The Pittsburgh Penguins’ current situation will sound familiar to followers of the Bruins.
Pittsburgh, which hosts Boston in the next game for both clubs Wednesday night, has been playing without one of its star top-three centers and hasn’t been able to go ahead with its plan to move a center out to the wing to make their flank stronger.
However, the Pens as a team haven’t been able to succeed as well as Boston under the circumstances. The Bruins, of course, have been without Marc Savard with an injury that has caused Tyler Seguin (and now Blake Wheeler in the absence of David Krejci) to play center. Pittsburgh wanted to move Evgeni Malkin out to the wing, but Jordan Staal’s injury has kept the Russian star in the middle.
The Pens are just 7-7-1, while the Bruins are 7-3-1.
In USA Today, Kevin Allen documents the Pens’ problems, which start with the injury to Staal and the team’s inability to spend much on wingers because of the salary cap. Those troubles go deeper than that though, with goaltending a major concern now that Marc-Andre Fleury (1-6-0, 3.55 GAA .853 save pct.) seems to have fallen into a career tailspin. And that’s the biggest difference between the Bruins and Pens — netminding.
The Bruins still have deficiencies up front, but great goaltending — which Boston is getting from both Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask — can mask those blemishes better than a paper bag on the head of a Buffalo Sabres fan right now.
While the Pens are getting excellent goaltending from veteran journeyman Brent Johnson (6-1-1, .943 save pct., 1.62 GAA), they can’t commit to him with their multi-million-dollar, franchise goaltender Fleury around. To give up on Fleury now would put the Pens in even worse salary-cap straits. The Fleury-Johnson situation even has Sidney Crosby and coach Dan Bylsma on different pages, with Crosby saying Fleury has to play his way out of his funk and Bylsma seemingly willing to ride the hot hand with Johnson (including against the Bruins).
Boston gets a first-hand look at Sidney Crosby and the Penguins Wednesday night. We’ll all get to see if Pittsgburgh can figure things out the way the Bruins have until Staal makes it back or Fleury figures things out.