Thoughts: Game 12 – Penguins @ Hurricanes

Penguins 3  Hurricanes 1

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Glass (2) from Megna, Orpik
Kunitz (5) from Crosby, Orpik
Megna (1) from Crosby, Orpik

Goal Assessment

First Goal For (Glass)
Sidney Crosby wins a faceoff just outside of Carolina’s zone directly back to Brooks Orpik. Orpik throws the puck into the zone off the far boards into an open area. Jayson Megna, who had lined up next to Orpik for the faceoff, sprints into the offensive zone as soon as the puck enters the zone. Megna wins the race to the puck and puts a shot on Justin Peters that creates a rebound. With both defensemen paying attention to Megna’s shot, Tanner Glass skates into the slot and fires the rebound immediately past Peters.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Crosby (21), Orpik (3), Megna (1), Glass (4)

First Goal Against (Gerbe)
Brandon Sutter is in the penalty box for tripping and Craig Adams is in the box for slashing. Ryan Murphy brings the puck into the Penguins zone as the Penguins back into their triangle and the Hurricanes set up a box around the perimeter with a man in the slot. Murphy passes the puck down to Eric Staal on the goal line, who sends it back to Murphy at the point. Murphy then moves the puck to Alexander Semin above the left faceoff circle. Semin fakes a shot and passes the puck down to Elias Lindholm on the goal line. Lindholm returns the puck to Semin, who skates a little further into the faceoff circle. As Dupuis goes to step up on Semin, the puck is passed back down to Lindholm, causing Orpik to watch for a pass across the crease. Lindholm immediately passes the puck to the slot to Gerbe, who sweeps the puck past Fleury’s left pad.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Sutter (4), Adams (2)

Second Goal For (Kunitz)
Paul Martin wins a puck battle in the defensive zone and moves the puck to Brooks Orpik in the slot. Orpik passes the puck up to Chris Kunitz at the defensive blue line and Kunitz immediately returns it back to Orpik. Orpik carries it to the blue line and then passes across the ice to Sidney Crosby on the offensive blue line. Crosby enters the zone with the puck along the boards while Pascal Dupuis enters in the middle and Chris Kunitz on the opposite side boards. Crosby protects the puck and suddenly pulls up to create space as Dupuis continues to drive to the net and Kunitz heads towards the back post. Dupuis takes Justin Faulk to the net to create an open passing lane between Crosby and Kunitz. Crosby passes the puck to Kunitz as he gets a step ahead of Jordan Staal and then redirects the puck into the net.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Martin (7), Orpik (4), Dupuis (10), Crosby (22), Kunitz (15)

Third Goal For (Megna)
Sidney Crosby ties up Eric Staal deep in Carolina’s zone so the puck can’t be cleared. Chris Kunitz comes along to retrieve the puck and passes it behind the goal line for Crosby. Crosby passes it back to Kunitz along the boards and Kunitz keeps the puck moving to Brooks Orpik at the point. Orpik takes a light wrist shot that hits Eric Staal’s stick and goes to Crosby in the high slot area. Crosby then takes a wrist shot that goes off of Justin Faulk’s stick, off of Andrej Sekera’s leg, and then off of Jayson Megna’s skate before it bounces into the net.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Kunitz (16), Orpik (5), Crosby (23), Megna (2)

Penalty Assessment

The jury is out on whether fights like Vitale's serve a purpose. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

The jury is out on whether fights like Vitale’s serve a purpose. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Vitale (fighting) – Inconsequential, fought Brett Sutter after Sutter had boarded Craig Adams.
Vitale (roughing) – Bad, Vitale gets an extra roughing call for going after Sutter while he was sitting on the ice before they dropped the gloves. It negated a potential powerplay.
Sutter (tripping) – Bad, tries to backcheck on Alexander Semin leaving the Hurricanes zone and puts his stick into Semin’s legs while going for a poke check.
Adams (slashing) – Bad, slashes Eric Staal’s leg on the penalty kill in the defensive zone and has his stick break, making it an easy call.
Kunitz (slashing) – Bad-Stupid, Gets tripped up by Dwyer in the offensive zone and then gives him a little slash on the hands as they exit the zone.
D’Agostini (hooking) – Bad, tries to chase down Ryan Murphy in the neutral zone and continuously puts his stick into Murphy’s hands until it ends up being a hooking call.
D’Agostini (high-sticking) – Bad-Careless, goes for a hit in the offensive zone and gets a solid body check on Ryan Murphy but keeps his stick up and taps Murphy in the head too.

Player Assessment

MegnaMan, Megnatron,'s all fair game after  Megna's performance. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

MegnaMan, Megnatron, Megnificent…it’s all fair game after Megna’s performance. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Jayson Megna – After a less than impressive debut over the weekend, Megna made a name for himself quickly against Carolina as the best player on the ice by far. On the offensive side, he recorded his first NHL point (an assist) on the opening goal and then added his first NHL goal on a string of crazy bounces in the 3rd period. Beyond the offensive production though, Megna looked like the quickest player on the ice and had a nose for the right places at both ends. In the defensive zone, he ended up with a block and he also broke up a centering pass near the slot in front of Fleury. It was a great overall game for Megna.

Brooks Orpik – A three point night from a defensive defenseman? Yeah, that should work fine. Orpik ended up with secondary assists on all three goals, making a couple of very nice passes in the process. It wasn’t all offense though, he looked relatively strong in the defensive zone too with a couple of blocked shots. He was also very physical on the crease, especially in the last two minutes of the game which is something we have not seen from the defensemen as a whole much. The only mistake he made was losing position on a 2-on-2 that turned into a 2-on-1 but was saved by Paul Martin. Orpik is at his best when he isn’t lunging for hits and he showed it against Carolina.

