Tag Archives: Riley Sheahan

Meesh’s Weekly Pens Thoughts: Week 8

I was trying to put off this week’s post until Ian Cole was traded, but apparently no one wants to cooperate for that…so let’s start right there:

Ian Cole

As Ian Cole was named a healthy scratch for the third straight game on Monday, the rumor mill finally opened up with multiple “sources” revealing that Cole is on the trade block, his agent has been given permission to find a trade partner, and the Penguins will not re-sign Cole.

The scenario makes more sense than I want it to – Cole has arguably been the steadiest defenseman for the Penguins this season and he’s going to earn a sizable raise after the season with term that the Penguins cannot logically match.

The part that didn’t make sense to me…why healthy scratch a dependable defenseman on a team that hasn’t quite found its way yet this season.

The timing of it was noteworthy to me – Cole already missed a few games earlier this season after blocking a Roman Josi shot with his face, and he almost did the same thing again with a Brock Boeser shot against Vancouver:

What followed was 3 games as a healthy scratch. Did GMJR see his trade asset almost break his face again and decide it was best to pull him out of the lineup if a negotiation was heating up?

If that was the case, it doesn’t seem to bother him anymore since Cole will likely return to the lineup tonight against Buffalo.

I have no problem with trading Cole, but the trade talk surrounding him does bring about a few questions for me.

Does the team trust Ruhwedel (who will be healthy scratched tonight) to be the regular 6th defenseman? Is it safe to trade defensive depth when it seems silly to expect Letang to survive a full season? What type of return are the Penguins expecting for Cole?

I dislike the idea of losing Cole for nothing in the offseason, but I have a greater dislike for the idea of sending Cole away and realizing the Penguins don’t have enough defensive depth to survive a playoff run. As I’ve said many times in the past few seasons, I think it’s better to let an asset walk in the offseason during the Crosby/Malkin era if it improves this year’s Cup chances instead of trading away an asset just to make sure there is a return. If trading Cole doesn’t set the Penguins up for a better chance at a Cup run, it better not happen, regardless of “asset management.”

Another thought that occurred to me as the Cole rumors picked up is how championship teams are built. It’s often said that after a specific team wins the Cup, other teams will try to emulate that model as best as possible. Pending the trade return for Cole, I wonder if the Penguins are unconsciously emulating their own model from last year, which included a defensive group that appeared not even close to being good enough on paper to win a Cup (you showed us!).

One last note on the Cole trade talk. The December roster freeze is from the 19th-26th. If Cole isn’t moved soon, look for rumors to heat up right before that freeze (yay artificial deadlines!).

Injuries and Depth

Elsewhere on the injury front, Evgeni Malkin is expected to return tonight (that was a long day-to-day situation), and Matt Murray is out 2-4 weeks/week-to-week/indefinitely depending on who you ask.

The Malkin injury certainly highlighted one thing we already knew – the Penguins don’t have anywhere close to the center depth they had last season. Riley Sheahan had a nice hot streak going before the Malkin injury, but he appeared to be in over his head on the 2nd line while Malkin was out.

On the plus side, Crosby has played some of his best hockey of the season over the past week and I even saw some encouraging signs from Carl Hagelin as lines were shuffled around. Hagelin still can’t score and that’s still irritating, but he looked good on the 3rd line with Rowney/Rust and that line’s excellent transition game created a lot more chances than we’ve seen for him this season. Perhaps he’s about to break out of this awful scoring slump, but until he actually does, I’m going to be irritated with him.

Rutherford had an interesting take on the current forward depth of the team:

Rutherford has liked what he’s seen from the current third line of Carl Hagelin, Carter Rowney and Bryan Rust. He also knows the lineup will only get deeper whenever Evgeni Malkin returns from an upper-body injury.

But regardless of who plays on the third line, there needs to be more goals scored.

“I’m not as concerned about the fourth line,” Rutherford said. “I think we can do it, as long as we’re getting more out of the third line.

Not as concerned about the fourth line?! How is that a thing? I have defended that line from a price point standard in comparison to guys like Hagelin, but it’s still an area that needs to be upgraded. A big reason that the Penguins could win the Cup last year with their defensive group was because there would be nights when the 3rd and 4th lines were the best lines. The Penguins no longer live in that world and it sounds like they aren’t too worried about getting back there necessarily. I don’t want to rant *too* much about this since I’m sure there will be many roster moves before the final playoff push, but I am concerned about the fourth line.

