Thoughts: Game 3 – Penguins vs Hurricanes

Pens 5  Hurricanes 2

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Jokinen (1) (PP) from Crosby, Kunitz
Martin (1) from Orpik, Crosby
Jokinen (2) from Malkin, Maatta
Glass (1) from Vitale
Jokinen (3) (PP) from Maatta, Sutter

Goal Assessment

Jokinen dazzled everyone with pure skill on his first goal. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Jokinen dazzled everyone with pure skill on his first goal. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

First Goal For (Jokinen)
Jussi Jokinen gathers the puck in the defensive zone and passes it across the ice to Chris Kunitz in the neutral zone. Kunitz enters the offensive zone and drops the puck to Sidney Crosby trailing him. Crosby pulls up and passes the puck to the slot where Jokinen is skating to. The puck goes off of Jordan Staal’s stick towards Jokinen and Jokinen angles his skate to move the puck up to his stick. Jokinen then quickly backhands the puck past Ward.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Kunitz (3), Crosby (4), Jokinen (1)

Second Goal For (Martin)
Brooks Orpik has the puck in the defensive zone and chips it up to Chris Kunitz leaving the defensive zone. Kunitz passes the puck across to Paul Martin, who brings the puck into the offensive zone and throws it back to Kunitz on the boards. Kunitz dumps the puck around the boards where Sidney Crosby retrieves it. Crosby passes the puck to Orpik at the point. Orpik takes a shot that goes wide and bounces off the boards behind the net. Paul Martin reads the shot going wide and skates to the bottom of the faceoff circle to backhand the puck past Ward, who did not anticipate the bounce.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Kunitz (4), Crosby (5), Orpik (1), Martin (2)

First Goal Against (E. Staal)
Brandon Sutter gloves down a bouncing puck in the defensive zone but has it knocked away into the corner by Alexander Semin. Semin keeps the puck away from Sutter and boxes him out to the corner while he possesses the puck. Semin then passes up to Andrej Sekera at the point. Sekera passes it across to Justin Faulk at the other point. Faulk takes a slapshot that goes off of Eric Staal’s stick while he’s lying on the ground and the puck goes past Fleury.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Sutter (1)

Second Goal Against (Gerbe)
Andrej Sekera pinches into the Penguins zone and takes a wide angle shot. Marc-Andre Fleury makes the save and the rebound rolls out past Rob Scuderi to the left circle to Nathan Gerbe. Scuderi drops to the ice to try and block Gerbe’s potential shot, but Gerbe changes his shooting angle to avoid Scuderi and beats Fleury.
Players at fault for the second goal against: Rob Scuderi (1)

Third Goal For (Jokinen)
Olli Maatta stops a Hurricanes’ clear in the neutral zone and pushes the puck up to Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen throws it up to Evgeni Malkin across the ice on the offensive blue line. Malkin enters the zone and steps around 2 Hurricanes players along the blue line while Jokinen enters the zone. As Jokinen skates in past his man, Malkin draws a Carolina forward over and passes the puck to Jokinen who is suddenly open. Meanwhile, Beau Bennett skates directly to the crease where he draws 2 defensemen over. Jokinen skates to the left faceoff dot while the Carolina defensemen have no chance of stepping up on him and he rips a wrist shot past Cam Ward’s shoulder.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Maatta (1), Bennett (2), Malkin (2), Jokinen (2)

Fourth Goal For (Glass)
The top line forces Cam Ward to freeze the puck which leads to a faceoff in the Hurricanes zone. On the faceoff, the centers (Vitale and J. Staal) tie each other up and Tanner Glass swoops in to smack the puck. The puck goes off of defenseman Ryan Murphy and back to Glass. Then Glass tries to put it on net and Murphy tips it away towards the front of the crease. Glass chases the puck down on the other side of the crease and lifts a backhander over Cam Ward, who had to dive trying to make the save after missing on a stick check just seconds before.
Players contributing to the fourth goal for: Glass (2)

Fifth Goal For (Jokinen)
Olli Maatta settles the puck down behind the Penguins net and skates it up to center ice where he passes to Jussi Jokinen entering the offensive zone. Jokinen just skates a few feet into the zone and fires a wrist shot that beats Cam Ward on his glove side.
Players contributing to the fifth goal for: Maatta (2), Jokinen (3)

