Thoughts: Game 23 – Germans beat the Canes, Pens win 3-2

Published on November 30th, 2014

By: Meesh Shanmugam

Pens 3  Hurricanes 2

Record: 16-5-2

Goals
Kunitz (9) from Malkin, Comeau
Bortuzzo (2) from Martin, Ebbett
Ehrhoff (1) from Maatta

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 23 - Goals

Penalties
Bortuzzo (roughing) – Unnecessary (hooks up Staal from behind in the neutral zone and then also shoves him in the back of the head for a roughing penalty)
Megna (roughing) – Inconsequential (drops the gloves with Gerbe and they each receive minors for roughing)
Megna (cross-checking) – Unnecessary (cross-checks Gerbe before they drop the gloves to draw an extra minor)
Malkin (hooking) – Unnecessary (gets his stick into the midsection of Tlusty to slow him down skating out of the Canes zone for a hooking penalty)
Crosby (hooking) – Unnecessary (battles with Staal off of the faceoff and hooks back his stick/hand to hinder him going to the net)
Comeau (boarding) – Stupid (away from the puck, decides to just grab Hainsey in the back and throw him face first into the boards)
Comeau (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a scuffle with Gerbe after a whistle and both get roughing minors)
Spaling (goalie interference) – Unnecessary (skates hard to the net and ends up bumping Khudobin after he’s bumped by Liles, but he was hitting Khudobin without the bump from Liles)

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 23 - Forwards

Patric Hornqvist – Though he had no points to show for it, Hornqvist easily put together the most complete effort on the team at both ends of the ice. He finished up with four shots, three blocks, two pass interceptions, and two broken-up plays in the defensive zone, while only losing the puck once in the offensive zone. Even if his scoring pace has dropped over the past few games, his ability to break up plays and contribute on defense is certainly enough to make him a valuable player in all situations.

Chris Kunitz – Kunitz had his best game in several weeks and finally ended his goalless streak with a one-timer that was setup by Malkin. Beyond the goal, he also set aside his shoot/pass hesitations from the night before and led the team with five shots on net. He also was finally a positive in the turnover column with two takeaways and a broken-up play to go against two lost pucks in the neutral zone. Hopefully this performance boosts his confidence and gets Kunitz back to the level that we have become accustomed to, especially because it’s a necessity with all of the current injuries.

Maybe Kunitz will be awesome when he shaves. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Maybe Kunitz will be awesome when he shaves. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Sidney Crosby – Crosby skated well and was frequently swarming around the puck, but his puck management was dismal when he actually had it. He ended up with three giveaways and three lost pucks (almost exclusively in the offensive zone) with some questionable decisions to pass the puck high in the zone or to try skating through two or three defenders. On the plus side, he did finally draw a penalty, though he also took a hooking one in the defensive zone as well to even that out. Overall, it’s still tough to say that Crosby is playing as well as he usually does, which probably means he’s due for an offensive outburst soon.

Others – Andrew Ebbett filled in admirably for Goc by notching an assist in his first game of the season. Jayson Megna had his best game since being called up as he recorded two takeaways and put two shots on net. One has to wonder if the call-ups and guys like Kunitz are still finding their way in a new system after they showed impressive flashes (Megna) or really excelled (Kunitz) in the previous system. With how well the team has performed, it’s still important to remember that guys are still adjusting and learning at different paces.

Defensemen/Goalies

Thomas Greiss – Greiss was undoubtedly the number one star of the night (unless you were in the media, in which case you voted him #2 for some reason). He made several clutch saves throughout the night and especially on the penalty kill. Some highlights included stopping Skinner on a semi-breakaway, making a 2-on-1 save on Staal, stopping Lindholm cutting in front of the net by himself, and stopping a Staal redirection in the slot. The only goals he allowed were both while the Penguins were shorthanded. One was a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle and the other was tipped in front of him through traffic, so neither was on him at all. Yet again, the Penguins have found their way to a very impressive one-two duo in net, where both goalies can be trusted on any given night.

