Preseason Thoughts: Game 6 vs Detroit

Published on September 25th, 2013

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 6: Pens 5  Red Wings 1

Goals
Jokinen (4) (PP) from Niskanen, Fleury
Dupuis (1) from Crosby, Kunitz
Adams (1) from Malkin, Scuderi
Kunitz (1) unassisted
Kunitz (2) from Crosby, Malkin

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 For (Jokinen): + for

  • Niskanen – brings the puck up from the defensive zone and passes it to Jokinen as he’s sliding behind the defense
  • Jokinen – receives the pass and scores on a breakaway on Mrazek

2nd Goal For (Dupuis): + for

  • Dupuis – starts the play by wrapping the puck around the boards in the defensive zone and then streaks up the middle of the ice, takes Crosby’s pass in the slot and beats Mrazek
  • Kunitz – chips the puck up out of the defensive zone
  • Crosby – knocks the puck forward in the neutral zone as he beats out one defender for the puck, then carries it into the offensive zone and draws the other defender over, finally passing the puck across to Dupuis wide open in the slot

3rd Goal For (Adams): + for

  • Adams – takes the puck in the defensive zone and passes it up the boards to Crosby, then streaks up the middle of the ice, circles behind the Wings net, and stands in the slot with his stick down, ends up tipping Malkin’s shot from the point past Mrazek
  • Crosby – skates the puck deep into the zone, pulls up in the corner, and passes it back to Scuderi at the point
  • Scuderi – waits until Malkin enters the zone and gives him a no-look pass at the point
  • Malkin – one-times a shot towards the net

1st Goal Against (Miller): – for

  • Engelland – goes for a hit on Miller in a 1 on 1 situation, takes himself and Orpik out of the play as Miller skates alone with the puck
  • Fleury – makes a high risk decision to slide out after the open puck after Engelland’s hit and gets beat when Miller chips the puck over him

4th Goal For (Kunitz): + for

  • Kunitz – steals the puck at center ice and takes it in on a breakaway, scores on a slapshot where he hesitates on the shot for just a split second

5th Goal For (Kunitz): + for

  • Crosby – recovers the rebound off of his own blocked shot, winds up for a shot at the point, but decides to pass the puck down to Kunitz on the crease instead
  • Kunitz – turns the puck from his backhand to his forehand on the crease and beats Mrazek

Penalty Assessment

  • Malkin (tripping): Bad, goes for the puck but takes out a player’s skates instead
  • Neal (roughing): Bad, away from the play and after the whistle, negated a powerplay the Pens were about to get on an interference call
  • Engelland (interference): Bad, completely away from the play as the Penguins are moving the puck to the offensive zone
  • Crosby (hooking): Bad, gets his stick parallel and under the arms of Smith so it’s an obvious call
  • Bortuzzo (fighting): Inconsequential, it was a meaningless fight late in the 3rd period as Bortuzzo and Abdelkader got sick of each other

Player Assessment

Good

Chris Kunitz – Kunitz is apparently improving with age based on his performance tonight. He looked very strong in the defensive zone, showed quick hands on a goal in the offensive zone, and also a new level of deceptiveness on his slapshot goal. He was great all over the ice tonight.

Pascal Dupuis – Dupuis joined Kunitz with an impressive performance and a goal of his own. He had takeaways in both the defensive and offensive zone (offensive even on the PK) and was perfectly positioned through most of the night. The top line is ready.

Matt Niskanen – Niskanen’s vision and pass to Jokinen for the opening breakaway goal were quite impressive. He’s always had the ability to be a solid two-way defenseman and he showed it tonight with good awareness all over the ice.

Rob Scuderi – Scuderi had his most comfortable game of the preseason, playing strong 1 on 1 defense and even adding an assist on offense. He wasn’t challenged by any insanely talented players, but it was a good game for Scuds to get into a rhythm with Letang and the team.

Malkin and Crosby – They were very Malkin and Crosby-like tonight.

Noteworthy

Robert Bortuzzo – Bortuzzo had a solid game overall. He didn’t do anything too flashy, but he made all of the right plays and showed off his willingness to fight at the end of the game as well. He has absolutely shown his ability to replace Engelland at this point.

Beau Bennett – Bennett had a relatively quiet game but still showed off his new physical side. He had a couple of big hits in the offensive zone, one of which led to a takeaway, and also drew an interference penalty due to his willingness to skate through a hit.

Brandon Sutter – Sutter also had a rather quiet but sound game. He was good in the defensive zone and had a couple of key poke checks on the defensive blue line.

Bad

Deryk Engelland – Engelland played his worst game of the preseason at the wrong time for his lineup chances. He was a little careless with the puck, took a bad interference penalty away from the play, and also made a foolish hitting attempt on a 1 on 2 that led to Detroit’s only goal. Engelland may have been trying to do too much to keep his spot.

Misc Thoughts

Level of Competition: While it was nice to see the Pens actually come out strong for once this preseason, it’s still worth noting that the last game against Chicago and this one against Detroit featured mostly depth players and minor leaguers. The same way we wrote off those preseason losses as “who cares, it’s preseason”, this win should be written off as well. On to West Point and then the regular season, then we’ll see how much of this mattered, if any of it.

2nd/3rd Line: The buzz this afternoon was Jokinen on the 2nd line and Bennett on the 3rd line. My two cents: I like the decision. Bennett is young; he’ll have plenty of time in his career to be a 2nd and 1st line winger in the future. At the current time though, there is a bigger drop-off between how Jokinen plays in the top 6 vs bottom 6 than in how Bennett plays in top 6 vs bottom 6. Jokinen has proven himself to be rather worthless as a bottom 6 player. It’s one of the things that forced Carolina to GIVE him away and it’s also why he died off in the playoffs for Pittsburgh. Bennett can be an impact player on any line. His increase physicality this preseason also makes him a strong candidate to produce on the 3rd line in a variety of ways (energy, scoring, defense). Their combined potential is higher with Jokinen on the 2nd and Bennett on the 3rd rather than vice versa. It will likely change as the season goes on, and both players will likely be rotated on the 2nd line anyways. As for now, I’m pro-Jokinen on the 2nd and Bennett on the 3rd.

 
Final Preseason Thoughts

  • I’m a fan of Chuck Kobasew but I’m not sure he’s worth the contract for this team. The Pens could use the forward depth, but have to be picky with their salary cap situation. Matt D’Agostini earned his spot and showed more potential to me than Kobasew. I would probably let him walk at this point.
  • Bortuzzo has earned a 3rd D pair spot and it will be questionable at best if Engelland is somehow in the starting lineup.
  • Zolnierczyk had a good showing in preseason and earned a spot on the team in my mind. He could be very useful as an energy guy throughout this season.
  • I wasn’t impressed by either Jeffrey or Vitale as a whole throughout the preseason. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up rotating through as the 4th line center depending on who has played best (or worst) in the most recent game. It could be a frustrating year for both of them.
  • The PK is still a slight concern.  The Penguins’ willingness to leave players alone on the crease to screen their goalies, try to tip pucks, and win rebound battles is a problem.  I’m guessing changes will be required rather early in the season.

Thanks for reading! Regular season opener is October 3rd vs. New Jersey, 7pm!

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