We catch up with our pals at Pensburgh, asking them three burning questions leading into tonight's contest.
The Winnipeg Jets are hoping that they can produce a repeat performance of their January 25, 2013 meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game in which they escaped with a 4-2 victory, despite allowing two Sidney Crosby first period goals.
As part of our gameday coverage, we had a few questions relating to the Penguins before puck-drop later this evening.
With that, here's Hooks Orpik of Pensburgh in today's instalment of Gameday Questionnaire:
1. Tell Jets' fans everything they'll need to know about Eric Tangradi.
Tangradi has all of the tools, but just couldn’t put it together during his time in Pittsburgh. At 6’4, 225 he definitely has size that can’t be ignored. He’s got decent skating and puck ability to go along with it, but it just didn’t come together in three years with the Penguins organization. Tangradi sort of got caught in a chicken/egg situation in terms of his ice-time -- he wasn’t getting much of it because he wasn’t producing points or generating a lot of chances. But when buried on the fourth line with the likes of Craig Adams, it’s going to be hard to stand out to prove that you deserve more time and a bigger role.
Though big, Tangradi isn’t really a physical player, and that hurt him for the Pens system that stresses speedy wingers willing to play physically and transition quickly from forechecking back to offense (as in why Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis have done so well as Penguins). Tangradi did look pretty good on a power play unit screening the goalie, so maybe he could be a net-front presence if given the chance.
I could see him becoming a moderately successful NHL player, maybe along the lines of Mark Letestu, who the Pens also didn’t have regular lineup space for and dealt away for a draft pick. I highly doubt Tangradi will be an NHL 20 goal scorer, but for a 7th round throwaway pick, it’s not a bad gamble for the Jets to take.
At the same time, it has been pretty obvious that Tangradi wasn’t a player who was going to be successful in Pittsburgh for a while now and time for all to just move on.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury seems to have rebounded nicely after a slow start to the season, despite owning a sub-standard SV%. Do Pens fans still have faith that he will be the franchise goalie for years to come?
Fleury is a very polarizing figure amongst Pittsburgh fans. A vocal segment don’t trust him, due to his various troubles and spotty play. I think most fans though realize that while Fleury is inconsistent, and he’s never going to be a Patrick Roy/Martin Brodeur dominant type guy, he’s also a very good athlete and a player who’s proven that he can win playoff series. An issue is Fleury has lost his last three playoff series though (dating back to Montreal in 2010), so patience is growing thin amongst everyone to get a better result. It was the reason the Pens went out and paid $2 million a season to get a veteran backup in Tomas Vokoun.
So far Fleury’s played well -- had his good and bad games, as every goalie does in the NHL. Plainly though, he’s still the guy, at least in management’s eyes, who will be the starting goalie for years to come if the Pens expect to be contenders. They don’t have much in the pipeline and it’s rare to see teams trade franchise goalies, when you have one you want to hold on to him, so for the Pens, it’s about getting Fleury to play well more than any heat on him to lose his job for good.
3. The Pens are 7-3-0 in their last ten. In your opinion, what will the Jets need to do well tonight in order to earn two points?
I think the Jets will really want to score the first goal. Pittsburgh has scored the first goal in 11 out of their 14 games and are 8-3-0 when they do so (and 1-2-0 when they are down 1-0). If Winnipeg can score early and play from the advantage, that’s the place you want to be. Very obvious to for me to point that out, but I do believe the first goal will be crucial.
From there, stay out of the penalty box- the Penguins power play is clicking really well right now (#2 in the league on the season at 27.3%) and you definitely don’t want to play against that too much. Additionally, general tight checking of Crosby and Malkin, who are basically the catalysts for most the Pens offensive production is another obvious but notable step that Winnipeg will need to take in order to get the win.
Ed. Note: We thank Hooks for giving us his time in this edition of Gameday Questionnaire. Look for our next edition Sunday with our pals at Stanley Cup of Chowder.