Thoughts: Game 15 – Penguins @ Blue Jackets

Penguins 3  Blue Jackets 0

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Engelland (2) from Vitale, Jeffrey
Kunitz (7) from Dupuis, Martin
Jokinen (7) from Malkin, Crosby

Goal Assessment

First Goal For (Engelland)
Olli Maatta picks up a loose puck behind the goal line by the Penguins net and throws the puck around the boards behind the net up to Deryk Engelland. Engelland pushes the puck through Ryan Murray pinching down to keep it in, then Engelland chops the puck out of the zone past Artem Anisimov to Dustin Jeffrey in the neutral zone. Jeffrey enters the offensive zone and skates to the goal line, then pulls up with the puck and skates back up the boards. He ends up in a puck battle with Anisimov and Jack Johnson, who hits Jeffrey in the back. Jeffrey gets the puck to Joe Vitale before he goes down though and it turns into a delayed penalty situation on Johnson. Vitale takes the puck below the goal line and passes to Deryk Engelland just inside the right faceoff circle. Engelland one-times the puck over McElhinney’s left shoulder.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Maatta (6), Jeffrey (1), Vitale (4), Engelland (2)

These three will find any way to get the puck into the net. (Jamie Sabau-Getty Images)

These three will find any way to get the puck into the net. (Jamie Sabau-Getty Images)

Second Goal For (Kunitz)
Paul Martin skates away with the puck from a scrum in front of Zatkoff and puts the puck off the boards to Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis smacks the puck further up the boards so Chris Kunitz can race up to it and get it in the neutral zone. Kunitz skates the puck into the offensive zone with Jack Johnson right on him while Sidney Crosby skates to the slot area, loosely covered by Blake Comeau. Kunitz throws a centering pass for Crosby towards the front of the net, which Comeau then deflects in past McElhinney.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Martin (10), Dupuis (12), Crosby (26), Kunitz (19), (Comeau?)

Third Goal For (Jokinen)
Brooks Orpik has the puck in the defensive zone and passes it up the boards to Jussi Jokinen in the neutral zone. Jokinen moves it to the middle of the ice where Sidney Crosby just slaps it into the Blue Jackets’ zone. The puck bounces off of a Columbus player, leaving Brandon Dubinsky and Evgeni Malkin to race for it in the offensive zone with an empty Columbus net. Dubinsky dives trying to keep the puck from Malkin and puts the puck into open space. Jokinen races to the puck in open space and flips it into the empty net.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Orpik (7), Crosby (27), Malkin (16), Jokinen (10)

Penalty Assessment

Penguins (Too Many Men): Bad-Stupid, someone jumped the gun on a change, but sadly there were no Root camera angles that covered it (that I can access).
Letang (roughing): Inconsequential, was tied up with Umberger and shoved him in the face, so they both went off for penalties.
Maatta (tripping): Bad, is looking for a pass entering the offensive zone and trips up Artem Anisimov as he gets the puck instead.

Player Assessment


Deryk Engelland – Looking back at last season, Engelland made it into this category 4 times over 42 games. He’s on pace to beat that by the end of this month. Engo ended up with the game-winner against Columbus on Saturday night, but it was far more impressive than just scoring a goal. He also did the bulk of the work to clear the defensive zone, first getting the puck past Ryan Murray and then pushing it past Artem Anisimov. A few seconds later, he was one-timing a shot from the right faceoff circle that Curtis McElhinney probably didn’t think was possible. Engelland played well beyond that sequence too. It was probably his best game as a forward in the neutral zone, where he broke up two different zone entries by standing players up and he also intercepted a pass. Engelland is a forward as far as I’m concerned at this point.

19 shots or not, a shutout is a shutout. (Jamie Sabau-Getty Images)

19 shots or not, a shutout is a shutout. (Jamie Sabau-Getty Images)

Jeff Zatkoff – He didn’t make any really spectacular saves, nor was he tested that much, but Zatkoff earned his first NHL win in shutout fashion by making 19 saves. It was a much needed victory for a goalie who looked bad in his first game and had the team play awful in front of him for his second game. The team buckled down completely to protect him and he made the saves he had to against Columbus. He will certainly face bigger tests in every game he plays for the rest of the year, but this definitely bought Zatkoff more time in the NHL. It also showed that the Penguins ARE capable of shutting down everything around the net when necessary.

