Thoughts: Game 25 – Everybody hurts, Pens lose to Canucks, 3-0

Published on December 5th, 2014

By: Meesh Shanmugam

Canucks 3  Pens 0

Record: 17-6-2

Goals
None

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 25 - Goals

Penalties
Comeau (boarding) – Stupid/Careless/Reckless (shoves Tanev in the back right in the numbers so he goes face-first into the boards in the offensive zone)
Downie (delay of game) – Careless (tries to flip the puck out of the zone before he gets hit in the defensive zone and puts it over the glass)
Downie (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a scuffle with Edler after a whistle and they both receive minors)

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 25 - Forwards

Zach Sill – Well, this pretty much tells you how the game went. Sill deserves some credit though, because he was one of the only Penguins who didn’t look consistently outmatched against the Canucks throughout the night (who saw that coming). He had three pass interceptions (two in the defensive zone) and also forced a defensive zone turnover to turn in a positive night on the spreadsheet. He also had another great end to a penalty kill by pinning the Canucks in their zone along with Ebbett. Beyond that, his quickness and speed actually kept up with the Canucks, which is something the rest of the team really struggled with. Good for you, Zach Sill.

Jayson Megna – Megna had another solid game on the 2nd line as he created chances with his speed in the offensive zone and also did a great job covering passing lanes in the defensive zone. In his first few games back in the NHL, Megna looked a bit lost in coverage, but it appears that he is fully up to speed with the NHL team now. As the top-six wingers keep falling off, Megna will likely get more time with Crosby or Malkin, or perhaps both with how the offense has disappeared. He still needs to work on getting into higher percentage areas and getting higher percentage chances, but the next two weeks could be a huge opportunity for him.

Megna may not get a better opportunity in the NHL than what's about to come. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Megna may not get a better opportunity in the NHL than what’s about to come. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Crosby/Malkin – Many games this season have ended with the conclusion that Malkin is good when Crosby is bad and vice versa. It turns out that they can actually both be good and bad at the same time and at the same level. The two players mirrored each other in several ways, including a few pass interceptions, a drawn penalty for each, and a plethora of giveaways. Both players passed up on several shooting chances to force pucks into turnover situations in the offensive zone. Crosby went the extra step to start forcing passes in the neutral zone as well. One thing I would like to see more from both players is the “pass off of the pads” idea that has been talked about in previous seasons. Instead of throwing passes into a group of bodies into the slot, the current group of forwards might benefit more from their two stars throwing the puck to the net while whoever is left just crashes the area. Neither center has a lot to work with on his wings anymore, but both players are more than capable of elevating anyone to a decent level. It’s time to see it.

Defensemen/Goalies

Gm 25 - Defense

Paul Martin – Not many players looked competent against Vancouver, but Martin’s poise and steadiness at least kept the Canucks to the perimeter on most of his shifts. He lost the puck twice in the defensive zone, but made up for it with three broken-up plays, a takeaway, and a pass interception. Both he and Dumoulin looked comfortable together in what could have been a devastating transition for Dumoulin based on how the Canucks forechecked and attacked the defense. Dumoulin deserves some credit for handling the pressure, but Martin was definitely the mentor behind the scenes for that.

Thomas Greiss – Greiss may have committed a bad turnover that led to a shorthanded goal for Vancouver, but he evened himself up on the night by making several big saves from high percentage areas that kept the Penguins in the game. His best flurry of saves may have been at the end of the first period, when he made three pad/toe saves as the Canucks lined up three guys on the crease and the Penguins defense was nowhere to be found. He also stopped two one-timers from the slot area later in the game that certainly required above-average saves. However, he was at fault for the third goal against as he tried to play the puck behind the net, hesitated, and then played it into the no-play zone so he was trapped between taking a penalty or hoping for the best. He hesitated on that decision too as Hansen knocked his stick out of his hands and then set up Richardson for a shorthanded goal. Yes, it turns out every goalie does make mistakes with the puck.

Greiss came up big with his right pad several times throughout the night. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Greiss came up big with his right pad several times throughout the night. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Simon Despres – Despres has shown in several ways that he is a legit NHL defender. His abilities to jump into the offensive zone, handle physical play, and read the defensive zone have all improved with regular ice time. However, he showed a bit of a deficit for handling forechecking pressure against the Canucks. One of these instances led to the second goal against as he misplayed the puck behind the Penguins net and lost it to Richardson, who promptly set up Matthias in front for a goal. There were multiple other instances where he looked less-than-certain about the best way to move the puck against Vancouver’s quick forecheck throughout the game. Unfortunately for Despres, this is a skill that he will have to acquire through experience, which he probably should have gotten in previous years.

Misc. Thoughts

Injury Update/Hornqvist Hit – The injury update never ends, does it? Patric Hornqvist got leveled by Stanton in the neutral zone on a clean hit. The worst part of the hit was probably Hornqvist lowering his head into Stanton’s head because he was looking for the puck, which was directly in between his skates. It was just a bad situation for Hornqvist based on the puck being directly underneath him with Stanton ready for contact. The hit was clean though from every replay I watched. There was no injury update on Hornqvist, but he did miss the rest of the game. Elsewhere, Kunitz and Letang are both expected back in roughly two weeks. Bennett should be about one week away, but let’s say two to be safe. Bortuzzo has to sit out one more game for his suspension. Perhaps the Penguins will get the gift of many player returns by the time Christmas hits. Christmas hitting will probably knock like seven more guys out though.

Can anyone even SURVIVE playing as a top-six winger? (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Can anyone even SURVIVE playing as a top-six winger? (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Keeping Up with the Canucks – First off, give credit to Vancouver for playing a fantastic game. Their forecheck was relentless (reminded me of the Islanders except more controlled and disciplined). The biggest problem that the Penguins had throughout the night was simply keeping up with Vancouver. There were a variety of reasons for it. Errey made a couple of great points during the broadcast about this. With the Penguins missing Letang, Dupuis, Kunitz, etc, they are missing some of their best speed and quickness guys. Losing a guy like Letang and his ability to play the puck under pressure/skate the puck out of the zone is something that is irreplaceable. Errey went on to say “everything they’re doing is too slow” as the third period started. It was a simple observation, but it was the right one. The Penguins looked exhausted by the midpoint of the game. Physical exhaustion leads to mental mistakes (turnovers, misplayed pucks – we saw it all). Vancouver’s strong forecheck led to extended shifts in the defensive zone early in the game, which led to players getting tired at an increasing rate as the game continued. The team was doomed once Vancouver started rotating four fresh lines and the best Penguins were trapped on the ice to the point that they couldn’t recover their energy. That leads us to…

Battle of the Depth Players – Pittsburgh’s top players didn’t produce. Well, neither did Vancouver’s. The entire game hinged on Vancouver’s depth forwards actually scoring when they had the chance. Pittsburgh’s 4th line played well though, mostly because they were the only line that didn’t look exhausted throughout the night. However, playing well doesn’t equate to scoring. Richardson and Matthias created and finished their chances while Sill/Adams/etc moved the puck forward but couldn’t really create anything of value and certainly didn’t finish anything. With analytics taking the forefront in so many player discussions, the 4th line has been thrown under a bus constantly. The problem with them isn’t just a poor Corsi or bad analytics though. The problem highlighted in this game is that they aren’t as opportunistic as other top 4th lines around the league. It isn’t a huge regular season issue…but it definitely has the potential to be a big playoff problem. Luckily, there is plenty of time to work on the roster this season. Now, if anyone could stay healthy…

Next Game: 12/6 vs Ottawa, 1pm

Thanks for reading!