Thoughts: Game 19 – Penguins vs Predators

Penguins 4  Predators 1

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Dupuis (3) from D’Agostini, Sutter
Neal (1) (PP) from Malkin, Crosby
Letang (4) from Malkin, Neal
Sutter (3) from Jokinen, Martin

Goal Assessment


This doesn't seem very fair for Fleury. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

This doesn’t seem very fair for Fleury. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

First Goal Against (Bourque)
David Legwand skates into the Penguins zone and takes a backhand shot that Fleury stops. The rebound comes out in front and four Penguins surround the puck. Olli Maatta softly backhands the puck back towards the point, where Kevin Klein can easily keep the puck in the zone. Maatta and Malkin both hesitate on challenging him at the point as Maatta decides to drop back and let Malkin go to the point even though he is behind Maatta. Klein tees up a slapshot with all of the traffic in front of the net. The shot bounces off of Malkin’s stick, then Maatta’s right skate, then Gabriel Bourque’s left skate and through Fleury’s five-hole.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Maatta (7), Malkin (9)

First Goal For (Dupuis)
On a faceoff in the offensive zone, Brandon Sutter ties David Legwand so the puck squirts out to the right by a foot. Matt D’Agostini quickly gets to the loose puck and moves it back to Pascal Dupuis, who is in shooting position at the top of the faceoff circle. Dupuis then one-times a shot past Marek Mazanec’s blocker.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Sutter (6), D’Agostini (1), Dupuis (13)

Second Goal For (Neal)
Sidney Crosby retrieves his own rebound off of a one-timer shot on the powerplay and takes it back to the right faceoff circle. Crosby feeds James Neal on the inside of the circle and Neal gets pressured into throwing it back to Crosby on the boards. Crosby then passes the puck to Malkin at the right point. Malkin passes back to Crosby, Crosby passes back to Malkin, Malkin passes back to Crosby, and then Crosby passes it down low to Neal by the goal line. Neal gets closed off from the net, so he passes it back to Crosby, who moves the puck back to Malkin, this time at the center of the blue line. As Malkin winds up for a shot, Chris Kunitz moves in front of Mazanec to screen him and James Neal makes a beeline for the crease area as well. Kunitz effectively screens Mazanec and Neal tips Malkin’s shot over his left pad for the powerplay goal.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Kunitz (21), Crosby (31), Malkin (20), Neal (2)

Third Goal For (Letang)
Kris Letang settles down the puck in the defensive zone for the breakout and passes it to Olli Maatta at the defensive blue line. Maatta sends the puck up to James Neal crossing the ice at the red line. Neal enters the zone into traffic and passes the puck over to Evgeni Malkin on the left point. Malkin waits and moves it to Letang at the right point as he enters the zone. Letang takes the puck down low below the goal line and sends it along the boards behind the net to James Neal on the other side. Neal moves the puck to Malkin behind the net as Letang moves just above the goal line. Malkin then passes to Letang, who quickly takes a shot as Mazanec is going post-to-post. Mazanec can’t get into position in time and has the puck go off of his left knee and into the net.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Maatta (7), Neal (3), Malkin (21), Letang (7)

Fourth Goal For (Sutter)
Paul Martin gets the puck behind the Penguins’ net and moves it up to Jussi Jokinen skating up at the defensive blue line. Jokinen carries the puck all the way into Nashville’s zone and then drops it for Brandon Sutter behind him. Sutter takes the puck and takes one stride towards the middle of the zone before ripping a wrist shot at the net. The shot beats Mazanec over his left shoulder (as he ducks his head), hits the crossbar, and goes into the net.
Players contributing to the fourth goal for: Martin (12), Jokinen (13), Sutter (7)

Penalty Assessment

Malkin (hooking): Bad, the Predators entered the Penguins zone with a 3-on-2 and Malkin was backchecking on Roman Josi. Malkin went for a stick lift but kept his stick around Josi’s hands for just a second too long, leading to the call.
Glass (fighting): Inconsequential, fights Eric Nystrom after putting a big hit on him behind the net. Nystrom skated directly to him after the hit and they dropped their gloves late in the 2nd.
Engelland (hooking): Bad, Engelland is chasing a loose puck and gets beat out by Paul Gaustad. As Gaustad gets in front of him, Engelland stops skating and puts his stick parallel to the ice into the hands of Gaustad for a hooking call.

Player Assessment

Sutter scores so infrequently that he celebrates by congratulating others for his goal. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Sutter scores so infrequently that he celebrates by congratulating others for his goal. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Jussi Jokinen – Jokinen is probably not who you expected to see at the top of the list, but his defensive work was great aside from one bad giveaway in the defensive zone. At one point, he was the only man playing defense when both Letang and Maatta went to pinch into the offensive zone. Having Jokinen around with that type of awareness is a big key in letting the defensemen play in the offensive zone safely. Beyond strong coverage, he gave Malkin and Neal good puck support all night, assisted on Sutter’s goal, and drew a slashing penalty. It was a good overall night for Jokinen.

