Marc-Andre Fleury blocks a shot by the Islanders' Mikhail Grabovsk during the second period of an early January game.
Guest: Seth, each of the last several years the Pens have had a slew of significant injuries to important players. It seems way more injuries than other teams. Do you agree that's the case, and if so, why is it happening and what can be done?
Seth Rorabaugh: Their injury totals have declined quite a bit this season compared to the last two seasons - if only because their injury numbers were bordering on cataclysmic in 2013-14 and 2014-15. According to the Web site Man Games Lost, the Penguins have 140 man games this season due to injuries and other factors as of Feb. 8. That total is 15th most. So they're right in the middle.
SDWC: Do you think the major difference between the Pens & Rangers is the goaltender?
Seth Rorabaugh: I think it's a difference but not *the* difference. Is Henrik Lundqvist better than Marc-Andre Fleury? Yes. But Fleury wasn't why the reason they hit two posts last night or why Phil Kessel fanned on a perfect pass by Crosby for a would-be power play goal. Fleury should have made a better save on the rebound leading to Kevin Hayes goal last night. But I can't say he's the primary reason they have trouble with the Rangers.
D.T: Do you see any concern with Fleury's inconsistent play since the All Star Break? Pulled twice and hasn't been making the big saves he was at the beginning of the year
Seth Rorabaugh: Point of order, Fleury has only been pulled once since the All-Star break. But yes, his play has slipped a bit since the break. I thought he rebounded in the 6-2 win against the Ducks and was more than adequate against the Rangers last night. But it's fair to have higher expectations of him.
Steven D: Are there an players you think the pens should target at the deadline?
Seth Rorabaugh: If they could get Bobby Orr from 1972, that would be awesome.
But for more immediate concerns, I wouldn't mind seeing them add a veteran center to help with faceoffs. They've run into some issues as of late with faceoffs due to Evgeni Malkin, Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino. But I'm not going to put any names out there as far as trade targets because I don't want to be the source of any silly rumors.
Chris: How would you compare the depth this team has compared to the teams of the last 2-3 years. Is it a simple case of them being healthier this year or have they made better strides in addressing their forward/defensive depth than in years past?
Seth Rorabaugh: The depth of the current roster is light years better than say the 2013-14 team, Ray Shero's last season. If you recall, the Penguins tried all kind of ineffective players such as Andrew Ebbett and Matt D'Agostini on the wings of the third line that season.
Now you see established NHLers such as Eric Fehr, Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino competing for playing time on the fourth line at times with rookies such as Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson.
It's fair to question the results of Jim Rutherford but he has been pretty successful at improving the team's depth the past few seasons in my opinion.
Seth Rorabaugh: Just a reminder that I won't post questions or comments with vulgarity.
Guest: How much is Mario Lemieux around compared to years past? Is he coming to the games?
Seth Rorabaugh: I'd be lying if I said I had his itinerary but you definitely don't see him around the team as much. That said, the Penguins do a pretty effective job of limited his any sort of exposure he might have with media types and that's by design.
Chris: How has year one of the Phil Kessel experience been so far? I'm sure with your brief interactions with him in Boston and Toronto, you had an opinion about him, but how have the interactions been on a day-to-day basis. Does management feel like they've gotten the ROI with him so far?
Seth Rorabaugh: Speaking of him strictly as a player, I think he's been underwhelming. He hasn't really created too much on his own. It seems must of his success has been off of plays created by Evgeni Malkin or even Carl Hagelin as of late. The would-be goal he missed in the third period off a pass from Crosby was a killer. He has to bury that given the expectations of him.
As far his interactions with the media, he's brief and to the point. I can't say much of what he says is all that in-depth but he's usually cooperative and that's all I ever ask of a player or coach or any subject I try to interview.
Trent: Regarding Beau Bennett, can the cause of his injuries be traced to "conditioning"? Would bulking up help him? Or is it a product of him growing up playing roller hockey, and not being used to the hitting?
Seth Rorabaugh: The genesis of Bennett's latest injury was a hit from Capitals forward T.J. Oshie in mid-December. He got popped pretty good and landed awkwardly on his right shoulder. I don't think any amount of conditioning would have prevented that.
Bennett said he made some changes to his training and diet this past offseason and there appeared to be some signs of that paying off with a slight uptick in production. But injuries have derailed him yet again.
Guest: The next few months will be a better gauge but do you think the Pens have kicked their inability to beat Metro teams? With the new playoff system, do you think they would be better off as a wildcard team being placed in the Atlantic division?
Seth Rorabaugh: The vast majority of their remaining games are against Metropolitan Division teams. I'm not sure if they'll be a gauge but they need to win those games to get into the playoffs.
The only Eastern Conference team I see as unbeatable for the Penguins is the Capitals. So if anything, they would want to avoid a wild card spot and a potential first-round meeting with the Capitals.
Chris: Is it fair to say this team will only go as far as their "stars" go? I know every team is dependent on that, but is it more important that Crosby, Malkin, Letang stay injury free (Malkin returning from injury) and play up to their salaries or that depth players such as Benino, Fehr and Bennett return to provide more balance to the lineup?
Seth Rorabaugh: Yes but I'm not sure that's anything exclusive to the Penguins. The Blackhawks are usually driven by players such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Ditto the Ducks with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
That said, the Penguins clearly need their improved depth to be a difference in order to make life easier for Crosby, Malkin, etc.
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