Olli Maatta – Maatta clearly plays his best with Bortuzzo, regardless of whether it’s because of chemistry, confidence, or just a combination of their skillsets. He looked very good against Carolina and won several puck battles against the boards in the defensive zone with bigger forwards. He also drew a high sticking penalty by stepping up into Tuomo Ruutu and knocking him off balance in the slot. Not only has Maatta been impressive from a maturity standpoint, but he is learning the little pieces of the game very quickly.

Sidney Crosby – Crosby looked much better in this game than he did on Saturday, controlling the puck better and working well with several different line combinations. He factored into all three goals and recorded assists on the latter two. His defensive game was really the impressive part of his night though. He ended up with a takeaway on the PK, and another one in the defensive zone. He also helped out the defensemen nicely on two separate clears that probably would have been turnovers on Saturday night. On the negative side, he did still turn the puck over twice trying to force plays, but neither one was in a harmful area where the Penguins couldn’t recover.

How's this for scary, Kunitz has 12 points and I don't even think he's played a complete game yet. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

How’s this for scary, Kunitz has 12 points and I don’t even think he’s played a complete game yet. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Chris Kunitz – Kunitz finished with a goal and an assist in a good offensive effort, but he didn’t play his best defensive game. He failed to clear the puck from the defensive zone three separate times along the boards. The other knock against him was his stupid slashing penalty, which was out of a little retaliation more than anything. Luckily, everything is cured with offensive production, but Kunitz could have been better overall.

Kris Letang – Letang definitely played his best game of his three game season so far and looked surprisingly good with Niskanen despite my greatest fears. He forced two turnovers in the defensive zone, one from a poke check and one off of a big hit. He also had a nice takeaway in the neutral zone. To counter that, he lost the puck at the offensive blue line once and also turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Overall though, it was a decent effort for Letang. He led the way when it came to making safe plays in the 3rd period as he had several smart dump-ins and didn’t push the envelope at all. It was somewhat boring hockey for Letang, but it was risk-free and solid. I’ll take that any day.

Brandon Sutter – I will continue to harp on this until I understand it, but Sutter continues to look strong over 2/3rds of the ice and lost (though less in this game) in the offensive zone. On the plus side, he forced a turnover with a hit as he continues to increase his physical game and he also had a couple of takeaways off of backchecking efforts. He also looked good on the PK with a couple of broken up passes. However, he lost the puck three times in the offensive zone (twice on the powerplay) and also took a tripping penalty skating out of the offensive zone. Sutter at least put the puck on net more with three shots, but something still isn’t clicking there.


Matt D’Agostini – After he was possibly the best player on the ice on Saturday, D’Agostini contributed a lot of nothing by taking two penalties with only 9:38 of ice time. Neither penalty he took was good – a neutral zone hooking infraction and a careless high-sticking penalty when he was throwing a hit in the offensive zone. D’Agostini doesn’t have to produce to be effective, but he can’t be a detriment either. Two penalties and no production = detriment.

Misc Thoughts

Moments like this probably keep Glass from scoring more. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Moments like this probably keep Glass from scoring more. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Other Player Notes – Pascal Dupuis had a strong game and his positioning in the offensive zone was great. Jussi Jokinen doesn’t seem to have a handle on what to do with the puck on the powerplay if he’s not in a shooting position. Evgeni Malkin had a much better game than we have seen recently and he played very responsible defensively.  Tanner Glass continues to play perfect hockey for his role, what an impressive turnaround.

Injuries – As we received the updates today: Rob Scuderi has a broken ankle that requires surgery. There is no timetable. My inaccurate google searches on ankle injuries lead me to believe that he will miss around three months, but remember – inaccurate google searches. Chuck Kobasew will miss 3-4 weeks with an upper body injury sustained from a Tim Gleason hit. James Neal is still week-to-week and is hoping for late November as a return. Beau Bennett may resume practicing again this week.

Defensive Pairings – I was admittedly concerned about the Niskanen/Letang pairing going into the game, but they looked very good against Carolina. Neither player pushed the play offensively and both were very responsible in the defensive zone. It won’t lead to a crazy offensive output, but that’s the type of safe, defensive hockey that the Penguins could use from time to time. As for the other pairings, Maatta/Bortuzzo already looks as reliable as they come and Martin/Orpik is Martin/Orpik.

Third Period Changes – The Penguins made a clear effort to not get caught in the offensive zone, not turn the puck over, and not give the Hurricanes much of a chance in the third period. Letang skated the puck up to the red line and dumped it in several times. Multiple players made a safe pass back into the defensive zone to open defensemen instead of pushing the puck through the neutral zone. The Penguins played a very risk-averse style in the third period and held on to a win. It was very nice to see the team hold back for once and play smart instead of pushing their talents.

Bottom 6 – The first two lines struggled at times with getting the puck in deep again, but give credit to the bottom 6 forwards. The group has been written about over and over again as a weakness, but they all know how to dump the puck in, keep the puck in deep, and go to the net with or without the puck. The bottom 6 is playing their brand of gritty hockey so well that I trust them on the ice in any situation right now. If you remember last season, the 4th line couldn’t be trusted to keep the puck out of the defensive zone. Now, it’s a given that they will dump the puck in and hold it there, if not get quality scoring chances and get a goal. Cheers to the improvement in the bottom 6, largely led by Tanner Glass, and also Vitale and Adams.

Pens Record: 8-4
Next Game: Wednesday, 10/30 vs Boston, 8pm

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