzing these guys because they're two of the best forwards in the world, Crosby being the best player.However, it is imperative that we discuss how this team functions when they're not putting the puck in. Malkin has gone 10 straight games without a goal. During that span, the Pens scored only one goal in a game three different times, and are 4-3. During Malkin's goal drought the Pens are just 5-5.

Both Crosby and Malkin will be fine, but hey they deserve to know that Claude Giroux has more goals than both of them combined in the last week or so. With Malkin, the excuses are going to be all gone for him not producing to the level expected of him. Malkin averages 1.2+ points-per game for his career and is averaging less than a point per-game so far. Both James Neal and Beau Bennett have returned to the lineup, so Malkin has plenty to work with on his line, especially considering that Jussi Jokinen has been fantastic this year, tied for the team lead in goals with eight.

Malkin needs to score more. That's all there is to it. Malkin is going to start to make $9.5 million per-year next season, and putting in around 40+ goals is going to be the expectation for the two-time scoring champion. Right now, Malkin has just three goals on the season. That has him tied with Craig Adams and just one ahead of  Tanner Glas and Deryk Engelland, who just went changed from a defenceman to a fourth-line winger. I know people love Malkin, and there are some people out there that have an obvious bias aginst him, but you can't honestly say that's acceptable for him.

With the way the Pens are built, they can't afford for both Crosby and Malkin to go on scoring droughts at the same time, or a repeat of last year's conference finals will happen.

Speaking of not performing up to their standards, welcome back Kris Letang. Letang, who missed the first 11 games of the season, has been playing mediocre hockey since his return to say the least. Despite scoring three goals in his first eight games back, Letang has been awful in his own zone defensively and has been down right careless with the puck.

Letang already leads the Pens in giveaways, with 14, and has the most giveaways per-game average in the NFL for any player that has played more than five games. On top of that, Letang is a -4 since returning to the lineup. Here's a fancy stat for you, Letang's on-ice save percentage at 5-on-5 is the worst on the team (.854) and is the 6th worst among NHL defencemen.

Here's your friendly reminder that Letang signed a $58 million contract this past off-season. In Letang's defense, he's going to be a little rusty, although after eight games you should be back into the full swing of things. Also, the Pens signed stay-at-home defenceman Rob Scuderi to play with Letang, so that Letang would be able to play his aggressive style of defense without worrying about giving the other team so many scoring chances in return. Without Scuderi in the lineup, the Pens have played Letang with Matt Niskanen, who was having a career year until Letang came back into the lineup. Those two should never-ever be paired together.

Since Letang has been back, the Pens are 4-4 and have averaged four goals against per-game. Before that, the Pens were averaging a little over two goals per-game. Yikes.

You can go on Twitter and see jokes about Letang being stupid and not having any composure, and to be honest there is definitely some merit to all of that. Letang needs to play smarter hockey. I have no problem with him joining the rush and trying to create offense, that's the reason he makes the big bucks.

An encouraging thing is Letang's performance on the power-play. Letang has three power-play goals in eight games. Going into this season, one of the biggest criticisms of Letang, other than his turnovers and defensive breakdowns, was his lack of production on the power-play. Despite being named a Norris Trophy finalist last year, Letang only had one power-play goal in 35 games. It's unusual for a defenceman to make the kind of money Letang does without being a power-play quarterback, which rule is usually given to Paul Martin, who is currently out with an injury. It's nice to see Letang scoring on the PP.

Overall, I expect Letang to get better as the season goes on, and just as with Malkin who was given excuses because of James Neal being absent, hopefully Letang's play will improve dramatically when both Martin and Scuderi return to the lineup.

Happy Veteran's Day!

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