Penalty Assessment

Glass (fighting): Inconsequential, got into a scrum with Harrison around the net late in the first period and Harrison wanted the fight
Niskanen (interference): Inconsequential, left his skating lane on a dump in to impede Gerbe, but Gerbe was then called for diving. Truthfully, it was an awful call to put Gerbe in the box too.
Niskanen (holding): Bad, held Gerbe in the corner when he lost the angle on a puck battle in the defensive zone.
Martin (roughing): Inconsequential, took coincidental minors with Drayson Bowman late in the 3rd after they had a late collision in the defensive zone.
Bortuzzo (tripping): Bad/Necessary, got beat to the inside by Gerbe and tripped him up to prevent a short breakaway on Fleury.

Player Assessment


Jussi Jokinen – Jokinen was paid just a little over $10,000 by the Carolina Hurricanes for last night’s game. Unfortunately for Carolina, he was the biggest bargain of the game. Jussi netted a hat trick and was picking off passes like a hawk in the offensive zone all night against his former team. He admitted there was a little extra drive since it was Carolina and wow did he show it. Perhaps even more importantly, he gave a huge boost to the powerplay and the 2nd line, neither of which had scored going into Game 3.

That would be pure shock on everyone's face after Glass scored. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

That would be pure shock on everyone’s face after Glass scored. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Tanner Glass – When I wrote my ideal wish list for Penguins’ players this year, all I wanted out of Glass was positive 4th line minutes and some good forechecking. Glass is already exceeding those expectations this year. He drew a tripping penalty (which resulted in a Penguins goal on the PP), played a solid 1:29 on the PK, and scored a goal that was impressive both for the effort and skill it required. Glass is certainly taking large strides towards exiting the whipping boy category.

Olli Maatta – Maatta will get plenty of praise for his offense, but his game includes far more than meets the eye. Yes, he had 2 assists (his first NHL points), sprung Bennett for a breakaway, and looked great with the puck overall. However, to me, the epitome of Maatta’s play/ability/drive/game/attitude/whatever-you-want-to-call-it was demonstrated on a mistake. Behind his own net with a chance to clear the puck, Maatta lost the puck to Jeff Skinner. While Skinner came around with the puck and tried to move it into a shooting angle, Maatta made a beeline for the one place he should be – in between the puck and the net. There was no stick swing, no trip, no slash, no hesitation, not even a moment of disappointment in himself. He didn’t bother following Skinner; he went to the perfect recovery position. The result – Maatta blocked the shot and erased his mistake. It’s a theme he has demonstrated without fail in his first three NHL games. Combine that with his poise and talent and Maatta is not only NHL-ready, but also appears to be far more mature than several of his peers.

Marc-Andre Fleury – Flower continued his great start to the season with a 32 save effort on 34 shots. One goal, Eric Staal’s, was simply unstoppable after Staal deflected the puck while lying on the ground a few feet in front of Fleury. The other was a very nice move by Nathan Gerbe as he grabbed a rebound and changed the angle to put it past both Scuderi and Fleury on the ice. Fleury continues to look fantastic with all shots down low into his pads and his post-to-post movement has been solid as well. There is little more that you can ask from him right now.


Rob Scuderi – Scuderi’s positioning and communication with Niskanen has improved each game that they’ve played together and it appears that he’s getting more and more comfortable with the system. One thing Scuderi had issues with though was Carolina’s speed. He had a couple of turnovers with the puck around his feet because he wasn’t ready for (or able to deal with) the quickness that some of the Carolina forwards were arriving with. Neither turnover turned into any offense though, so it wasn’t a major problem. He was partially at fault for the goal by Gerbe, but that’s also a great play by Gerbe. One thing with Scuderi’s style (dropping to block a ton of shots) is that he will always be susceptible to players who don’t shoot right away. Over the course of the season, it’s more than worth the risk for how well he does it.

