Thoughts: Game 39 – Penguins @ Senators

Senators 5  Penguins 0

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)


Goal Assessment

First Goal Against (Smith)
On a defensive zone faceoff, Jussi Jokinen barely loses the draw to Zack Smith. Chris Kunitz and Colin Greening move in to get the loose puck behind Smith and Greening (with a better angle) gets there first, passing it to Cody Ceci at the point. (As Ceci gets the puck, Chris Neil high-sticks Robert Bortuzzo in the face inside the faceoff circle, but this has no effect on the players at fault really – however, the play should have been whistled dead for a penalty…) Meanwhile, Zack Smith makes a beeline for the net and Jokinen is a step slow in following him. Kunitz tries to get out to Ceci, but Greening is in front of him and impeding his path. Ceci then winds up and takes a shot from the right point, which Fleury saves with his left pad. Zack Smith is all alone to pick up the rebound though and he slides the puck past Fleury’s outstretched pad on the second chance attempt.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Jokinen (6)

Second Goal Against (Ryan)
Chris Kunitz is in the penalty box for a high-sticking penalty. Erik Karlsson carries the puck up from Ottawa’s zone and dumps the puck in as he gets to center ice. The puck rolls behind the net, where Clarke MacArthur wins a race to the puck ahead of Robert Bortuzzo. MacArthur doesn’t actually retrieve the puck behind the net, but he knocks Bortuzzo to the ground, allowing the puck to get to Bobby Ryan as Kyle Turris collides with Matt Niskanen in the same area. Ryan moves the puck up the right side boards to Erik Karlsson at the right point. Karlsson handles the puck and then passes it to Chris Phillips at the left point. Phillips takes a slapshot that gets tipped in front by Ryan (uncovered as he skated away from Matt Niskanen) and through Fleury’s five hole.
Players at fault for the second goal against: Kunitz (8), Niskanen (15), Bortuzzo (8)

Third Goal Against (Karlsson)
Harry Zolnierczyk chases a puck in the offensive zone and gets to it in the corner. He throws the puck up the boards and ends up essentially passing the puck to Clarke MacArthur. MacArthur skates the puck to the blue line and passes the puck up to Erik Karlsson at center ice. Karlsson skates through the neutral zone by himself with Simon Despres and Olli Maatta in front of him. He chooses to isolate Maatta on the right side, pulling the puck to the outside until Maatta turned and attempted a poke check, and then bringing the puck back to the inside as Maatta lost positioning. Karlsson gets past Maatta and draws Simon Despres over as Despres lunges to cover up for Maatta. Karlsson has too much space to the outside though and pulls the puck away from Despres to the right faceoff dot, from where he rips a wrist shot over Fleury’s left shoulder.
Players at fault for the third goal against: Zolnierczyk (1), Maatta (16)

Fourth Goal Against (Turris)
Matt Niskanen carries the puck into the offensive zone and then curls up at the left point. He tries to send the puck in deep, but has the puck deflected by Bobby Ryan and it becomes a turnover as Erik Karlsson picks it up in the faceoff circle. Karlsson passes the puck up off the boards to Kyle Turris in the neutral zone. Turris enters the middle of the Penguins zone on a 3-on-3 and passes the puck to the left to Clarke MacArthur. He then continues driving to the net and falls over Matt Niskanen. Meanwhile, MacArthur cuts back to the middle of the zone as Olli Maatta tries to stay square with him and Bobby Ryan hangs up by the blue line, being watched by Craig Adams. As MacArthur moves to the middle, Ryan moves to his left and Erik Karlsson enters the zone on the right side. Maatta continues to watch MacArthur, Niskanen has Turris on the crease, Adams is watching MacArthur as Karlsson skates near him, and Joe Vitale is coming into the zone to backcheck on Ryan at his new spot. Adams decides to step up on MacArthur, allowing him to pass to a wide open Erik Karlsson inside the right faceoff circle. Karlsson takes the puck towards the net, fakes a shot to get Fleury to commit to a save, and then passes the puck through the crease as Maatta attempts to slide to him for Adams and Vitale follows Ryan to the crease. The puck gets across the crease to Kyle Turris at the bottom of the left faceoff circle, who has drifted a couple of feet away from Matt Niskanen on the crease. Meanwhile, Fleury is down and out from the fake shot and then Olli Maatta running into him. Turris throws the puck into an empty net as Fleury can’t even move side to side because he is caught up with Maatta.
Players at fault for the fourth goal against: Niskanen (16), Adams (8), Maatta (17)

