Key Observations Heading Into Game 4 Between the Penguins and Islanders

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By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)

Mike Johnston Suffers First Loss

The Penguins head into game 4 having suffered their first loss of the season.  While no team goes 82-0 and no team gets through a season without blowing a lead late in a game, this is not only the first loss for new coach Mike Johnston, it’s also the first “bad” loss for his team.  How the team reacts will tell a big story about these new Penguins.  However, if you’re looking for drastic reactions you’re probably going to be disappointed.  While the old regime may have exiled Simon Despres to Press Box Purgatory for his role in the Stars’ first goal, this new coaching staff seems far more interested in development than punishment.  That’s not to say that mistakes will not be addressed.  They will be throughout the course of the year.  It’s just that Mike Johnston seems more interested in focusing on the correct things being done than the wrong things.

What About Dupuis?

We all held our breath on Thursday as Pascal Dupuis took a puck to the back of the neck after an Alex Goligoski crosscheck sent him down to the ice.  It’s good for Dupuis and the team that he skated on Friday as his loss would have been hard to take for the Penguins.  While Jim Rutherford was able to address many issues with the forward corps in the offseason, he could not do much about the lack of organizational depth at the position.  While guys like Blake Comeau and Steve Downie are adequate top-six fill-ins for the short-term, they are far from long-term solutions.  Compounding the problem, the Penguins do not have many serviceable bottom-six forwards to dress while those two perform fill-in duty.  A guy like Jayson Megna may be a fan-favorite due to his speed, but the hard truth is that he sometimes looks lost on the ice.

Getting Dupuis back on the ice is a very important thing for the team.  Since 2009, his first full season with the Penguins, Dupuis has put up an even strength Corsi of 54.9% when playing with Sidney Crosby.  In that same span those two have a goals for of 67.4%.  This season, while playing mostly with Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter, Dupuis’ Corsi has been 57.3% with a goals for of 100%.  Through three games, the line of Dupuis, Malkin, and Sutter are leading the Penguins in team goals for and they have yet to be on the ice for a goal against at even strength.  This means that while the top line of Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, and Chris Kunitz has been getting all the attention, the second line has been quietly doing some impressive things of their own.