Some thoughts and observations after the Penguins’ 3-1 win over Dallas at Consol Energy Center:
= This game turned on the approximately six-minute stretch late in the second period that Dallas played with only four defensemen because of injuries to Alex Goligoski and Mark Fistric. It was during those minutes the Penguins cracked the 1-4 neutral-zone trap the Stars were using with much success, and the solution was to simply wear down the remaining Dallas defensemen with a barrage of hits in the neutral and defensive zones. Fistric returned for the third period, but by then momentum felt as though it had swung completely to the Penguins, who were fresh because they hadn’t played since last Saturday. The Stars, conversely, were playing the third of four straight road games – and what a brutal close these final three are with trips to Washington, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
= Goligoski’s Stars teammates couldn’t pay him enough compliments before this game. LW Brenden Morrow said that “Goose,” in some areas of his game, reminded of former Stars great D Sergei Zubov – specifically with the way Goligoski can slow down the pace of a game and run a power play. Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan was even more effusive of Goligoski.
“(His leadership) even translates with me,” Gulutzan said. “I’ve had conversations with ‘Goose,’ and obviously he comes from a winning background… about how they’ve had success in Pittsburgh. He’s been a help for me, and I know in the locker room, whether he’s talking or not, just the way he approaches things daily in practice has been a benefit for the group.”
Goligoski, who played fewer than seven minutes in his return to Consol Energy center, was in great spirits after a morning practice. He joked with the reporters who once covered him daily, and seemed completely at ease with his new surroundings in the Dallas room.
As I’ve said many times in this forum over the years: Reporters end up rooting for two things – a great story and the health of the good guys they get to know on the beat. So, this reporter is wishing for a speedy recovery by Goligoski, and some playoff games this spring for his (cough, cough) star to shine.
= LW Eric Tangradi finished without a point, a shot and a hit in his season debut for the Penguins. Recalled Thursday, he certainly did not stand out against Dallas. He possesses a lot of talent, but the speed just isn’t there, and I wonder if he has fully committed to the instructions of the Penguins’ skating coordinator, because his form does not look all that different from years past, at least to these admittedly untrained eyes. A forward cannot play for a Bylsma team if he doesn’t blend tenacity and speed, and unfortunately teaching a player either of those attributes at this level is not likely for any coach. Something Bylsma did not say before the Dallas game struck me.
“It actually was quite a difficult choice,” Bylsma said of the recall. “There are a handful of guys (at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) who are playing well right now.”
Granted, Bylsma did add that Tangradi’s “game has really come on strong the last eight games or so… he’s playing strong down low, been protecting the puck and a physical presence, and really has improved his puck management in the neutral zone.”
Bylsma never mentioned an improvement in Tangradi’s skating. It had to get better if he is going to stick in the NHL, at least with the Penguins.
= LW Chris Kunitz played a really strong game against Dallas, and that is saying something considering he had two plays that kept the Penguins from scoring goals. I address this in the final game story in Saturday’s Tribune-Review, but allow me this observation: The Penguins should be thrilled with Kunitz’s efficiency in getting to the slot/crease areas over the past three weeks. I suspect they are, and that Bylsma will tell him to change nothing about the way he played against Dallas. That type of net-front ferociousness is what the Penguins’ need from Kunitz, who is best on the team at that very trying job.
= LW Matt Cooke on his penalty-shot move, a successful one at that:
“Not many goalies have seen me (on a penalty shot) other than our two because it’s my first one ever,” Cooke said. “I’m just fortunate that we get to practice (shootouts) because without that I probably would have been pretty nervous out there standing at the blue line.”
Cooke has scored five goals in 16 games, or one more than penalty minutes earned. If that isn’t the most stunning statistic at this point of the season, I would like to know what trumps it.
By the way, it isn’t like he did not call this change: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/s_753051.html#ixzz1VvJQqHMe
Cheers, and look for Josh Yohe’s updates from Carolina on Saturday.