Kris Letang – Letang finally takes the jump from Noteworthy to Good with a smart effort against the Predators. He had a couple of very good pinches into the offensive zone to keep plays alive, had a nice steal in the defensive zone, and scored a goal from just above the goal line (Jokinen dropped back for defensive coverage again there). His only real mistake was a turnover in the offensive zone after he had pinched in to keep the puck in the zone. Hopefully he can keep it up.

James Neal – Neal had the second line looking solid through most of the night and he ended up with an assist and a powerplay goal on a nice deflection. Much like Jokinen, part of the strength in his game is just simple puck support for his linemates as he follows up plays smartly and knows where to go no matter who has the puck. He looked great circling around the net and goal line to provide outlets and traffic throughout the game. His timing is improving as well.

Brandon Sutter – When Sutter gets everything on a wrist shot, there isn’t a person in the arena who isn’t aware of it. He absolutely sniped the crossbar on his goal, causing Mazanec to even duck as a reaction to the shot. He also added an assist on a designed faceoff play that didn’t work to perfection but worked nonetheless. Overall, he looked better in the offensive zone than he has in a while and still played solid defensive hockey as well.


Evgeni Malkin – Though Malkin still can’t find the back of the net, he has no problem setting it up for others at least. He added another two assists against Nashville, setting up Letang from behind the net and taking the slapshot that Neal deflected in. He still is forcing things a little too much though. He had a couple of giveaways on forced passes in the offensive zone. He also had a bad clear in the defensive zone and took a hooking penalty going back into the defensive zone. Malkin is playing okay overall but he can do much better still.

Maatta makes everyone better, except himself sometimes. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Maatta makes everyone better, except himself sometimes. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Olli Maatta – Maatta may have had his worst night in the NHL, which is completely okay in a 4-1 win. On the plus side, his breakout passes were solid through the neutral zone and one eventually led to Letang’s goal. The problem with his game was just puck control and decision making in the defensive zone though. I marked him down for three giveaways in the defensive zone alone. He also got burned at the point when he failed to keep a puck in the zone that led to a 2-on-1 the other way. To add to his problems, he played the first goal against poorly both in giving the puck away and then deciding on coverage afterwards. Maatta seems to improve his partners in every game, but he doesn’t seem to be himself if he is with anyone but Bortuzzo for some reason.

Misc Thoughts

Other Player Notes – Pascal Dupuis finally ended his goalless streak and played with a great amount of intensity after he scored. Beau Bennett had a couple of very nice plays in the neutral zone to force turnovers. Paul Martin helped the transition game immensely. Matt Niskanen struggled with puck control in the defensive zone and turned it over a couple of times.

Nystrom Fight – I loved everything about this fight until how it ended. Glass put a big, clean hit on Nystrom behind the net. Nystrom, with his team down 4-1, immediately went to Glass for a fight. It was natural, it had the potential to shift momentum going into the locker room, it was a hockey fight. The execution of everything did not work so well. It was a solid fight until Glass hit Nystrom around his ear. Nystrom loses his balance a little bit and both players paused a little. One linesman starts to put his whistle to his mouth to blow it dead and move in but then decides not to (unfortunate in retrospect). After the extended pause, Glass hits Nystrom in the side of his head so that his helmet drops in front of his face. As Nystrom is trying to get his helmet off from the front of his face since he can’t see, Glass hits him in the back of the head and topples him. Nystrom was visibly not okay and to Glass’s credit, he stayed to try and help and make sure he was okay too with visible concern on his face. It’s just a shame the linesman didn’t step in when he had the chance after Nystrom lost his balance a little the first time.

Sill Recall – Zach Sill was recalled by the team from WBS just a couple of hours before the game and he did not suit up against Nashville. I honestly don’t understand the decision. He will provide grit and energy to the team, but I would like to think Megna earned the spot from his stint in Pittsburgh with his speed and energy. We’ll see what the plan is for Sill, but I definitely believe Megna should be in Pittsburgh over him, regardless of different styles.

Welcome Back 2nd Line – The 2nd line as a whole looked very strong. Jokinen, Malkin, and Neal have great chemistry as a group and they anticipated each other and supported each other very well throughout the night. That line is going to explode for a four goal game by themselves soon and you can bet it will be Malkin’s breakout game. It won’t take long now…

Opponent Ends the Streak – While I would love to say that the Penguins ended their losing streak with a perfect effort, there is no question a large part of it was due to circumstances for Nashville.  The Predators were at the end of a long road trip, had subpar goaltending, and didn’t exactly have much offensive firepower.  It was a good set of circumstances for Pittsburgh to get back into the W column.  We’ll see how the games against New Jersey and a more-challenging Anaheim team go before determining if this team has worked on some of the flaws we have seen recently.

Pens Record: 12-7
Next Game: Saturday, 11/16 @ New Jersey, 7pm

Thanks for reading!