One former Cane to another: "Woooooooo!" (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

One former Cane to another: “Woooooooo!” (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Brandon Sutter – While Sutter got slightly owned by Alexander Semin on Carolina’s first goal, he generally had a good game away from the puck. He looked especially good in helping the defensemen on the crease and had a couple of poke checks that ended opportunities for Carolina near the net. He also had a takeaway in both the offensive zone and neutral zone. Add in a 12 for 18 faceoff performance and it was a decent game for Sutter.

Evgeni Malkin – There is no need to worry about Malkin just because he hasn’t scored a goal yet. He showed plenty of offensive flashes in this game, getting an assist on Jokinen’s eventual game-winner. Also, his puck protection has improved significantly from last season and his puck support has been great both on defense and on offense. Malkin is doing all of the little things right and he looks healthy. The goals will come in time. This is a far better version of Geno than the one that was turning the puck over with regularity early last season.


Matt Niskanen – The Pens had to inevitably have a bad performance from SOMEONE, right? My first pick for the bad column (3 games in, so I’d say it’s okay) ends up being Niskanen after 2 good games from him to start the season. Part of the problem was his mini-feud with Nathan Gerbe since he took interference and holding penalties against him. The other problem, and partially illustrated by the Gerbe issues, was his lack of anticipation for Carolina’s speed. He had a giveaway on the powerplay and struggled a little bit with puck decisions in comparison to the last two games. He also got absolutely burned by Eric Staal as Staal made a move to the inside on him to get a better lane on Fleury. Getting beat happens, but Niskanen can’t allow that to happen to the inside for a better shooting angle. All in all, none of it resulted in any goals against, but it was not a good game for Niskanen.

Misc Thoughts

Someone should hold an American flag behind Paul Martin at all times. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Someone should hold an American flag behind Paul Martin at all times. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Other Player Notes – Brooks Orpik went into free candy mode last night, delivering 6 hits and drawing a roughing penalty off of one of those hits. Sidney Crosby look like his usual self, earning two assists, but he seems to be operating at a level above Dupuis and Kunitz (more than usual) right now. Paul Martin demonstrated great anticipation on his goal and was good in the defensive zone as usual. Joe Vitale also came up with a nice game for the 4th line, drawing a penalty and going 11 for 17 on faceoffs. Vitale even received 52 seconds of PK time, so that may be a new facet of his game that we get to finally see.

Impending Maatta Decision – There will be tons of talk about what to do with Olli Maatta with how he’s playing right now. My 2 cents – there is no wrong decision. He will benefit from playing 24 minutes in the OHL or 15 minutes in the NHL. The only thing that can go wrong is if the Penguins keep him up and have to scratch him for any reason. For a player that’s progressing at his rate, he just needs to stay on the ice wherever he can as much as possible. Personally, though I think he’s ready for the NHL, I do not think this roster is ready for him yet. When Letang returns, the D looks like this: Scuderi-Letang, Orpik-Martin, Niskanen-Bortuzzo/Maatta/Engelland. The top 4 isn’t changing. Trading away Engelland changes nothing; he’s a non-factor in this. Trading away Niskanen would allow for a Maatta-Bortuzzo pairing, but is that what Bylsma will want to rely on in a “win-now” season? If someone is willing to overpay for Niskanen in the next week, then Maatta should stay. I don’t foresee that occurring though and I fear Maatta losing ice time down the stretch, so my vote is safely send him back to London and welcome him with open arms next year.

Upcoming Florida Trip – With back-to-backs in Florida this weekend, we should finally see the NHL debut of Jeff Zatkoff. I would hope he starts against a less offensively talented Panthers team, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Fleury gets the nod on Friday night because who wouldn’t want to start Fleury on this streak right now. Regardless, prepare yourself for a Zatkoff debut!

Injury Watch – Depending on who you ask, James Neal did/didn’t hurt himself in a wiffle/whiffle ball game the Pens had during practice. However he hurt himself, who cares. He’s still out, week to week, possibly with a strained oblique muscle but certainly an upper body injury. Kris Letang skated before the morning skate yesterday but still isn’t skating with the team. Matt D’Agostini is expected to resume skating with the team again late next week.

Pens Record: 3-0
Next Game: Friday, 10/11 @ Florida, 7:30pm

Thanks for reading!
FYI – I will be out of town this weekend, so Friday’s and Saturday’s Thoughts will both be posted Sunday evening.