Pens flawed, but boy can they score

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins have some flaws, which were evident during their recent 1-2 trip through Florida, Carolina and Montreal.

But the Penguins also have an amazing concentration of skill, which was apparent in Monday’s home win over Tampa Bay.

Evgeni Malkin returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion and immediately contributed a highlight reel goal. Malkin stole the puck at the blue line, got past two defensemen and fired a shot past a totally confused goalie.

It wasn’t the best of his career because he had one against Tampa Bay where he rushed the length of the ice and beat the entire team. But it was a combination of power and skill that few players can match.

On the next shift, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby combined on a goal that was impressive for different reasons. Crosby stole the puck in the defensive zone, and headed up the ice. He dished the puck off to Letang, who circled behind the net and patiently waited for Crosby to find open ice.

When Crosby was in position to shoot, Letang sent him the puck. Crosby dropped to one knee and fired in an accurate shot as he was moving away from the net.

They were two impressive goals in a game that wound up being decided by one goal.

Yet for all that skill, the Penguins need more. They have to find a way to keep the front of the net clear. Opponents are setting up there and taking advantage of the rebounds and deflections that result from that positioning. Those goals aren’t as pretty as the ones Malkin and Crosby scored, but they count just as much.

And as valuable as Malkin and Crosby are, the Penguins need to find some balance and get more secondary scoring. Matt Cooke has been contributing lately, and that helps.

The trading deadline is still a month away, so general manager Ray Shero has time to assess what the Penguins need for a long run in the playoffs. Maybe he can deal one of his offensively-gifted defensemen for someone who is a physical presence and can help keep the front of the net clear.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the Penguins could use the 2013 version of Ulf Samuelsson.

Big changes

The move from the Big East to the Big 12 has been a big headache for West Virginia’s basketball program.

In addition to adjusting to a different style of play, the Mountaineers are also encountering much more demanding travel.

But the WVU administration had to know that when it joined a conference whose members are not a good geographical match.

Pitt will discover the same thing on a smaller scale when it makes the switch from the Big East to the ACC next year.

Administrators make the changes, but coaches have to deal with them.

Mehno can be reached at