Anthony Petrielli joined Sportsnet Today on Saturday, discussing Penguins vs. Leafs, the Leafs’ recent hot streak, Frederik Andersen’s workload, and much more.
On the way the team is winning games lately:
It’s kind of interesting because this is kind of what happened at the beginning of the season. They started off really hot. They were scoring. They weren’t quite getting this goaltending, but it was a bit more of the free-flowing offense. And then they finally hit a wall and it caught up to them a little bit. Naturally, there are just some bad habits that come into play when you get away with murder a little bit winning some games that you shouldn’t.
But looking at now compared to the beginning of the season, their line composition is a little bit better by just moving up Marner with Kadri. With those top two lines, it’s basically a pick-your-poison right now, whereas when Komarov was there — no offense to him; he’s a handy player — that line was not dangerous. They were a non-factor at five-on-five offensively. Now, with Kadri-Marner, they have that one-two punch. Whatever line is hot, makes them dangerous.
In the playoffs, the game will naturally tighten up and naturally get more defensive. It will naturally be harder to score, but they can play this style. Really, they’ve just got to work on controlling the play more in the offensive zone than they have been.
On whether adding a defenseman before the deadline is going to be in the cards:
It’s really tough. It’s interesting because I was reading up a little bit on Vancouver, who have a couple of defensemen who could be available. They seem very reluctant to deal Chris Tanev even though they’ve been a bad team for a few years. That kind of speaks to how hard it is to pry a good defenceman loose. Vancouver is going nowhere yet again, and here they are holding onto this guy.
Whether a quality guy is available is one thing. The second thing is that the Leafs aren’t a third-pairing guy away from cleaning up their defense and being a strong unit. Looking at the Columbus game as an example, on the second last shift of the game, the Leafs put out Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev. To end the game, with Columbus’ goalie pulled, they had Morgan Rielly and Roman Polak out there. Neither of those pairings is anything to write home about defensively.
Ideally, you’d like a top four who is a bit more of a shutdown guy that you can put out in those games. Otherwise, it’s just going to be nail-biting time for them.
On Frederik Andersen’s workload and the idea of resting him more:
It’s weird because all season I’ve said that they need to rest this guy. He’s playing the most minutes in the league. He’s faced the most shots. He has a heavy workload. He is not getting many games where he’s sitting there with 18 shots against and it was a relatively quiet night in the office. That is not Leafs hockey. That never happens.
To his credit, he’s going. He seems to handle it quite well. On the one hand, you’re like, “Maybe this is a guy who thrives in this situation.” On the other hand, you’re like, “Logically, this is going to catch-up to him. There is no way that it can’t.”
They are kind of in that balancing act of it. For me, they are going to go as far as Andersen is going to take them, at the end of the day, in the playoffs. I’d rather have a rested Andersen than home-ice. The Leafs seem to be saying, though, that we’re going to ride Andersen as hard as we can.
On the possibility of the Penguins winning three Cups in a row in the salary cap era:
I don’t think you can compare them to any other dynasty because they have two superstar centers. For the longest time, [Malkin and Crosby] have been part of the two, five or 10 best players in the league. Year in and year out, Malkin and Crosby are there, and they both play center, which is one of the biggest positions for controlling the game. Obviously, if you’re a hot goalie… but you don’t see them sustain that year in, year out. At center, you’re able to just impact the ice up and down so much of the game.
You look at Chicago — they thrived on depth and they did have All Stars at every position, but we saw their depth get picked away. They’ve now turned the roster over to young guys and they still have those key players, but Toews and Kane — they’re nice players, but they don’t really hold up to Crosby-Malkin’s superstar levels. Even a team like Tampa Bay, they have the franchise defenseman and they have Stamkos and Kucherov, but they don’t have another superstar center down the middle to carry a line.
Pittsburgh can just rotate these young guys in and out around Crosby and Malkin, and now they have Kessel, who is lighting the league on fire. I would never bet on a team to just keep winning Cups, but if there was a team to do it, it has to be Pittsburgh. We just might never see this again: Two centers of that magnitude back-to-back throughout the prime of their careers and possibly their entire careers together.