The Pittsburgh Penguins were shutout by the Dallas Stars Saturday night, by a score of three to nothing. The Pens played a pretty lethargic game, but the Stars also played a great game and deserve credit as well.
The Pens still have the best record in the eastern conference and should end up the number one overall seed in the east for the second straight season. Fair or not, that's the expectation of this team for every season.
We all know how good Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal are. Crosby leads the league in points, and all three of them make up three of the top four leaders in points-per-game. Amazing stuff. Add in Chris Kunitz to the mix and you have three of the top ten points leaders in the NHL.
There are real concerns though. The biggest of which is the lack of scoring depth. This becomes even more apparent when Crosby and Malkin have off nights and don't produce goals for the Pens. This actually goes back to last year's Eastern Conference Finals, when the Pens got swept by the Boston Bruins. Both Crosby and Malkin went the entire series without a point. The Pens were shutout twice and lost all four games. It was an embarrassing series to say the least.
The scary thing is that Pens team had a lot more depth compared to this year's team.
This year's team is struggling badly when Crosby and Malkin have off-nights, especially when they both fail to produce a point in the same game. It's only happened four times this season, and the Pens have only won one of those four games. The Pens have been outscored 3-9 in those four games. Going back to the Boston series, the Pens are 1-7 in games that Malkin and Crosby both fail to produce a point, and have been outscored 5-21 in those games. Yikes.
The games in which only Crosby fails to tally a point is even more alarming. This season the Pens are a dismal 2-9 when Crosby doesn't register a point, and 2-13 going back to the series against the Bruins. That's not good. It truly shows just how vital Crosby's offensive production is to this team. It's funny that so many critics of Crosby use the fact that he plays for a good team against him.
Josh Yohe, Pens' beat-writer for the Tribune-Review, brought up another alarming statistic tonight.
Double yikes! The Pens' bottom six is bad. In fact they are down right terrible five-on-five especially. They can't keep the puck in the offensive zone, and they can't even pitch in one goal during over a month's worth of games. The days of having a great third line are officially over.
Brandon Sutter has been good as the team's third line center in my opinion, but he's practically had the entire Wilkes-Barre Scranton Baby Pens alternate as his wingers this season. No consistency and not a whole lot of talent to work with.
Pens' general manager has to fix this and in my opinion the Pens should actually get two gritty forwards who can produce some occasional offense. The one guy I think they should go after is Buffalo Sabres captain Steve Ott, who can score and play a damn gritty game at the same time. He's a bastard to play against, but his style of play is definitely something that is a need for this team. Ott would be a great addition despite his craziness.
Some other intriguing guys to look at would be Ryan Jones from Edmonton and Jamie McGinn from Colorado.
No matter who they go after, the bottom six needs improved drastically. As we've seen this season and in last year's playoffs, when Crosby and Malkin get shutdown this team virtually has no chance. The two-headed monster has become a double-edged sword.