Thoughts: Game 10 – Pens Powerplay Continues Dominance in 5-0 Win over Sabres

Published on November 3rd, 2014

By: Meesh Shanmugam

Pens 5  Sabres 0

Record: 7-2-1

Goals
Kunitz (6) from Hornqvist, Crosby
Comeau (3) from Malkin, Dupuis
Hornqvist (6) (PP) from Kunitz, Malkin
Kunitz (7) (PP) from Letang, Crosby
Malkin (5) (PP) from Crosby, Ehrhoff

Click here to read the goal assessments

Penalties
Maatta (holding the stick) – Overly aggressive (battles for a puck with Myers in the corner of the Sabres zone and won’t let go of the stick of Myers)
Crosby (hooking) – Overly aggressive (tries to lift the stick of Girgensons in the offensive zone and gets his stick into Girgensons hands for the penalty)
Comeau (roughing) – Stupid (gets into a scuffle with Gorges at the end of the period and takes him down for a penalty)
Adams (holding) – Overly aggressive (holds Ristolainen in the neutral zone as they are battling for a puck so Ristolainen can’t play it)

Gm 10 Goals

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 10 Forwards

Chris Kunitz – Kunitz found a nice home to the left side of the net against the Kings on Thursday night. He decided to diversify a little more on Saturday night, doing most his damage from the area to the right of the net in his second three-point effort in a row. He opened up the scoring by following Crosby and Hornqvist into the slot to tap in a loose puck on the crease under Enroth’s pad. After that, he went to work from the right post area. He assisted on Hornqvist’s goal with a nice one-touch pass into the slot from the goal line that was impossible for Buffalo’s penalty kill to defend. He then scored his second goal with a nice deflection as he stood to the right of the net and kept his stick just in front of the post to redirect the puck over Enroth’s pad. As Kunitz continues to find new homes in the offensive zone, the top line will only get better and better.

Ebola couldn't stop this powerplay. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Ebola couldn’t stop this powerplay. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Sidney Crosby – Crosby had a “quiet” three-assist night, figured in on another goal on top of that, and drew a penalty to dominate Buffalo offensively. It all started when he took an off-target pass from Maatta off of his skate in the neutral zone, kicked it up to his stick, then drove to Buffalo’s net to draw the attention of Gorges while making Myers look silly. Crosby lost that puck, but the open room behind him allowed Hornqvist to get a chance and then Kunitz to finish it off. The rest of his offensive contributions came on the powerplay as he played a part in all three powerplay goals. The interesting part of his powerplay production is all three goals came with Crosby in different areas (left point, right corner, right point respectively). That’s just another reason why the Penguins powerplay is seemingly impossible to stop right now. Crosby did lose two pucks in the offensive zone, but I’ll get more into lost pucks below.

Evgeni Malkin – Geno also had some lost puck issues (see below) and also joined Crosby and Kunitz in recording a three-point night. He assisted on Comeau’s goal with a centering pass that gave Comeau infinite time and space skating from the top of the zone to the slot. He then assisted on Hornqvist’s goal by utilizing Kunitz from the right side of the zone and later scored his own powerplay goal with a slapshot from the left point. Much like Crosby, Malkin looked comfortable using different areas of the offensive zone on the powerplay. With a slapshot like his and Kunitz/Hornqvist around the net, it would be nice to see him shoot at-will a little more though.

Defensemen/Goalies

Gm 10 Defense

Olli Maatta – In his last game before undergoing thyroid surgery to remove a tumor, Maatta contributed to two goals and played mostly mistake-free hockey. He got the puck to Crosby in the neutral zone for the first goal and he broke up a play by Stafford in the defensive zone that led to the rush for the second goal. He was smart with the puck all night with zero turnovers and played all-around solid hockey. His only mistake was taking a holding the stick penalty as he got a little too aggressive in a battle with Myers in the offensive zone. Maatta put together a great start to the season and we wish him the best with surgery and his recovery. Get well soon, Olli.

Get well, Olli. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Get well, Olli. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Christian Ehrhoff – Ehrhoff appeared to have a little extra snarl in the first few shifts of the game as he played his former team. He started the game quickly with two defensive takeaways and played well throughout the game by closing gaps quickly and never giving the Sabres an inch. Ehrhoff has struggled at times with protecting the puck, but he looked dominant against the Sabres with zero turnovers. He also added a powerplay assist on Malkin’s goal. Hopefully we get to see more games like this from him.

Kris Letang – Letang lost the puck a few times (two giveaways, two lost pucks; see below), but all of that damage was done harmlessly in the offensive zone. It certainly didn’t outweigh his seven-shot performance that had him contributing to three goals (one assist). He started the breakout from the defensive zone on Kunitz’s goal, worked the puck around the powerplay unit for the third goal, and took the shot that Kunitz deflected for the fourth goal. He is getting a bit more assertive with his shots and was willing to skate deeper into the middle of the zone against Buffalo, but that may have been due to the weakness of the opponent. If Letang keeps shooting the puck though, the goals will certainly come soon enough.

Misc. Thoughts

More Shutouts – Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his third shutout in four games, which seems downright crazy given his past history (and ability to lose shutouts late in games). This game wasn’t much of a test though. Fleury only faced 18 shots, and only two or three of those even required moderately difficult saves. The Penguins played another strong game up the middle, preventing second chances and most high-percentage shots. Buffalo also helped out by missing the net on three or four shots from the slot, including a puck that Kunitz turned over directly in front of the net (Kunitz then went over and tapped Fleury on the pads for the scare). Overall though, the Penguins are really limiting the crease work around Fleury and he hasn’t had to scramble nearly as much because of it. I only noticed one big rebound chance in the game and it wasn’t until 7 seconds left in the third period. The Sabres are bad…very bad…but the Penguins have shown over the past week that they know how to protect their net, perhaps better than we have seen in 6ish years.

It was another team effort that kept the puck out of the Penguins net. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

It was another team effort that kept the puck out of the Penguins net. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Maatta’s Absence – With Maatta out for roughly the month of November, Bortuzzo’s return couldn’t come at better time. He has been medically cleared and should be in the lineup on Tuesday at Minnesota. Bortuzzo will bring a bigger physical presence, but he certainly doesn’t play the puck like Maatta. I would expect Despres to join Letang’s pairing while Bortuzzo and Scuderi handle 3rd pairing duties. Despres has looked pretty good over the last week and is the closest of that third line tier to what Maatta brings to the table. This could be a huge opportunity for Despres to prove his true value, which I believe none of us actually know quite yet. It will also be interesting to see if Paul Martin gets a boost in powerplay time or if Despres will pick that up too. With the way the powerplay, defense, and Fleury is playing right now, this should be a very smooth transition for the team.

Lost Pucks – A majority of Pittsburgh’s turnovers in this game were due to how bad Buffalo was. Yes, you read that right. The trio of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang all lost multiple pucks in the offensive zone because Buffalo’s defense was backing up so far that each player figured it was worth trying to skate through the defense. Malkin tried to go through four guys twice with no luck. It was somewhat funny to watch against Buffalo, because the Sabres are so bad that they have no counterattack. It’s the type of mindset that hopefully will not carry over Tuesday against a solid Minnesota team though.

Next Game: 11/4 @ Minnesota, 8pm

Thanks for reading!!

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