Kris Letang – He finally made it here! Letang has improved every game since he came back from injury and this was the first game where he minimized his mistakes completely. The only mistake I had him marked down for was losing the puck in the slot in front of Zatkoff, which luckily didn’t turn into a goal against. On the plus side though, he had a stellar break up of a shorthanded 2-on-1 against at the end of the first period. He also forced a couple of turnovers by throwing big hits in the defensive zone and drew a penalty as well. More on the penalty later…

If nothing else, Dupuis had an excellent slide tackle. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

If nothing else, Dupuis had an excellent slide tackle. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Pascal Dupuis – Dupuis has been trending down a little for me and it has nothing to do with offensive production. He finished the Columbus game with an assist and a nice takeaway in the D zone, so he’s still accomplishing good things. He seems to lose the puck more than anyone else lately though (you know, the same way Malkin did except no one cares to single out Dupuis). I marked him down for a failed clear, losing the puck in the defensive zone, giving the puck away in the defensive zone, and also giving the puck away in the neutral zone. It is very unlike Dupuis to have 4 marks against him in a game, but he’s been holding steady around there lately. If the first line doesn’t continue its absurd offensive pace, he may find himself in the bad column soon. Protect the puck, Duper.



Misc Thoughts

Other Player Notes – After making a lazy mistake in the defensive zone on Friday night, Sidney Crosby bounced back with a solid defensive game and forced two turnovers in the defensive zone. Paul Martin has played extremely well over the past week and he looked great in the defensive zone against Columbus. Dustin Jeffrey finally picked up an assist and did something positive, though I was still surprised he was even dressed for this game. The Bortuzzo/Maatta pairing is really something special. Next game, take note of how they deal with the opposition having the puck behind the net. Both players always make sure to cover their posts and take away wrap-around chances and passes that would go to high percentage shooting areas. It looks so natural for them as a pairing; even the Orpik/Martin pairing doesn’t play those situations that smoothly. I’m not sure Bortuzzo/Maatta should ever be broken up for any reason with how well they play together.

Malkin’s “Struggle” – 13 points in 15 games is hardly a struggle, but could Malkin have looked any more snake-bitten than he did with the crossbar shot on Friday and the empty net scramble on Saturday. He has been playing well in every facet of the game lately, even cutting down on his turnovers, but the rewards of a goal just haven’t shown up. At this point, he is either going to start a 10-game scoring streak or slash everyone in the face out of frustration. Keep doing what you’re doing though Geno; excellent all-around hockey trumps scoring more than most realize.

Boll and Letang fought for the puck frequently all night, none of it was dirty though. (Jay LaPrete/AP Photo)

Boll and Letang fought for the puck frequently all night, none of it was dirty though. (Jay LaPrete/AP Photo)

Boll/Letang Hit – I was hoping to get gif of this, but no luck, twitter has failed me. Go up to the Penguins video embedded in this post and start at the 2:20 mark to see the Boll/Letang hit. There are several things to note: 1) Boll has a straight line to the corner and doesn’t really alter his path until the puck bounces off the boards and he moves for the puck. 2) Letang essentially cuts off Boll to get positioning to beat him to the puck as Boll is skating in a direct path to the puck and the boards. 3) There is absolutely no chance once Letang gets in front of Boll that a hit can be avoided with Letang having his back to Boll. 4) Boll wraps his left hand around Letang’s left shoulder and his right arm around Letang to brace both of them for the hit. 5) Boll doesn’t push into the hit; he tries to pull both of them out of the hit off the boards.

Despite Boll’s iffy reputation, I thought he did a wonderful job of trying to protect Letang in an unavoidable situation. I was glad he only got 2 minutes, and I don’t think it was a dirty/questionable hit at all. His intent was clearly not to kill Letang. If I was in charge of player safety, I would be showing every player that exact video for how to “board” someone safely if the situation is unavoidable. Major props to Jared Boll for doing his best to make that hit as harmless as possible when the circumstances were not in his favor. That type of play does not get highlighted enough and he deserves credit for it.

Hits From Behind – I know I brought this up several games ago, but it still bothers me to no end. Hits to the back/numbers are called so inconsistently in so many different situations that you never know what to expect. Against the boards – guaranteed penalty if the guy is going down, harsher penalty if the guy is slow to get up or is injured. If the guy is standing up though, 50/50 chance if it’ll be called. Open ice – rarely called, especially in the neutral zone on stretch passes and clears. In front of the net – depends on the result. Does it break up a scoring chance? It’ll probably be called. Is it the 4th time in a series of hits? It’ll probably be called. Cross-checking once or twice in the back when the puck isn’t around though, that’s seemingly okay. Why do we expect players to abide by rules that only exist half the time?

Pens Record: 11-4
Next Game: Wednesday, 11/6 @ New York Rangers, 7:30pm

Thanks for reading!