Fifth Goal Against (Conacher)
Cory Conacher picks up a loose puck in Ottawa’s zone that resulted from a puck battle between Zach Sill and Milan Michalek against the boards. Conacher moves the puck to Marc Methot in the middle of the defensive zone as the Senators start their breakout. Methot passes the puck to Jason Spezza on the left side boards in the neutral zone. Spezza skates the puck across the Penguins blue line and then pulls up there. Samuelsson then steps up on Spezza, but Spezza wrist shots the puck on net. Meanwhile, Michalek is cutting to the left faceoff circle, guarded by Simon Despres, and Conacher is skating through the right faceoff circle to the net, unnoticed by Sill. Fleury makes the save and the rebound pops up just above the crease. Conacher gets to the puck before Sill even reacts to stick lift him and starts batting at the puck. Fleury saves Conacher’s first rebound attempt as Sill then skates past Conacher and past the net. Conacher’s second rebound attempt slides under Fleury and into the net.
Players at fault for the fifth goal against: Sill (1)

Penalty Assessment

Team (too many men): Bad-Stupid, as Harry Zolnierczyk comes to the bench, both Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby hop on the ice and then Kunitz gets the puck and passes it to Crosby for an easy call.
Kunitz (high-sticking): Bad-Careless, trips over Chris Neil’s feet in the offensive zone and proceeds to jab Neil in the face with his stick as he flails a little.
Kunitz (slashing): Bad-Stupid, is manning the crease area on a 5-on-3 powerplay and has his stick slashed by Erik Karlsson. He decides to retaliate and slash Karlsson in the hand/leg and gets immediately called for it.
Bortuzzo (cross-checking): Inconsequential, gets into a cross-checking battle with Bobby Ryan in front of Fleury and they both get sent off for minor penalties.

Player Assessment

Zolnierczyk played so well that he got sent away from the AHL team in Pittsburgh. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Zolnierczyk played so well that he got sent away from the AHL team in Pittsburgh. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Harry Zolnierczyk – Harry Z made just about every other Penguins forward look bad on the ice against Ottawa. Mind you, that was partially because most of them played awful, but Zolnierczyk certainly played a strong game. He drew two hooking penalties using his excellent speed, had two takeaways in the offensive zone, and recorded another takeaway in the defensive zone as he backchecked back into the play. The only downside to his game was an offensive zone giveaway in the 3rd period which eventually led to the goal by Karlsson. Despite being arguably the best forward on the ice though, Zolnierczyk was rewarded with a demotion at roughly 2am back to WBS.

Brandon Sutter – While Zolnierczyk was very visible on the ice, Sutter had a quiet, dependable game (one of three players to not be on the ice for a goal against, the others being Pascal Dupuis who played 1:10 and Sidney Crosby). He broke up two passes in the defensive zone, including one on the penalty kill that led to a shorthanded breakaway (denied). He also was solid in the offensive zone with puck support and had a takeaway in the offensive zone as well. He did record one giveaway on the powerplay, but played a strong game aside from that one mistake.

Flower didn't exactly get a lot of help against Ottawa (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Flower didn’t exactly get a lot of help against Ottawa (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Marc-Andre Fleury – Allowing five goals is generally an ugly thing, but they weren’t all on Fleury, so let’s dissect briefly. Goal #1 – Fleury lets up a rebound on a shot from the point and the first player to get there is Zack Smith, who puts the rebound in. It was a short rebound and Fleury had no help. Goal #2 – Bobby Ryan redirects a puck on top of the crease through Fleury’s five hole. Again, Fleury has no one helping him in front. Goal #3 – Erik Karlsson takes a quick wrist shot from the right faceoff dot that beats Fleury over his shoulder/glove. This was very similar to Cammalleri’s goal on Saturday in terms of quickness and shot placement on Fleury. It was a great shot and something to note now that it’s happened in back to back games. Goal #4 – Fleury has to bite on Karlsson’s fake because Karlsson is coming to the net untouched, then Karlsson passed the puck and Fleury has too much momentum going the wrong way and gets caught up with Maatta as well, so he had no chance on the play. Goal #5 – Fleury makes the initial save but allows a rebound and Cory Conacher is the first man there to take 2 shots as Fleury has no help in front again. All in all, Fleury may not have had the greatest rebound control or show-stopping saves, but the lack of help in front of him was the problem more than he was.

Olli Maatta – Maatta had a rather up and down game. He was good with his lanes, blocking three shots and forcing two turnovers by standing his ground. He also drew a holding penalty moving into the offensive zone. On the downside though, he lost the puck twice in the defensive zone and once in the neutral zone. He also got completely turned around by Karlsson on the 3rd goal against and he partially interfered with Fleury on the 4th goal against, though the latter was largely because Craig Adams went to the wrong player. I will be very interested to see how Maatta handles a player like Karlsson the next time around.

