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Pittsburgh stronger than ever?

Alexei Ponikarovsky made his debut with the Penguins Saturday and looked solid while doing it. He scored the sixth and final goal in Pittsburgh’s 6-3 win over Dallas and assisted on Evgeni Malkin’s goal Sunday against Boston.

The former Leaf appeared to cut his arm while blocking a shot from a Boston defenceman but despite what Evanka Osmak thinks, he did return to that game. Pony has been able to make space for Malkin with his big body and has created scoring chances when parking his caboose in front of the net.

Although he has played well, he needs to show he can do it consistently, which he could not prove in Toronto. Having a one-two punch in the Crosby and Malkin lines will make Pittsburgh a tough team to beat. Also, having Jordan Staal as a third-line center is not too shabby either.

As for their special teams, Pittsburgh has always been a good penalty-killing team and Ponikarovsky can be a big body in front of the net which could help their ailing power play. Really it doesn’t make any sense a team which the likes of Gonchar, Crosby and Malkin have trouble scoring with a man-advantage but whatever!

And just for the record, Leopold has been fitting in just fine with Pittsburgh’s D-core. Not only does he have an assist and a +5 rating in three games, but his sound defensive game has improved Pittsburgh’s breakout and 5-on-5 play.

With their 2-1 against Boston Sunday, Pittsbrgh is now on a four-game winning streak, and have taken sole position of the Atlantic with a five point lead over New Jersey. However, the Devils do hold three games in hand.

Pittsburgh will now embark on a five game road-trip that will see them play Carolina, Tampa Bay, Boston once against and the Devils in two marquee matchups at the Izod Center.

If we take a look around the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh is one of the few playoff teams without question marks in between the pipes.

Philadelphia failed to pick up a number one goalie at the trade deadline and unless Michael Leighton can have a Cam Ward esque playoff, things will not be so shiny in Philly.

As for the Caps, while having arguably the most explosive offence in the league, they do not have a clear number one in goal. Varlamov and Theodore have shown moments of brilliance but have been far too inconsistent for a team hoping to compete for the Cup.

Ditto for the Senators who have two goalies that have been teetering between brillance and shame. Brian Elliot came into the season as the back-up but because of Pascal Leclaire’s injuries and less than stellar play, the former Binghamton Senator has been able to get into the discussion as the teams number one. But since coming back from the Olympic break, Ottawa is yet to put a notch in the win column. Leclaire played well against Toronto in the teams overtime loss and the Sens will need more of that for him to earn his number on spot.

Let’s see what happens!

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In response to “Pittsburgh stronger than ever?”

  1. Eric Cooney Mar 8 20103:13 pm


    As strong as Washington has been this season, I think Pitt is int he final for the east yet again. They’ve got that intangible quality to drive for wins.

    1. Dan Rakusan Mar 8 20103:17 pm


      i’m going to disagree with you Eric, for the simple fact that Marc-Andre Fleury is too inconsistent. He can be among the best, or among the worst, on any given night… To me, Washington added the right pieces (other than a true shut-down defenceman) to get the job done. I believe they’re Cup-bound this year. It makes the whole Crosby v. Ovechkin debate all the more interesting…

      1. Eric Cooney Mar 8 20103:55 pm


        Granted Fleury is too inconsistent, but I would bet on a guy that has been to the cup final in two consecutive seasons of Theodore, whose inconsistency is maddening, and Varlamov who seems to be made of glass.

        There is no doubt Washington is stacked, but in a 7 game chess match, I think some of that power goes out the window. Maybe I’m wrong and one of their Keepers can get into playoff hero mode, but I’d bet on Fleury first.

        1. Eric Cooney Mar 8 20103:55 pm


          *over Theodore or Varlamov.

        2. Dan Rakusan Mar 8 20104:00 pm


          Theodore has been fairly solid lately, going 14-0-2 in the last 16 home games… I think he’s been more consistent than Fleury. Plus, I don’t believe there’s any advantage to having been to the Cup finals in two previous seasons really. I think that’s a media creation rather than anything factual. Sure, there’s nerves there, but really, these guys are professionals.

          My bet is Theodore will start for the Caps in the playoffs, but at the first sign of things going wrong, he’ll be ousted by Varly.

          Theodore also finally spoke about the issue of his infant son dying, which appears to have taken a load off his mind, allowing him to play with more focus.

          1. Eric Cooney Mar 8 20104:08 pm

            It’s true that Theodore has been playing better of late (my fantasy team is happy about this). But I will says that I think more credit is deserved for visiting the finals two seasons consecutively.

            All in all, I’m interested in seeing which teams continue their torrid paces in the post season, and which teams turn into playoff flops. There’s always a few surprises.

