Preseason Thoughts: Game 5 vs Chicago

Welcome back Pens fans! If you’re new or have forgotten what I do in the postgame thoughts, here’s a quick introduction/recap. Speaking of, don’t expect recaps. It’s purely thoughts and analysis of specific plays and players. I hate +/-, so I do my own goal assessments and award a “+” if a player contributes to a goal for and a “-“ if a player is at fault for a goal against (or is in the penalty box for one). I ignore PP and PK situations. There will be a running tally through the regular season.

Also, I’m going to try to add something new this season and evaluate penalties as well. The plan is to judge them as a good penalty to take (necessary to negate a prime scoring chance), bad/unnecessary, inconsequential (coincidental minors and such), or a bad call by the ref. I’ll keep a tally on those as well through the season.

If you have any thoughts, comments, or ideas, feel free to let me know!! (Pictures and nice formatting will return in the regular season)
– Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)
*Intro will disappear after preseason is over*

Preseason Game 5:  Pens 3  Blackhawks 2 (SO)

Letang (1) unassisted
Letang (2) (PP) from Malkin, Neal
SO Goals: Neal, Crosby

There would normally be a Stat Leaders section and a Video Recap here, but neither are available. Both will return during the regular season.

Goal Assessment

1st Goal Against (Bickell): – for

  • No One – just fantastic hand-eye by Bickell to knock the puck out of midair after the Despres blocked a shot and Bortuzzo poke-checked it away.

2nd Goal Against (Bickell): – for

  • Bennett – in the penalty box for boarding
  • Scuderi – allows Bickell to stand in front of Zatkoff for the screen, which also allows Bickell to tip the puck in

1st Goal For (Letang): + for

  • Letang – perfectly reads the play and picks off a pass as the Blackhawks break out of the zone, takes the puck in for a breakaway and beats Khabibulin with a deke to the backhand

2nd Goal For (Letang): + for

  • Neal – carries the puck up the ice and passes over to Malkin as the Pens enter the offensive zone, then goes to screen Khabibulin
  • Malkin – skates the puck deep into the zone and passes back to Letang at the point
  • Letang – glides a few feet in with the puck and rifles a slapshot past Khabibulin

Penalty Assessment

Bennett (interference): Eh (clearly this is a work in progress). The play was interference by the book but it was within a scrum and is allowed more often than not. Bad penalty, but inconsistently called too.
Crosby (holding): Bad. Loses positioning in the defensive zone and hangs on a Blackhawks player going for the puck.
Letang (roughing): Inconsequential. Get into it with a Chicago player in the corner as he’s defending Sid in a scrum. Coincidental minors.
Letang (tripping): Bad. Put his stick in between a player’s legs and knocked him over in a puck battle.
Neal (delay of game): Bad. had more time and space than he realized as he swatted the puck away from the crease over the glass
Zolnierczyk (roughing): Inconsequential. Got involved in a scrum at the end of a play. Coincidental minors.
Bennett (boarding): Bad. Sees a player’s numbers but still continues his check into the guy’s back.
Crosby (roughing): Bad. Goes after Morin all the way to the Blackhawks bench for a scrum. Coincidental minors.
Kunitz (slashing): Bad. Can’t get around Oduya late in the game and proceeds to slash his stick into two pieces.

Player Assessment


Kris Letang – Aside from a little bit of penalty trouble, Letang looked great against Chicago’s minor leaguers. Oddly enough, he actually made up for a couple of Scuderi gaffes. With strong defensive play and 2 goals, it was one of the better all-around performances that Letang has shown.

Jeff Zatkoff – The new backup goalie looked very solid against Chicago. Both goals against were due to very impressive stick-work by Bickell. One very impressive thing about Zatkoff is how far he gets out to challenge shooters and how quickly he gets back into position afterwards. Though I’m not sold on him as the backup for the season yet, this was a strong step forward.

Harry Zolnierczyk – Harry Z certainly toes the line at times, but you can’t disregard the energy he brings or his effort. He seems to combine the puck pursuit of Tyler Kennedy with the edginess of Matt Cooke. He will be frustrating at times, but he definitely looks like he could be useful on the NHL roster.


Rob Scuderi – Scuderi made some spectacular defensive plays and also looked lost at times throughout the game. It appears there will be growing pains between him and Letang. However, Scuderi seems to unleash Letang, so there’s a good chance those growing pains will be worthwhile. We might have to be patient with the Letang-Scuderi pairing for 10-15 games though.


Olli Maatta – Somehow, Maatta looked more out of place against mostly minor leaguers than he did against NHL caliber players earlier in preseason. He had a couple of bad giveaways and seems to get beat to the outside easily. His talent is very apparent though and he will be NHL-ready sooner than later.

Robert Bortuzzo – Bortuzzo was a little weak on the puck in the defensive zone and had trouble keeping the puck in the offensive zone against Chicago. It was the type of performance that keeps him at being a 6th defenseman, though there is certainly potential for more. One thing he may need to work on is consistently playing to his large stature.


Thanks for reading! Final preseason game is Wednesday, 9/25 @ Detroit, 7:30pm.