Thoughts: Game 11 – Greiss gets first Pens win in 4-1 victory over Minnesota

By: Meesh Shanmugam

Pens 4  Wild 1

Record: 8-2-1

Goals
Spaling (2) from Downie, Scuderi
Sutter (3) from Scuderi, Martin
Kunitz (8) (PP) from Malkin, Letang
Hornqvist (7) from Crosby

Click here to read the goal assessments

Penalties
Comeau (interference): Stupid (hits Scandella from behind in the high slot of the defensive zone without the puck being around)
Sutter (holding): Unnecessary (uses his free arm to hold Suter back as they battle for a puck behind the net)
Malkin (roughing): Inconsequential (gets into a scuffle with Carter after Carter bowled over Greiss and both players receive roughing minors)
Downie (interference): Unnecessary (knocks the stick out of Granlund’s hands with a two-handed chop downwards; probably should have been called slashing instead)
Despres (fighting): Inconsequential (dropped the gloves with Brodziak and they both received fighting majors)
Ehrhoff (high-sticking): Careless (tried to swipe a puck in the corner of the Penguins zone and lifted his stick into the face of Granlund)

Gm 11 Goals

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 11 Forwards

Steve Downie – Though we have now moved into Typical Downie Penalty™ territory this season, it was very nice to see Downie show off his playmaking ability and high hockey IQ. He set up Spaling for the first goal of the game with a nice fake look for a shot that sent Kuemper to the ice, followed by a perfect pass to Spaling’s tape with a wide open net. He then made a very smart play on Sutter’s goal to start the second period as he skated down the wing next to Sutter and then slowed his pace just enough to interfere with Vanek’s backcheck on Sutter. That was a demonstration of awareness and hockey intelligence that you won’t find with just anyone in this league. Now if only we could find a way to eliminate that TDP™ every game…

Secondary scoring? Check! (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

Secondary scoring? Check! (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

Craig Adams – Some people seem to get upset when I credit lower-level players for doing good things, but I’m certainly not going to waste any rare opportunities to compliment these guys when they are playing well. Adams had a decent game against the Wild and is certainly one of the reasons that the PK is now on a 30-kill streak right now. He did lose control of a couple of pucks during the game, but he had three takeaways (1 neutral, 2 defensive zone) and also broke up a play in the defensive zone. Two of those takeaways came on the PK and turned into good clearing efforts. His roster spot is one that still needs to be upgraded in the long run, but he did just fine with it against the Wild.

Pascal Dupuis – Dupuis was a little quiet and disappointing through much of the game, which could also be said about the second line as a group. Individually, Malkin did his work on the powerplay and Comeau was tough to play against in the defensive zone, but Dupuis turned the puck over a few times and only had one positive play (a defensive zone forced turnover) to go with it. Out of all 18 skaters, he seemed to be the least noticeable and productive, which is not something that is said about him very often given his versatility and speed.

Defensemen/Goalies

Gm 11 Defense

Thomas Greiss – After the Penguins snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in his debut, Greiss got his first win as a Penguin with a very strong effort against the Wild. He made 33 saves on 34 shots and he made them look easier than they actually were. I marked him down specifically for three nice redirection saves in front of the net, all thanks to his strong positioning at all times. The only goal he allowed was a shorthanded breakaway, which certainly can’t be blamed on him. Fleury-Greiss certainly looks like a 1-2 combination that could rival how everyone felt about Fleury-Vokoun two years ago, if not surpass it with Fleury’s recent strong play.

Greiss had a little scare at the end, but is now prepared for anything after Detroit two weeks ago. (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

Greiss had a little scare at the end, but is now prepared for anything after Detroit two weeks ago. (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

Paul Martin – Martin moved to Letang’s pairing with Maatta out of the lineup and looked very comfortable in that spot. He played one of his best games of the season with five blocked shots, two takeaways, two pass interceptions, and two broken-up plays in the defensive zone. He also contributed and assisted on Sutter’s goal by starting the sequence with a defensive zone takeaway from Thomas Vanek. With 27:14 of ice time (2:10 PP, 5:40 PK), the team is going to lean on him heavily in Maatta’s absence and he looked quite ready to make use of that time.

