Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mike Johnston's Newest Test

Injuries keep piling up.  Suspensions hit the team.  A line up is depleted.  What ever will the Penguins do?  That's up to coach Mike Johnston.

The news came out today during his afternoon press conference: Kris Letang would miss two weeks with an unspecified injury.  It's another blow to a team missing skill players in Beau Bennet (lower body), Chris Kunitz (foot), and Pascal Dupuis (blood clot).  A promising top six is suddenly zapped of all of its skill beyond Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Patric Hornqvist.

Chris Kunitz to miss two months
with a fractured foot
The blue line is at odds as well.  No Kris Letang.  Robert Bortuzzo is out two games due to a suspension from a hit on Jaromir Jagr.  For tonight's match up agains the Canucks the Penguins are down to six defenders able to play right away.

In a season of firsts for first year head coach Mike Johnston, the Penguins fans and front office are about to find out how Johnston deals with adversity in a new way.  All have been treated to Johnston's fully functioning system under a healthy line up.  How will his system work under the duress of a lack of quality depth?

For all of his faults and shortcomings, no one would accuse Dan Bylsma's teams of playing poorly shorthanded.  Leading the NHL in man games lost, Bylsma's team overcame serious injuries to Malkin, Crosby, Fleury, Letang, Dupuis, and a host of others to always excel in the regular season.

When Bylsma's teams "got to their game" their depth players would step up and elevate.  It was something fans were all too used to.  Star player went down?  The team can tread water.  Little reason to worry.
Blake Comeau will be counted on
to carry the offensive load

With new management comes the same odd rash of injuries.  While curiosity over whether any burial site lays under CONSOL Energy Center begins to seems to be a more and more legitimate question, the reality is that the Penguins are hurting.

Depth is better this year and that should help.  With less Tanner Glass, Chris Conner, Brian Gibbons, Chuck Kobasew comes more Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, and others who can actually contribute when bumped from a bottom six to a top six role.

These better role players should improve the Penguins chances as they deal with the injury bug once again plaguing a team that just really wants to stay healthy for once, man.  However the success of the team depends on the man behind the bench.

Will his current system suit everyone?  Will he make adjustments?  What will Johnston change and keep?  These questions are the newest questions that will all be answered in due time.

They're also the newest speed bump for a new coach who has handled every other issue with poise.  It's his newest test in a line of many and it's an important test to pass.
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