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Penguins should have had Sid's back more + Malkin's impossible situation

May 13, 2022, 11:54 AM ET [309 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Tonight is a big game. It goes without saying when you find yourself in a Game 6 the stakes are high. They are a little higher than normal. Whether we realize it or not tonight could be the last home game for both Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. I’m a little upset typing that right now. There will be other times to break down those situations. I did think it is worth pointing out.

The team is likely going to be without Sidney Crosby after Jacob Trouba’s head shot.

The response by the league and the team went predictably and both got it wrong. Trouba should have been suspended. It would be one thing if it was a stand-alone incident, but it wasn’t. The coach called his team soft. The player in question took an elbowing penalty on the leading goal scorer in the series 25 seconds into the game and then took out the #1 center with another high hit. He has a history of going high on other star players. It was transparent what was going on. There was no hearing. The league is inept. We know this already.

The Penguins showed no gamesmanship here. They did the ol’ they go low we go high thing which isn’t going to do anything for them. Mike Sullivan needed to take his captain’s back. He needed to come out aggressively pointing out the chain of events that happened. If you can’t go all-in for Sidney Crosby then what exactly are we doing? Take the fine. Make Lebron or Wally the Green Monster pay it. This isn’t just on Mike Sullivan. Where is Brian Burke in all this? He doesn’t have an opinion on the situation? He has an opinion on everything and he has a history of letting everybody know about it. That’s his thing. I knew the league would screw this up. I am disappointed the Penguins did, too. They should have taken their fines and ripped into the league.

With Sidney Crosby out, it opens the door for Evgeni Malkin to play with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. Geno had two assists last game and his first one game immediately after being placed with Guentzel. People commented how he looked better that game. Well, of course he did. He had better linemates. He’s 35 years old and for the first 4.5 games he had to play with Kasperi Kapanen. A very limited player with a specific skillset.

We are 16 years into Malkin’s career and people still don’t grasp the entire quality of teammate thing. There’s also the fact people have no ability at all to have one iota of nuance when talking about it. It can be true that Sidney Crosby is better than Evgeni Malkin, but also that he gets the best resources available. This impacts other players. When Sid went down with his concussion Malkin won the MVP the next year with a steady diet of Chris Kunitz, James Neal, and Kris Letang. A few years back when Sid missed an extended amount of time people were gushing about how great Malkin was playing. He had 74 points in 55 games. The three most common skaters he was with that year? Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and Kris Letang. This year it has been Kasperi Kapanen, Danton Heinen, and Mike Matheson. Pointing out these legitimate factors in Malkin’s play does not excuse him from turnovers or bad penalties. Those remain bad because doing those things are bad. Let’s not pretend the great doesn’t dwarf the other stuff. Let’s also understand the great comes out more often when he gets a little more help in the form of talented linemates. I expect a big night from Geno Machino tonight. He has to or he will take all the blame. Anything short of three points in a victory and people will be out to get him.

Louis Domingue’s save percentage in the series is right on .900. If his save percentage keeps a nine in front of it the Penguins have a decent shot to take Game 6. If it has an 8…

It might not matter, though

I lied, it will matter. Despite Jarry being the first goalie on the ice he will not be returning tonight. Per Mike Sullivan. It is Domingue's net.

Here are the lines today:

No surprise with the top line. We knew it would be this way.

I like the move of Rodrigues to center. He can skate. They need skaters in the middle if their lineup has less skill with Rakell and Crosby missing.

I don’t love Zucker being with Carter due to Carter being a complete liability out there at 5v5 for most of the season and definitely so far in this series. Perhaps they think Zucker can elevate him. I would have used Zucker and Heinen with Rodrigues. Even if one is on their off wing it is a better situation to do that than play with Carter. He’s been such a drag. Look no further than the two quick goals the Rangers scored in Game 5 with Carter centering the top line and then when Malkin was put there the Penguins scored immediately. Carter is a huge blind spot with Mike Sullivan right now. If you are deadest on keeping the winger duos the same then switch Carter with Blueger

Drew O’Connor slotting is a good thing. I just wish it were for Boyle, who again, looks gassed.

Rickard Rakell is listed as a game-time decision, but he did not take line rushes. Make of that what you will.

Friday the 13th, Game 6, what could go wrong?

Thanks for reading!
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