Introducing Another Great Post by Guest Blogger Chaiwoman:
Sean Avery’s reunion tour with his old team seemed to put him face to face with just about every guy in a black and gold uniform on Saturday. It was a gritty, scrappy, hard-hitting, nasty penalizing afternoon game against the New York Rangers (sans the blue jerseys), as the Pittsburgh Penguins treated fans to a win largely due to their “energy guys.”
Start with the brilliant tactics of Tyler “Mr.” Kennedy, who appeared to take Avery by surprise after a couple of test hits in a match that left Avery looking puzzled and Kennedy grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Later, Kennedy would say that he and Avery talked about and agreed “to go”. Kennedy’s sacrifice was brilliant for several reasons:
- He took Avery’s agitation game out of commission for five minutes, giving his teammates one less pain to deal with;
- It generated some momentum given how the scrap developed and who it was against;
- The Penguins’ power play three minutes later was not affected by his absence since he is not a major contributor on special teams; and
- Though they did not score on the power play, the energy was still high, and Maxime Talbot revved up for a great feed from Ruslan Fedotenko to put the Pens on the board.
Coach Bylsma talked after the game about Kennedy’s fight and the penalties in general saying that he was not so much concerned about how many penalties they take as he is about the kinds of penalties and when they occur. He called Kennedy an “energy guy,” and the timing and make-up of his penalty created energy for the team.
As a matter of fact, Coach Bylsma has the luxury of four “energy guys,” in Tyler Kennedy (13G,16A), Matt Cooke (10G, 18A), Maxime Talbot (11G, 9A), and Pascal Dupuis (10G, 14A) for a total of 101 points thus far. All have a similar skating style but run the gamut in levels of agitation against opposing players. All have had stints up on the top line with Sidney Crosby and have provided sparks at various times, chipping in goals and assists at opportune times. All have shown their utilitarian ability to skate on lines 1 through 4 with the same intensity, effort, and yes, energy. In Saturday’s game, three of the four energy guys contributed for 2 goals and 2 assists in the win. This is what you need heading into the playoffs.
With Matt Cooke up on the Malkin line for a second consecutive game, he scored the Pens’ second goal off a great effort that started with a Malkin feed and ended with both Cooke and Talbot creating havoc in front of Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. During Kennedy’s stint in the sin bin, Bylsma moved Pascal Dupuis up onto the Staal line with Fedotenko and Staal, and the line never missed a beat as Dupuis provided his usual style of quick feet and hard forechecking. He and Cooke also figure in the strong and now offensively-minded Penguins penalty kills.
Their energy is infectious, and something about it on Saturday permeated the entire team even sparking Ruslan Fedotenko who earned the #1 star of the game with a solid three-point performance (1G, 2A) to break out of his slump. It should be noted that in his two assists, Feds set up the goal scorers (Talbot and Crosby) in exactly the same way with crisp, well-timed tape-to-tape passes in a quick transition. Riding high off his own goal-scoring contribution the previous game, defenseman Hal Gill seemed to have more jump as he involved himself with confidence in a short-handed rush. In 18 games under Bylsma Gill has registered 16 shots on goal compared to his last 18 games under Therrien (7 shots), improving his shot production almost 2-1.
Bylsma has been very consistent in his basic line format with Talbot centering the 4th line and Dupuis flanking him on one side. However, he does not shy away from plugging these two into other situations that create offensive opportunities and aggressive defensive back-checking. All four of these energy guys add an important layer that positions a team like the Penguins for a deep run in the playoffs.