Malkin, Pens impressive during preseason
Published: Friday, September 30, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 30, 2011 12:09
The Penguins are two pre-season games away from the regular season opener. The team doesn't seem to need Sidney Crosby on the ice to succeed and, as predicted, Evgeni Malkin has stepped up and is shining in Crosby's absence.
In Tuesday night's game, played at the neutral venue in Kansas City against the Los Angeles Kings, the Pens saw their first overtime and shootout game. It took eight rounds in the shootout before Matt Niskanen got the puck behind the Los Angeles goalie for the win.
The line combinations are obviously working. During the Kings game Malkin, James Neal and Eric Tangradi led the charge on the top line. Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy make up the strong second line, which allows Staal to get more playing time compared to when Crosby is on the ice. Staal isn't taking that extra time for granted.
In the Sept. 22 game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Staal scored two goals as the Pens steamrolled the Blackhawks. Pittsburgh has been streaking past its opponents in the preseason and after the Kings game, had a record of 4-0. If this is any indication of the coming season, I think Pens fans are in for a real ride.
My October prediction, without Crosby's return, is 9 wins. The losses will come at the hand of the Washington Capitals, Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens. The Capitals-Penguins game will be a great event to take in especially if Crosby is not playing.
Alex Ovechkin and Malkin have had their differences in the past, especially on the ice. I don't expect anything different Oct. 13.
It will be interesting to see what the finalized Penguins roster will look like, and which lines Dan Bylsma goes with for the season opener Oct. 6 against the Vancouver Canucks. It's a given that Malkin and Staal will center the top two lines.
The wingers, however, are a different story. Will Bylsma do what he did in Tuesday night's game and put Kunitz with Malkin? Or will a feisty player like Kennedy get the nod for the top line? With the talent this team has, it is hardly a cut and dry answer.