Phil Kessel is close to breaking out:
--He had 8 shot attempts and 4 on goal against San Jose. He flubbed some scoring chances, yes, but better to have them than not.
--He was really good in OT against the Flyers. Could have won the game.
--Against the Jackets, his battle level was there. His forecheck set up the Malkin goal.
--He was engaged on both ends of the ice.
--I’m putting cash down now: He’s going to score tonight.
Jack Johnson is a plus-9 over the last 3 months:
--It’s possible that he’s more comfortable in the system.
--He’s also been playing his natural side of late.
--Jason Mackey pointed out that the Penguins are 14-5-3 in games where Jack Johnson plays 20 minutes or more.
--He can’t be THAT bad then, huh?
--Jack’s not a great player. We know that, he probably knows that.
--But for as bad as he was early, he’s turned it around of late.
--This is good news. He and Schultz have worked well together, and Josh Yohe told me that Schultz likes working with him.
--They’ll be the top pair for as long as Dumo and Letang are out.
I’d star DeSmith tonight, and Murray in Montreal:
--I said Murray should play 14 of the next 17 games. I'd give Murray a seat in back-to-back situations.
--The Pens really need to win both of these games, but they especially need to beat Montreal.
--I’d play my better goalie against the Habs. That's Murray.
Teams with good third lines win the cup:
--The Pens had HBK. They had Staal/Cooke/Kennedy when they won in 09.
--The Capitals had Lars Eller leading the way on that line last year.
--Teams that win need to create matchups. They need depth.
--The Pens may finally have that with McCann and Bjugstad on that third line.
--McCann can fly, he’s good on defense, and he’s got a wicked shot. He’s got 5 goals in 13 games. He probably won't keep that pace up. But he’s got pedigree and scoring touch. Bjugstad’s scored 27 goals before.
--That line should be able to score
--That line has already provided depth.
--If they keep going at a similar rate, the Pens will be in good shape.
The Pens are on outside looking in, again:
--Columbus beat the Fyers in OT, so they’re ahead of the Pens.
--The Canes are tied with the Pens, but they’re in.
--Every game from here on out is HUGE.
--If the Pens do get in, they’ll at least be battle tested and playoff ready.