          2. Dan Rakusan Mar 8 20104:10 pm

            Eric – I’ll go out on a limb and say Pittsburgh doesn’t make the Conference Finals. Something about that team makes me believe that they’re simply not as good as advertised… Don’t ask me what, because it’s just a gut feeling…

          3. Eric Cooney Mar 8 20104:16 pm

            I’ll take your word for it, seeing as though you see a whole lot more of them than I do. I will say that Malkin playing sub-par is not exactly a confidence boost either.

  2. Amit Mann Mar 8 20108:17 pm


    You cannot deny the fact a team makes it to the Stanley Cup finals. Goaltending is one of the, if not the most important issue when becoming a Stanley Cup winner. Fleury being there for the past two years shows he is one of the best in the league during crunch time. Since the Olympic break, Fleury has been at the top of his game and Pittsburgh has been playing at a higher level, winning four straight.

    To hear Theodore has a much more clear mind since the passing of his son is very encouraging and I wish him all the best. But he hasn’t been playing to his potential since he left Montreal.

    1. Dan Rakusan Mar 8 20108:25 pm


      I’ll rebut your point by suggesting that goaltending is only a small part of winning a Cup. Chris Osgood has done it what, two or three times? Grant Fuhr’s career stats are appalling and he won what, 4 or 5 times?

      I won’t deny it’s an important position, but the whole team has to be solid, and quite frankly, Fleury (if I were a Pens fan) scares me. He can be great sometimes, and terrible at others. Certainly no more consistent than Theodore has been this season. Varlamov is a nice insurance policy for Washington as well, whereas I can’t even remember who is the backup in Pittsburgh…

      1. Ben Petrino Mar 8 20108:32 pm


        Backup is Johnson who’s been pretty good this year. And then there is a third string guy whose name escapes me and that russian kid who played one game.

        I think goaltending varies in importance based on the type of team game you play. For Pittsburgh who has what I would call a questionably solid defense corp, goaltending is a must to win a cup.

        1. Dan Rakusan Mar 8 20108:39 pm


          I agree with you, and would argue that for a team like Washington, the goalie is fairly unimportant if the team in front of him plays to their capability.

  3. Amit Mann Mar 8 201010:17 pm


    You ask any Detroit fan and they will say Chris Osgood is a playoff goaltender. He is nowhere to be seen in the regular season but when playoff time comes around, his level of play goes up.

    Grant Fuhr was known for making the save at the big time in his career. I’m not saying a team like Washington needs a goalie who will get them a shutout every game, but I will say they need a goalie who will make the key save and it takes a certain kind of goaltender to make that save.

    Washington lost the series against Pittisburgh because of their goaltending. In the playoffs, goal scoring goes down and the physicality goes up. Washington’s additions will help but they still lack physicality on the defensive end. Making goaltending all that more important.

    1. Dan Rakusan Mar 8 201010:23 pm


      I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this until April… I will admit to being a Pens hater and a Caps fan (after the Rangers), and I think we just see things a little differently.

      To be honest, I would have loved to have seen NYR trade Lundqvist to the Caps for Varlamov plus either Semin or Varly plus Fleischmann plus a pick… Just my little fantasy land thing…lol… Wife’s a big Caps’ fan, so I get bonus beddy-fun when they win… A Cup would get me the good stuff until the dawn of a new civilization I bet… :)

    2. Ben Petrino Mar 8 201010:32 pm


      I completely disagree with your statement of “Washington lost the series against Pittsburgh because of their goaltending.” I would say Washington’s defense lost that series. The goaltending was fine if not better than expected. The Washington defense constantly pinched at the wrong time and caused odd man breaks which caused them to lose.

      1. Dan Rakusan Mar 8 201010:33 pm


        Agreed. And this year will be different. Washington’s defence has made great strides in terms of positional awareness…

  4. Eric Cooney Mar 8 201010:37 pm


    Wow, Washington blew it tonight though.

    1. Dan Rakusan Mar 8 201011:01 pm


      Was a weird game…. IMO, a lot of Washington’s personnel decisions were weird… Fleischmann, Walker and Morrisonn out? It looked like a test lineup for Boudreau in my books.

  5. Amit Mann Mar 9 20101:05 pm


    We may have to agree to disagree but Varlamov didn’t looked good tonight. The Caps defence still isn’t what I think it should be which is going to put even more pressure on either goaltender to perform. The D is certainly better but not good enough to support the goaltending. IMO

    1. Ben Petrino Mar 9 20101:11 pm


      Varlomov since injury hasn’t returned to form yet which is the only reason why Theodore is still getting a lot of starts. Also, Varlomov in the playoffs is arguably the reason why the Capitals got so far last season.

    2. Dan Rakusan Mar 9 20101:59 pm


      I didn’t think Varlamov looked bad, but really the whole team was kind of off… As I mentioned before, the personnel decisions made by the Caps last night baffle me. Why scratch Tomas Fleischmann, Scott Walker and Shaone Morrisonn? Doesn’t make any sense!!

  6. Ben Petrino Mar 10 20105:25 pm


    I missed this before but the Devils don’t play in the Izod center anymore. They play in the Prudential center since 08.

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