Pick which goalie you want to face, you probably won't beat either. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Pick which goalie you want to face, you probably won’t beat either. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Robert Bortuzzo – Bortuzzo was a late introduction to the lineup after Letang was a late scratch and he certainly started the game like he wasn’t ready to play. He took an early, unnecessary roughing penalty that put him in the box while the Canes scored their first goal to take the lead. Bortuzzo made up for it just a few minutes later though as the Canes basically put down a red carpet for him to enter the offensive zone and snipe a wrist shot past Khudobin. After all of that chaos, he settled down for a decent game overall. He finished with two shots, two blocks, and a forced turnover to go with only one missed coverage (the Skinner semi-breakaway). Though the Letang injury doesn’t sound serious, it would be interesting to see what Bortuzzo could do with a few games strung together.

Olli Maatta – Maatta bounced back a little bit from Friday night’s game, though I do wonder if he could use a game off after coming back so quickly from surgery. He earned the primary assist on Ehrhoff’s goal and added two shots and two blocks to his stat sheet. Turnover wise, he lost the puck twice in the defensive zone, had a neutral zone giveaway, and lost track of his man once in the defensive zone compared to just one broken-up play in the defensive zone. In terms of usage, Maatta was given time on the top powerplay over Martin and Ehrhoff with Letang out. While he is certainly capable of manning the powerplay, I do view Ehrhoff (shot) and Martin (poise/reading the play) as better options at the current time. I, for one, would not be opposed to slowing down his usage just a bit until he looks like he’s completely up to speed again.

Misc. Thoughts

Injury Update – Marcel Goc didn’t make the trip to Carolina, which led to the recall of Andrew Ebbett, who performed fine in that position. I don’t view that change as much of a drop-off centering the 4th line at least. Kris Letang was a late scratch due to a lower body injury that is not believed to be serious. Luckily, the Penguins have a plethora of defensemen ready at all times to step in. The biggest concern at this point is how many more forward injuries can this team handle? The lack of depth is clear; if one more guy would go down in the top-six, the Penguins might literally turn into a one-line team. While everyone has been looking to make a trade for a top-six guy, the easier and possibly more necessary move might be a depth addition to help handle the rotation of injuries.

3rd/4th line improvement – The biggest improvement between Friday and Saturday’s games were how the bottom-six performed, especially in the neutral zone. Friday’s game was filled with neutral zone turnovers to the point that the 4th line couldn’t even get the puck into the offensive zone, even via dump-ins. Saturday’s game was much different, with both the 3rd and 4th lines even putting together extended offensive zone shifts in the third period to help the Penguins kill the clock and keep the Hurricanes pinned back. There are still plenty of issues at depth, but that improvement was a necessity to play better against Carolina and will need to continue moving forward. I have no problem with either of these lines dumping the puck in if it avoids a neutral zone turnover. The coaching staff might do well to remind them of that when certain guys (Sill, Adams) aren’t exactly the best at holding onto the puck to begin with.

Adams in front of the opposing net is a nice change of pace. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Adams in front of the opposing net is a nice change of pace. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Slowing the Game Down – Though I have to admit I was bored out of my mind during most of the 2nd and 3rd periods, I was happy to see the Penguins were willing to slow the game down and clog up the neutral zone to limit Carolina’s chances. Run-and-gun games are fun to watch, but it all depends on how badly the team is going to get burned in the process and many players can actually do the gunning part. With Letang out of the lineup especially, slowing the game down and waiting patiently for chances against Carolina was the right way to go. The ability of this team to outscore an opponent and/or back off to shut them down when necessary will go a long way when the games matter a whole lot more.

Last Thought – HOORAY, EHRHOFF FINALLY SCORED A GOAL!!!

Next Game: 12/2 vs New Jersey, 7pm

Thanks for reading!