Kuhnhackl – 3 points in 26 games, McKegg – 4 points in 26 games, Reaves – 3 points in 26 games. They’ve had a solid game here and there, and a great shift here and there, but they generally aren’t producing and are getting stuck in the defensive zone. It’s not good enough. *glares at Hagelin’s 3 points in 25 games*

As for goalie depth with the Murray injury, it’s a good thing that the schedule lightens up this month. Jarry appears to be quite capable of handling the job and the lighter schedule should ensure that the team won’t even consider a knee-jerk move to bring in a veteran goalie to help him out. I still expect that type of move closer to the trade deadline, but there’s certainly no need to push it just to cover for Murray’s injury now.

Phil Kessel Appreciation Section

Team leader in points: Phil Kessel, 32 (Crosby next with 25)
Team leader in goals: Phil Kessel, 11 (tied with Guentzel)
Team leader in assists: Phil Kessel, 21 (Letang next with 17)
Team leader in powerplay points: Phil Kessel, 17 (Crosby next with 13)
Team leader in powerplay assists (!): Phil Kessel, 14 (Letang next with 9)

When the Penguins played Vancouver last week, I came to a realization. Right now, I want the puck on Kessel’s stick at all times in all situations. He’s literally making it easy for his teammates to score with perfect passes to redirect or tip in from the slot and around the net. When he doesn’t feel like passing, he still has an absurd shot that can beat anyone (which hasn’t been a common thing for this team this season).

With Crosby picking up his pace, all eyes are moving towards him…but Kessel deserves all of the credit in the world for what he’s done for this team so far. On a team with Crosby and Malkin, Kessel is the only guy playing above a point-per-game pace. Thank you, Toronto.

Thanks for reading!

Meesh’s Weekly Pens Thoughts: Week 3

Short post this week to match Niemi’s tenure as the backup goalie in Pittsburgh.

Finding Nemo…on the Waiver Wire

You know how Marlin can’t tell a joke to save his life at the start of Finding Nemo? That is basically how Antti Niemi’s tenure as backup goalie with the Penguins went.

Pittsburgh: “Hey you’re a Stanley Cup winning goalie, you can stop pucks, right? Hey stop a puck for us.”

Niemi: “Well, actually, that’s a common misconception. Stanley Cup winning goalies can’t stop pucks any better than any other goalie.”

Pittsburgh: “Awww c’mon Stanley Cup winning goalie, make a save for us…”

Niemi: “Well, alright, I can stop this one…”

*red light goes on behind Niemi*

I don’t have much more to add to my Niemi evaluation than what I’ve said in previous posts. He’s not a good goalie and the team was trash in front of him yet again. I thought he looked serviceable early on Saturday and even made a big 2-on-0 save, but the game unraveled as his flawed positioning, poor rebound control, poor puck tracking, and shrinking demeanor in the crease were exposed (if you want to see a goalie truly lacking confidence – watch one who won’t stray from the middle of the crease).

There were two quotes from the Tampa broadcast that grabbed my attention in regards to Niemi:
“I’m not even sure how Vasilevskiy saw this one” on a big save on the PP to keep the Penguins off the board and “Kucherov just shrugged after that one” for the 6th Lightning goal.

With Niemi, the Penguins were never going to get enough of those Vasilevskiy saves from the first quote, but they were going to have too many goals allowed like the second quote regarding Kucherov.

I don’t think we ever saw the best Niemi had to offer given how bad the team played in his 3 games, but we saw enough to know that there’s no reason to stick with him.

My only lingering question is why didn’t Niemi start against a lesser Florida team on Friday with a fresh Penguins team in front of him so that Murray could take on the more talented Lightning team with a tired roster? That would have been the perfect situational test, but alas, I don’t think it matters in the end (and that could have easily resulted in a loss to Florida *and* a loss to Tampa).

Calling up DeSmith

To the surprise of some (myself included), Casey DeSmith received the call-up after Niemi was waived. When Rich and I discussed this situation on the podcast, I was completely against Jarry coming up and Rich was all for it. I don’t know how Rich feels about DeSmith, but I’m all for this scenario instead.

DeSmith is 3-0 this season with a 0.98 GAA and .965 save percentage. Kinda decent, right? But as Ryan Wilson loves to say, goaltending is voodoo, so who knows what he turns into in the NHL. The thoughts on Jarry are clear right now – he’s meant to be in the AHL to develop. I think the path is a little more fluid for DeSmith, who has taken a longer route to this moment, even by way of Wheeling at one point. Not only can the Penguins see what they have in DeSmith, who had minor league deals until this season, but they can stay the course without disrupting their plan for Jarry’s development. I think there are several short-term wins in that plan for the organization.

That being said, I think this backup goalie situation is far from set and I fully believe there will be a trade near the deadline to bring in a veteran backup.

Adding Sheahan

In a world where we overreact to every transaction and tweet, I have to admit that I looked at this trade, blinked, hit retweet, and moved on.