Robert Bortuzzo – Bortuzzo had a shaky return to the lineup at the start of the game, but he did pick up his level of play as he got his legs under him. His first few shifts were just plain slow. He was slow to read the play and slow to make decisions with the puck, which led to a couple of giveaways. As his speed picked up though, he made a few very nice plays in the defensive zone. He broke up a 2-on-1 and a 3-on-2 with diving poke checks as he attacked the puck carrier for the 2-on-1 and the soon-to-be puck carrier on the 3-on-2 with perfect timing on each play. I was surprised (and glad) that he didn’t try and set a tone early with big hits like he often does, but I’m sure that aspect will come as he adjusts into this new Penguins world. His transition back into the lineup was about as smooth as anyone could expect.

Rob Scuderi – Just like with Adams, credit will be given where it is due. Scuderi had a couple of pass interceptions, two nice broken-up plays, and…TWO ASSISTS. His first assist came on a nice keep at the left point when Dumba tried to clear the puck. Scuderi then tried to get the puck on net and it caromed to Downie instead, but hey, he prevented the clear to start the play. His second assist came on Sutter’s goal as he wrapped the puck around the boards after Martin’s takeaway to Sutter, who took care of the rest of the play. The ceiling for Scuderi is a serviceable third pairing defenseman and he is currently playing at that level right now, so enjoy it (and no, there is still no one trading for a $3.375 mil cap hit / $4 mil salary third-pairing defenseman quite yet).

Misc. Thoughts

New D Pairings – With Maatta out (had successful surgery, results of biopsy in 7-10 days, expected to return in 4 weeks), the pairings shifted around to Martin-Letang, Bortuzzo-Ehrhoff, and Despres-Scuderi. Martin-Letang has all kinds of offensive potential and both players seem to be somewhat underrated with what they can do in the defensive zone, so that should be a very strong pair for the next month. Despres-Scuderi has *gasp* earned my trust as a third pairing in limited minutes and they seem to have settled in very well together over the last few games, so that could also be a dependable pair. Ehrhoff-Bortuzzo will be very interesting. Ehrhoff is a great skater and can move the puck, but he still seems to have defensive lapses every so often. Bortuzzo is a big hitter that has come a long way with his overall game, but I find him to be inconsistent at times. I’m guessing this pair will be up and down a lot while the 1st pair trends high and the 3rd pair trends steady.

No Goal – The no goal on Koivu late in the 3rd period was a game-changer and certainly an interesting call. If nothing else, the optics of how the refs treated it are what really threw off everyone’s ability to predict the outcome of the play. I would have been okay with a goal or no goal, honestly. Letang knocked Granlund onto Greiss. Granlund was slow to get up as he looked around for the puck, but he also wasn’t actually on top of Greiss, he was just on his stick. It appeared he was on top of Greiss as he hovered over him though, looking for the puck. Beyond that, Greiss made no attempt to even move or get up. In the end, the refs called goalie interference and thus no review for the goal (the puck did cross the goal line). Why did the refs even bother skating to the booth? Just waive it off immediately, say no goal due to interference, and everyone gets over it. Also, perhaps interference needs to be a reviewable play based on some of the calls around the NHL early this year.

Uh..this looks awkward... (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

Uh..this looks awkward, Greiss… (Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images)

PP and PK – Both the powerplay and penalty kill continue to dominate opponents and that is easily the biggest factor in the Penguins current five-game winning streak. The powerplay found a new way to score with Kunitz standing at the top of the crease and just placing his stick down for Malkin to use as a redirection ramp into the net. Malkin’s slap-pass couldn’t have been more perfect. The whole sequence started with a lost faceoff that Hornqvist won the puck back from as well. The top unit is just too much to handle for any group of four PKers and the only thing that could truly derail this group is injuries most likely now that Hornqvist is around to fight for and win loose pucks. Meanwhile, the PK has done a wonderful job of clearing out the slot and preventing second chances. Their work in front of the net has been phenomenal and they kept the Wild from jamming in any loose pucks around the crease all night. This team is definitely clicking on all cylinders right now…well, most cylinders…

Red Flags – There is one red flag to watch for currently, which is the second line as @TPBDerek astutely pointed out early in the game. In the first period, the first line was cycling and working hard and was followed by strong third line shifts…not the second line. Dupuis-Malkin-Comeau is only a makeshift line until Bennett returns (who knows for how long, given his history) or a trade is made (it was reported the Penguins are looking for a top-six winger, as if no one has known that for the last seven years). For some reason though, Malkin seemed to boost Sill and Adams better at times than Dupuis and Comeau. Of course, Comeau scored a nice goal just a game ago from Malkin, but Malkin’s zero even-strength goals are certainly hard to ignore as a red flag for the future.

Next Game: 11/6 @ Winnipeg, 8pm

Thanks for reading!!