Sidney Crosby – Like Sutter in the Good section, Crosby wasn’t on for a goal against. However, as the offensively gifted player that he is, he did not meet his normal standards of creating chances in the offensive zone. Crosby had five giveaways (four offensive zone, one neutral zone) and two of those were on a powerplay that looked horrendous all evening. On the plus side, he had a neutral zone takeaway and drew a holding penalty, but as always, Crosby has to be willing to take what the defense gives him. The Penguins tried to force so much as the game went on that every powerplay got considerably worse and the captain led by example in that regard.


Craig Adams – Adams has been a bit subpar at even strength ever since the 4th line changed to Adams-Sill-Kobasew. His penalty killing work has still been good, but he has struggled to clear the puck from the defensive zone in 5-on-5 situations. I marked him down for one failed clear and one turnover in the neutral zone in this game. His biggest mistake came on the 4th goal against by Turris. Adams let Karlsson skate by him and then proceeded to step up on MacArthur, who had the puck and was being covered by Maatta. The mistake let MacArthur get the puck to Karlsson free of any coverage and forced Maatta to try and cover Karlsson when he had no chance of getting there in time. It also forced Fleury to bite on Karlsson’s fake shot. Though it was only one mistake that led to the whole sequence, it demonstrated a complete lack of awareness in what should have been a simple situation.

The Niskanen/Maatta pairing appears to be regressing a bit. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

The Niskanen/Maatta pairing appears to be regressing a bit. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Matt Niskanen – Niskanen really struggled in this game and also missed some time in the first period going to and from the locker room. As far as his play on the ice, he had a giveaway in each zone, failed to cover Bobby Ryan on the 2nd goal against, and failed to cover Kyle Turris on the 4th goal against. He generally was just drifting too far from his coverages/not watching his assignments very attentively. Between the two mistakes on goals against and the turnovers, it was a very poor game for Niskanen. One has to wonder if the Niskanen/Maatta pairing is starting to wear down quickly given their unusually high minutes and tough assignments that neither is really ready for yet.

Misc. Thoughts

Other Player Notes – Chris Kunitz had a rather quiet game aside from two penalties that were careless and/or stupid. James Neal struggled with puck management on the powerplay. Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson had one of their better games as a pairing, making very few mistakes together. Robert Bortuzzo had some solid poke checks around the crease but also gave the puck away a couple of times and was knocked away from the puck on the 2nd goal against. Zach Sill led the team with four blocked shots and seems primed to take over for Craig Adams in a 4th line/PK role in the future.

Sidney Crosby legitimately victimizes everyone. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Sidney Crosby legitimately victimizes everyone. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Dupuis Injury – Dupuis left the game after playing just over a minute when Sidney Crosby was hip checked and basically thrown into him. Crosby hit Dupuis in his right leg, and many have (not so expertly) suggested a possible ACL injury. The team hasn’t said anything yet, but as I write this, I can tell you there are twitter reports that he is in church and limping around. That means nothing, but that’s the only breaking news I have. In his absence, Neal, Vitale, and Adams all had shifts with Crosby and Kunitz. As of now, it looks like Gibbons would enter the lineup and probably Vitale would move to the top line if Dupuis is out for a bit.

Roster Moves – The Penguins sent Philip Samuelsson and Harry Zolnierczyk back down to the AHL a few hours after the game ended. Tanner Glass and Brooks Orpik appear to be ready for their returns with Rob Scuderi not far behind either. Deryk Engelland will also be eligible to play in the next game on Friday now that his suspension is over. Samuelsson had a decent NHL debut but clearly isn’t ready for the NHL game yet. His decision-making isn’t quick enough yet, especially with the puck. This was likely a great experience for him to figure out what he needs to work on though. As for Zolnierczyk, I don’t understand why he is being sent down after the past two games he has had. He adds speed and a pest factor that the Penguins are really lacking right now. I would have at least kept him over Gibbons.

Misc. Misc. Thoughts

  • The Penguins’ shot accuracy was horrible, missing (at least) 20 shots according to the box score. Craig Anderson was certainly solid, but Pittsburgh did themselves no favors with at least six shots that were so wide that they cleared the offensive zone to end an attacking possession.
  • Crosby was getting manhandled through the early parts of the game and started to wear down and disappear after a while. That’s exactly the time when a forward such as Adams, Zolnierczyk, (Glass soon), etc. needs to step up and get in someone’s face for hacking and interfering with Crosby. Enforcers might not be necessary, but the team can’t let Crosby get thrown around as much as they did without any sort of push back.
  • The box score also had 18 recorded giveaways by the Penguins, the most I’ve seen in a very long time. Much of that occurred during the seven failed powerplays as the Penguins couldn’t handle the pressure by the Senators. When it comes down to it, the compete level by Ottawa was excellent and with horrible shot accuracy, the Penguins couldn’t find a way to neutralize the pressure.

Pens Record: 27-11-1
Next Game: Friday, 12/27 @ Carolina, 7pm

Thanks for reading!