Thoughts: Game 26 – Ehrhoff is still open as Pens beat Ottawa, 3-2

Published on December 8th, 2014

By:  Meesh Shanmugam

Pens 3  Senators 2

Record: 18-6-2

Goals
Malkin (13), unassisted
Malkin (14) (PP) from Sutter, Maatta
Ehrhoff (2) from Crosby, Adams

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 26 - Goals

Penalties
Malkin (roughing) – Stupid (punches/shoves Neil in the face after they battle at the start of a faceoff)
Sill (interference, major) – Bad Call (hits Turris in the chest after Turris passes the puck away, but the hit is not high and within milliseconds of the puck moving away, so it was a clean hit)
Sill (misconduct, game) – Bad Call (gets thrown out of the game for the interference major, which was a bad call)
Sill (fighting) – Inconsequential (fights Chiasson after getting challenged to it following a hit on Turris)
Ehrhoff (tripping) – Careless (falls after hitting Ryan’s skate and then takes Ryan down as he puts his arm in front of Ryan’s skates)
Despres (cross-checking) – Inconsequential (gets sent off with MacArthur for cross-checking minors off of a faceoff)
Fleury (high-sticking) – Careless (tries to play a puck in the air and hits Condra in the mouth with his stick)

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 26 - Forwards

Evgeni Malkin – How well is Geno playing right now? We’ve hit the point of expecting greatness every time he touches the puck…and he’s delivering. Malkin has entered a mode where there is a chance that he wants to, and CAN, beat all five guys on the ice the moment he gets the puck. Of course, that’ll lead to its fair share of turnovers, but it certainly doesn’t matter much with two goals on four shots to lead the team to victory. Malkin scored on an opportunistic breakaway out of the penalty box after taking a bad penalty (which he even admitted was a “really bad penalty” in his postgame interviews). He later added a powerplay goal by deflecting Sutter’s deflection of Maatta’s shot. Crosby has already lost the points lead to Seguin, and if he doesn’t look out, Malkin is going to pass him very soon as well.

This never gets old. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

This never gets old. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Rob Klinkhammer – So, Jim Rutherford, what do you get for a team that needs size, a depth forward, and more powerplays? You get Rob Klinkhammer, who apparently handles all of those issues and more. Klinkhammer had a great debut for the Penguins after being acquired less than 24 hours before game time. He threw a big hit on his first shift and continued throwing his body around throughout the game. He also drew two penalties going into the offensive zone, which was the biggest takeaway from his game – he always kept everything moving into the offensive zone. If his debut was any indication of what Klinkhammer can do for the Pens, Jim Rutherford came up with a necessity and perhaps a steal. More on the trade below.

Sidney Crosby – Crosby had a not-so-good turnover game, but the main reason for that was because he *always* had the puck. He contributed to two goals as he kept the puck moving around the perimeter for Malkin’s powerplay goal and absolutely dominated the Senators on Ehrhoff’s goal. On the latter, Crosby benefitted from the ref keeping the puck in, but then blew the Senators away with twists and turns in the corner of the offensive zone that eventually had all five skaters on the ice just staring at him. He used their attention to saucer a backhanded pass across the ice to Ehrhoff, who had no one within roughly 50 miles of him. The play was an attention-grabber without the assist and was made even more magnificent with the pass and the assist. That’s what Sidney Crosby does.

Defensemen/Goalies

Gm 26 - Defense

Marc-Andre Fleury – In terms of shot quality and opportunities, Fleury faced one of his bigger challenges in the last few weeks against the Senators. Ottawa continually found themselves open in the middle of the ice and Fleury made several big saves on redirections and chances from the slot. Neither goal he allowed on the day was his fault. The first one was through a screen and was also deflected twice on the way in. The second one was a very nice play by Zibanejad that had Fleury moving to his right because of Ryan’s pass and then forced him to move back to his left because of how Zibanejad kicked the puck to his stick, which forced Fleury’s five-hole to open up. Games like this one, based on the opportunities that Fleury had to deal with, give me confidence in saying that Fleury is a very different goalie right now.

