Die by the Blade would like to send a warm welcome to the newest SB Nation Blog Pensburgh. We welcome Frank D. the right way over here and get him immediately acquainted with our five questions feature. We also have a few other things in the works between the two of us...I mean the Winter Classic is just a couple of days away. Anyway without further adieu we get right to the questions.
- The Pens came into the season with very high expectations but have not necessarily lived up to those expectations thus far. Do you think the expectations were set to high or have the Pens underachieved?
From the first game of the season Coach Therrien has been juggling lines back and forth to try and find a perfect fit for each and every player. What started as a Malkin-Crosby-Staal first line was quickly broken up when Therrien realized there was a lack of scoring depth on the rest of the team. I feel this should have been handled more effectively in the pre-season, and I feel it also attributed to a few on the Penguins' losses. The Pens haven't exactly blown out of the gate and impressed anyone yet either. I feel once Fleury and Max Talbot come back from the IR at the end of the January the team can really make a contention run. I know some people expected the Pens (and Rangers for that matter) to be at the top of the Atlantic if not the entire Eastern Conference. There's still another 40+ games to go for that to still happen.
- The Pens have been without Marc-Andre Fluery recently. What is the time table for his return and do you expect the Pens to make a move to get a goalie?
Fleury is out with a high ankle sprain since the game against Calgary on December 6th. At the moment of assessment the training staff said 6-8 weeks, but that was then downgraded to 4-6. Basically we're looking at about the last week of January or the first week of February for his return. Coach Therrien has already said he has no intentions of shopping for a goalie. (Although super-vet Curtis Joseph was rumored to be considered) Instead there was a paradigm shift in the entire team and its affiliates to move goalies up from the Wheeling Nailers to Wilkes-Barre, and then Wilkes-Barre up to the parent club in Pitt. Conklin started the season as the goalie for the minor league affiliates Wilkes-Barre Penguins before his promotion and has since posted a 3-0 NHL record this season. Dany Sabourin has done a competent, although not flattering job. Even Marc-Andre Fleury started the season a bit shaky, and wound up getting hurt right around the time the team won 5 of their last 6.
- Earlier this season the Penguins placed Mark Recchi on waivers and they have forced Darryl Sydor to sit in the press box as a healthy scratch. Do you think that as we approach the deadline the Penguins will try to get younger and get rid of the older guys like Sydor and maybe even Gary Roberts?
I think Sydor will be getting much more ice time now because defenseman Mark Eaton is out with an ACL tear. Eaton was a huge help to the club, especially with shot blocking. Initially yes, Sydor was sitting in the box. But in the recent win over the Caps he contributed a goal and an assist, so I think he'll find more ice time. To be honest with you, I don't think he was given enough to base his play on before he was scratched on a regular basis. Roberts netted two goals in a game against Boston last week but has spent much more time sulking in the box than he has been celebrating on the ice. I don't know what the Penguins have in store for Roberts in the distant future, but there is a rumor stating he voiced his discern in the whole Recchi situation and has asked to be traded. Don't know how official that is though.
- Jordan Staal played outstanding last season, forcing the Penguins to keep him on the roster, but he has been mostly non-existent this season. Do you think that management may have made a mistake keeping him in Pittsburgh last year? and also what are your expectations for him moving forward?
Staal did have an excellent season last year, but has since been very shaky. Keeping him in Pitt last year was definitely not a bad idea at all. This season though is another story. He's choked countless times on breakaways and barely puts shots on net. It's almost to a point where whenever he touches the puck you just sigh and hope he passes it to someone else. All in all, if the management was willing to drop Recchi down to a minor league team and bench Sydor, I think they could afford to do the same with a 19-year old kid. Especially a 19-year old kid who was on a 10+ scoring drought this season and prior to the puck dropping tonight has only 9 points in 37 games. Mind you he hasn't been scratched once. Recchi had 2 goals and 6 assists in 19 games and was sent away for under-achieving.
- How fun is it to watch Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on a nightly basis? If I sound jealous it's because I am...I actually watch the Penguins whenever possible via NHL Center Ice because of the excitement those two guys provide.
It really is amazing to watch those guys play. I mean, the similarities between Malkin and Pens-era Jagr are almost to a T. Everything from how he handles the puck to navigating through defensemen is almost like watching Jagr 10 years ago. Crosby is just from another world. It stifles me sometimes at just how physically fit he is and how powerful he is on his skates. It's not rare to see a defenseman go for the hit, connect and wind up on the ice because they literally bounce off of him. It's funny how you say you tune in to watch them because when I'm not watching Sid and Malkin I'm hunting for Ovechkin anywhere on Center Ice as well.