Thoughts: Game 4 – Hornqvist Continues Dominance in 3-1 Win Over Islanders

Published on October 20th, 2014

By: Meesh Shanmugam (Sorry for the delay this game!)

Pens 3  Islanders 1

Record: 3-1

Goals
Malkin (2) (PP) from Crosby, Hornqvist
Hornqvist (3) (PP) from Malkin, Letang
Hornqvist (4) (EN), from Kunitz, Crosby

Click here to read the goal assessments

Penalties
Downie (high-sticking): Careless (tries to protect himself on a hit from Hamonic, but gets his stick into Hamonic’s face in the process)
Martin (tripping): Unnecessary (sticks his lower body out to get a piece of Boychuk with both his body and skate after the puck goes past him; probably should have been interference instead of tripping)
Downie (embellishment): Stupid (flails his hand up in the air as he gets tripped by Strome to draw attention to it)
Crosby (hooking): Overly aggressive (tries to recover a failed clear from Cizikas and takes him down with a hook)
Letang (roughing): Inconsequential (exchanges shoves/punches with Conacher after a whistle and they both go to the box)
Letang (hooking): Smart play (Lost Conacher on a breakaway and hooked up his hand as he pulled the puck to the backhand on Fleury)
Downie (charging): Stupid (lines up Nielsen in the corner from the slot and leaves his feet for the hit)
Downie (fighting): Inconsequential (fights Hamonic after the charging penalty and they both sit for 5)
Despres (high-sticking): Careless (tries to lift the stick of Nielsen and gets his stick up into Nielsen’s face)
Downie (tripping): Overly aggressive (tries to get positioning on Nielsen in front of the net and takes him down with a skate behind his legs)
Maatta (hooking): Unnecessary (hooks Tavares down in front of the net when he was in a difficult position to play the puck anyways)

Gm 4 Goals

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 4 Forwards

Patric Hornqvist – Hornqvist might retain this spot permanently if he continues to dominate the crease and get the puck to the net like he did against the Islanders. He led the team in shots (12) as usual and recorded three points (2g, 1a) on the night. One of his goals was an empty netter, but the other was a very nice deflection in front of the net as he was screening Halak from Malkin’s shot. He was tenacious in the offensive zone with three takeaways and continues to play a complete game in every zone. Well-rounded is just the beginning of describing how strong Hornqvist’s overall game has been early on.

Steve Downie – Assessing Downie is extremely tough for all of the chaos he caused. He was strong on the puck with a couple of forced turnovers and no bad decisions with it. His penalty line…was crazy. I ended up giving him an inconsequential penalty, four bad ones, and two good drawn ones. Two of the nice draws were negated on the same play as two of the bad ones. It’s hard to say the team wasn’t fired up after his hit on Nielsen and fight with Hamonic though. Malkin’s line came out the following shift and they dominated the play for a bit. Was it an energy boost from Downie or the fact that Malkin dominated much of the game? It’s difficult to say, but I can safely say that the potential of Downie to go overboard this season is concerning.

Brandon Sutter – Sutter had a very strong defensive game and played extremely well on the penalty kill to keep the Islanders from tying the game. Most of his good plays around the puck (namely: two defensive zone break-ups and two pass interceptions) were on the PK and he also covered for two lost coverages by the defensemen. It would be nice to see some even strength production while he’s on Malkin’s line, but the defensive work cannot be overlooked right now.

Evgeni Malkin – If anyone ever calls Malkin lazy around you, show them a replay of this game and smack them in the face. Geno looked great at both ends of the ice. He handled two 1-on-1 defensive situations perfectly on the powerplay, backchecked on a 3-on-1 against and dove to poke the puck away for a broken-up play, and was generally dominant in the offensive zone with the puck. He finished with two points (1g, 1a) on the powerplay and five shots. For the first time, Malkin looked healthy and in regular season shape. That means many good things for Pittsburgh.