Christian Ehrhoff – Ehrhoff took a bit of a careless tripping penalty and was in the penalty box for a goal against, but he was solid aside from that sequence. He led the team with seven shots on net and scored the game-winner on a perfectly placed slapshot with unlimited time to work with from the right faceoff dot. The biggest takeaway with his seven shots on net is the fact that they were actually on net, which is something he hasn’t been great with early this season. It seems like a different aspect of his game improves on a weekly basis right now, and that means great things for the Penguins.

"The Sens STILL haven't found me, ohhhhhhh" (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

“The Sens STILL haven’t found me, ohhhhhhh” (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Simon Despres – Despres put together a quietly strong game against the Senators with four shots on net, three pass interceptions, and a drawn penalty as well. In a game where the Penguins were rather dominant with puck possession, Despres certainly did his part as he looked comfortable carrying the puck and made the right pass/shoot/carry decisions through most of the day. His last few games had him a bit jumpy with the puck and coverage in the defensive zone, but he may have played his way through it at an opportune time with Bortuzzo’s suspension and Letang’s injury. He even played on the second powerplay, which is something many envisioned years ago for him. With Bortuzzo returning and Letang only expected out for a short time, it will be interesting to see if he can keep his level of play up and keep his lineup spot.

Misc. Thoughts

Klinkhammer Trade – While I was definitely a Philip Samuelsson fan and saw him as a future NHL defenseman, there was definitely a clear reality that the team had too many defensemen in the system above him to actually get him to the NHL in Pittsburgh. He also cleared waivers before the season began, which gave you some idea of his value to other GMs in the NHL. So with the need for another cheap forward as the injuries pile up, I really like Rutherford’s move (even without this game) to acquire Klinkhammer. He brings size and a better set of hands than the current 4th liners, which already makes him a great depth acquisition. The fact that Rutherford gave away an asset that he was likely never going to use to get an asset that would be used immediately says enough for me. I prefer this type of move at this point of the season over the idea of trading a guy like Martin to acquire a big name, top-six forward. The Penguins are in a great position in the standings right now, so let the injuries work themselves out before deciding what moves are necessary for the playoffs. As far as I see it, this was a very savvy move by Rutherford.

Beyond his play, Klinkhammer's name alone was worth trading Samuelsson. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Beyond his play, Klinkhammer’s name alone was worth trading Samuelsson. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Sill Major/Misconduct – Zach Sill was thrown out of the game after playing a whole 29 seconds because of a hit that was called a major for interference and came with a game misconduct. The hit looked clean to me as Sill made contact with the chest of Turris just milliseconds after Turris had passed the puck (it was still in every screenshot of the hit). I’ll allow the refs a bad call; those things happen. A bad 5-minute major call is too potentially devastating to a team to be okay with though. Luckily for the Penguins, Ottawa was inept and killed most of that major by themselves with an instigating penalty and a too many men penalty. So here’s the main question I took out of this situation – why are 5-min majors not reviewable? I would never want every penalty reviewed because that would kill game flow, but game flow is generally dead already after a major that requires a discussion and usually involves a scrum too. The refs should be given the opportunity to get every major penalty right because of its impact on the game. I wouldn’t have been pleased with a minor for interference on this play either, but a minor on a bad call is reasonable for how quickly the game moves. A major penalty, however, is not an okay call to botch.

Puck Possession – The spreadsheets above tell a story of a team that gave the puck away and lost it countless times while not acquiring the puck via takeaways or pass interceptions much. The fancy stats put together the rest of the story though as the Penguins generally dominated puck possession through most of the game. This was an interesting game to analyze because the Penguins gave up several quality chances, but they had the puck most of the time and everyone generally played well. The takeaway – no method of analysis is perfect on its own. My spreadsheets, the fancy stats, and the visual story all play different parts in telling the complete story. Just a reminder that nothing is perfect when it comes to analyzing a hockey team/game!

Next Game: 12/8 @ NY Rangers, 7pm

Thanks for reading!