Penguins Notes: Too much Sid?

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Click here to read the Winnipeg Free Press article.

Mr. Lawless states that the Pens have interest in three forwards: Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler. He goes on to say that Pittsburgh might not have the young forwards Winnipegs wants in return, and only has defensemen to offer the Jets.

“Cheveldayoff, however, won’t get a forward of equal value in return. The Penguins have young defencemen to give but Winnipeg is looking to add forwards, not shed them.

The name Olli Määtä came up in a number of conversations Monday, but it’s roundly believed he’s untouchable. Shero views him as a top-pairing defender for the next 10 years and isn’t interested in moving him.

From this perspective, that’s the only name that gives a trade between the Jets and Pens any traction.”

Whether or not the Penguins ultimately do a deal with Winnipeg, it might be time for general manager, Ray Shero, to find another top-six forward. Sidney Crosby has an engine like no other; he’s been called a Ferrari in the past. But the middle of April isn’t the ending point for the Penguins, it’s the beginning.

Having a fresh and healthy Crosby ready for the playoffs should be one of Pittsburgh’s main objectives right now. Limiting his ice time and adding quality forward depth will go a long way toward achieving another Stanley Cup.

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Sidney Crosby hasn’t missed a game, playing in all 41 contests for the Pens. He’s on a pace for 44 goals and 112 points. The most he’s ever totaled was 116 points, when he won his one and only Art Ross Trophy in 2006-07. Crosby captured the scoring title at 19 years of age and remains the only teenager to win the title.

Quite frankly, he’s playing like the Terminator. Nothing can get in his way, nothing can stop him – not even a Marc Methot hip check can knock him from the game.

Physically, he’s at the peak of his career.

But there are some areas where Crosby’s game has lagged, most notably in the faceoff circle. Crosby is averaging 51.8 percent in the dot. Surprisingly, the 51.8 mark mirrors his nine-year career average, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In the last four seasons, Crosby has averaged 55.9, 55.7, 50.1 and 54.3 percent, respectively. He’s worked hard to improve in that area of his game, but this year his numbers are getting worse by the month – 53 percent in October, 51.9 in November and 50.2 in December. Perhaps the decreasing success rates are nothing more than a blip in his game.

A sub-.500 faceoff record in eight of his last nine games against the Boston Bruins could come back to haunt Crosby and the Pens in the postseason, however.

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One area that definitely is more than a blip is his huge time-on-ice totals. Crosby saw 18:28 TOI in 2011-12 and 21:06 TOI in 2012-13. This year he leads all NHL forwards with more than 22 minutes (22:11) of ice. He also sees more time than any other centerman or winger at even strength. Only Crosby (17:21) and Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin (17:02) average more than 17 minutes of even-strength time.

Fortunately, Crosby’s times have tapered somewhat as the season has worn on: 22:52 TOI (October), 21:59 (November) and 21:43 (December), respectively. Interestingly, he sees 21:30 in wins and 23:50 in losses.
If winning a Stanley Cup is ultimately the Penguins’ primary goal, then coach Dan Bylsma needs to closely monitor Crosby’s ice totals.

Losing Pascal Dupuis hurts Pittsburgh’s depth and Bylsma will need to make sure Crosby doesn’t see even more playing time with one less top-six forward at Pittsburgh’s disposal. The Olympics in Sochi will also prove to be a grind, both mentally and physically for Crosby.

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So far, plenty of things have gone right for the Pens in 2013-14. Marc-Andre Fleury has yet again rebounded from a poor postseason, Pittsburgh’s main competitors, such as Philadelphia and the Rangers, haven’t played up to expectations, and the newly-aligned Metropolitan Division, in general, has proven to be the weakest in either conference.

Most amazingly, the Pens have withstood the loss of their top-four defensemen and haven’t missed a beat. That’s one aspect that merits recognition and appreciation of the front office on down. Some might discount the Pens’ success by looking at the teams they’ve beaten — and that’s also true – but there’s no denying the team has handled just about every obstacle thrown in its path.

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Heading into Monday’s action, the leading point-getter among Penguins defensemen was Matt Niskanen, with 18. That placed him in a tie for 28th among all blueliners. Olli Maatta ranks second on the Pens with 12 points, 58th among defenders. Who said good teams need high-scoring defensemen to win?

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The Penguins have a .615 winning percentage (16-9-1) when outshooting opponents and an .857 mark (12-2) when they get outshot.

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Treasure Life!
JT

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