This group cannot be stopped on the powerplay right now. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

This group cannot be stopped on the powerplay right now. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Chris Kunitz – While Hornqvist dominated and Crosby did his usual thing, Kunitz struggled a bit with the puck against the Islanders. He had several issues in transitioning from defense to offense with a couple of neutral zone giveaways, a couple of lost pucks, and a failed clear in the defensive end. Meanwhile, he was quiet throughout the night in the offensive zone as Crosby and Hornqvist swarmed around the net. I initially believed that putting Hornqvist with Crosby was redundant with Kunitz already there, but I wonder if we might see Kunitz end up with Malkin at some point in the future depending on team healthy.

Defensemen/Goalies

Gm 4 Defense

Marc-Andre Fleury – Fleury played a very strong game that saw him deal with several odd-angled shots, bouncing pucks, and a lot of PK time. He was the team’s best penalty killer and excelled at kicking out rebounds to open areas more than is usually the case. There were at least three key stops in the first period alone where he made a pad save on redirects and tap-in attempts at the backside of the crease. The Penguins definitely owe their goaltender for staying in that game after a bit of a rough start with coverages.

Fleury was the biggest key for the penalty kill. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Fleury was the biggest key for the penalty kill. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Olli Maatta – One player that really seemed to struggle with the quickness and speed of the Islanders was Maatta. Last season, most of his struggled seemed to appear against teams that tried to dominate him physically, but the Islanders just toyed with him as they skated around him and to open areas where he tried to throw the puck. He ended up with three missed coverages in the defensive zone, three failed clears, and also had two defensive zone giveaways. I don’t expect to see many games this season where Maatta’s mistakes hit that high of a total.

Rob Scuderi – Though I am not the biggest fan of Scuderi’s willingness to drop to the ice to block passing lanes and shots, it worked very well against the Islanders and their bad-angle shots/passes around the crease. He did a fantastic job of breaking up plays on the 5-on-3 penalty kill and really owned the area in front of the net with his unique one-knee-down-stick-swinging style. The rest of his game was rather unremarkable and quiet, which is quite a good thing if you’re Rob Scuderi.

Misc. Thoughts

Penalty Kill “Improvement” – While the penalty kill improved in terms of not allowing a goal, I’m not sure if that was a product of how the Penguins played or how the Islanders wanted to play. The Isles seemed very intent on getting low in the zone and feeding the puck to the crease as they looked for tip-ins, redirects, and odd bounces (which Fleury has struggled with against them in the past). These tactics caused them to miss a few open looks in the high slot though, which is where the Penguins have been very weak early in the season. While I’m ecstatic with the results, I am walking away from this game thinking that the Islanders wasted opportunities more than the Penguins fixed their penalty kill.

Scuderi came up with some clutch moments on the PK. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Scuderi came up with some clutch moments on the PK. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Special Teams Dependency – The Penguins scored two more powerplay goals and added an empty netter to finish the game in another performance that struggled with even strength production. The powerplay is currently producing at a 47.1% rate…a number that logically is not sustainable. I am very anxious at this point to see more even-strength production soon before the numbers balance themselves out.

Missed Coverages – The Islanders have always been an annoying team for the Penguins to deal with because of their speed and quickness over the years. This game was no different even with new systems and better players. As a team, I marked the Penguins down for 12 missed coverages, easily the biggest amount of the season so far as they couldn’t keep up with the defense pinching into the zone early in the game and then often lost track of the third forward into the zone later in the game. These missed coverages and slides translate to the penalty kill as well, though it wasn’t an issue against the Islanders in terms of results. From what I can tell, the Penguins are communicating wonderfully in the offensive zone, but they still don’t have that chemistry in the defensive zone. Hopefully they build it up soon before a team capitalizes on it *and* the powerplay drops off.

Next Game: 10/22 vs Philadelphia, 8pm

Thanks for reading!!

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