It’s a simple trade and it makes sense. The Penguins trade away a spare part (sorry, Scott Wilson) and get an immediately usable part into their lineup. They had to pay a little extra by throwing out a 3rd round pick while getting a 5th round pick back (meh to both). Really, there isn’t much to dissect about this one.

Sheahan adds size, better depth at center, and smart defensive play, both at even strength and on the PK. I’m not expecting much from him production-wise, maybe 25-30ish points depending on how much PP2 time he gets, but I do expect him to break up some of the extended defensive zone situations that the Penguins have been in a little too frequently.

After the trade, the Penguins, who are a flawed team, are a little less flawed. They gave up very little to become less flawed. I can’t really ask for more than that. We all know this roster is far from finalized.

Assessing the Penguins

It’s rather difficult to assess a team that finds a way to get destroyed once a week. Niemi started all of those losses of course, so perhaps that trend will come to an end. Regardless, the Penguins have looked terrible in those losses and the next back-to-back situation is coming up this weekend as the Penguins start off in Minnesota before moving west into and through Canada.

With Murray and a fresh team, the Penguins are 5-0-1. With Niemi and a tired team, the Penguins are 0-3. Part of the latter scenario is gone now.

What is my assessment then?

The Penguins have been the defending Stanley Cup Champions for 498 days…and their starting goalie for both Championships has yet to lose a game in regulation this season.

The Penguins are doing just fine, 7-1 losses and all.

Thanks for reading!

3/15/15: Detroit Red Wings 5 Pittsburgh Penguins 1

1st Red Wings Goal (Sheahan), Even

  • Detroit Contributions
    B. Smith – gets the puck back in the Red wings zone, skates it through the neutral zone, into the Penguins zone, to the top of the left circle, and fires a wrist shot that goes off of a skate and back to the right point Zidlicky is entering the zone
    M. Zidlicky – winds up as he drifts to the middle of the top of the zone and fires a slapshot past Spaling and towards a screen by I. Cole and Sheahan in the slot
    R. Sheahan – deflects Zidlicky’s shot as it passes by and puts it into the net with Fleury not even reacting since he never saw the initial shot through the screen
  • Pittsburgh Faults
    I. Cole – steps up to Sheahan in the slot to tie him up, but instead stands behind him to form a massive screen for Fleury and doesn’t tie him up at all, which allows Sheahan to deflect the puck into the net
    N. Spaling – gets sucked too deep into the defensive zone in the 4-on-4 situation and isn’t anywhere close to stepping up on Zidlicky at the blue line as he adds to the screen on Zidlicky’s shot

2nd Red Wings Goal (Pulkkinen), Even

  • Detroit Contributions
    M. Zidlicky – gets a rebound rolling along the boards halfway down the right-side boards in the Penguins zone, then passes the puck to the top of the zone for Kronwall
    N. Kronwall – starts to wind up for a shot, but then passes the puck to Pulkkinen at the top of the left faceoff circle
    T. Pulkkinen – one-times Kronwall’s pass from the top of the left faceoff circle past Fleury’s blocker on the short-side just inside the post
  • Pittsburgh Faults
    M. Fleury – gets across the crease during the pass from Kronwall to Pulkkinen, but doesn’t get square to the shot or cover the angle to protect his short-side as Pulkkinen slaps it past his blocker

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10/15/14: Boston Bruins 3 Detroit Red Wings 2 (SO)

1st Bruins Goal (Krejci), Even

  • Boston Contributions
    C. Kelly – deflects the redirected puck off of Helm’s leg and picks it up in the neutral zone, then passes the puck up to Krejci breaking towards the offensive zone
    D. Krejci – gets the puck just outside of the Red Wings blue line and skates it into the offensive zone with a clear path to the net, then pushes the puck forwards with his backhand, pulls it to his forehand in the slot, and lifts the puck over Howard’s left pad
  • Detroit Faults
    J. Abdelkader – tries to redirect a pass to Helm just outside of the Bruins zone and it becomes a turnover with Kelly there to knock the puck away
    J. Kindl – gets caught too close to the boards and can’t get back to the middle to cover Krejci, who ends up with a breakaway

1st Red Wings Goal (Tatar), Even

  • Detroit Contributions
    R. Sheahan – gets to the loose puck at the inside corner of the right faceoff circle and tries to tap it to the boards
    T. Jurco – has the puck go off of his skate so it sits at the inside corner of the faceoff circle
    T. Tatar – gets to the loose puck and fires a wrist shot past Rask’s right shoulder
  • Boston Faults
    C. Kelly – goes to play a puck in the right corner of the Bruins zone and misplays it so it squirts out towards the inside of the right faceoff circle for a turnover to Sheahan
    L. Eriksson – gets caught standing in place behind Tatar and watches him get the loose puck and score without doing anything to stop him

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