Thoughts: Game 4 – Penguins @ Panthers

Panthers 6  Penguins 3

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Malkin (1) from Bennett
Adams (3) from Glass, Vitale
Dupuis (1) from Crosby

Goal Assessment

First Goal Against (Boyes)
Sidney Crosby tries to skate the puck around Tomas Fleischmann at the defensive blue line. Fleischmann steals the puck in the zone, giving the Panthers an immediate 3 on 2 advantage. Fleischmann passes the puck over to Brad Boyes, who rips a shot past Zatkoff’s glove from the right side.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Crosby (1)

First Goal For (Malkin)
Matt Niskanen is the player furthest up the ice for the Penguins and he disrupts the Panthers trying to skate out from their own blue line. Beau Bennett skates up from center ice to pick up an errant pass at the Florida blue line and enters the zone on a 2 on 1 with Evgeni Malkin. Bennett passes left to Malkin and Malkin beats Markstrom with a wrist shot past his blocker.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Niskanen (4), Bennett (3), Malkin (3)

Second Goal Against (Versteeg)
Robert Bortuzzo attempts to hit Scott Gomez behind the Penguins net as he receives a pass. Bortuzzo doesn’t make a clean hit, so Gomez still squirms away with the puck behind the net and passes out to Kris Versteeg at the faceoff circle. As he watches Gomez from the crease, Brandon Sutter doesn’t cover the passing or shooting lane for Versteeg, allowing him to take a one-timer that beats Zatkoff down low on his stick side.
Players at fault for the second goal against: Bortuzzo (1), Sutter (2)

Second Goal For (Adams)
Craig Adams beats two Panthers to stop a clearing attempt from Florida’s zone on the boards. Adams chips the puck off of Jonathan Huberdeau’s face, temporarily stunning him, and then down the boards to Joe Vitale behind the goal line. Vitale continues the puck around the boards as Adams skates all the way to the other side of the ice to retrieve the puck. Adams chips the puck back down behind the net again to Tanner Glass who is uncovered. Glass takes the puck to the net for a wraparound attempt as Adams crashes the net. Markstrom makes the initial save on Glass, but kicks the puck out to the middle of the ice where Adams skates through two Panthers to knock the puck through Markstrom’s five hole.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Vitale (1), Glass (3), Adams (3)

Third Goal Against (Huberdeau)
Paul Martin and Joe Vitale are in the penalty box for interference and tripping penalties respectively. Tomas Flesichmann passes the puck from the point to Versteeg at the bottom of the right faceoff circle. Versteeg looks for a passing lane and then decides to throw a bad angle shot on Zatkoff. Zatkoff doesn’t make a clean save and the puck rolls over his shoulder up into the air. The puck was likely going into the net but Jonathan Huberdeau bats it out of midair into the net for good measure.
Players at fault for the third goal against: Martin (2), Vitale (1), Zatkoff (1)

Barkov and the Panthers caught the Penguins sleeping in Florida. (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

Barkov and the Panthers caught the Penguins sleeping in Florida. (Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

Fourth Goal Against (Barkov)
Joe Vitale is still in the box for tripping. Rob Scuderi blocks a passing attempt by Tomas Fleischmann at the net but then knocks the puck behind the net directly to Aleksander Barkov. Barkov tries to center the puck, but it goes off of Paul Martin and through Zatkoff’s five hole.
Players at fault for the fourth goal against: Vitale (2) Scuderi (2), Martin (3)

Third Goal For (Dupuis)
Pascal Dupuis crashes the boards in the offensive zone to prevent Kulikov from clearing the puck. As he engages with Kulikov on the boards, Sidney Crosby skates in to scoop up the puck and take it below the goal line. Crosby draws Kulikov towards him and passes behind his back to Dupuis who is still lingering open around the faceoff dot. Dupuis quickly takes a wrist shot that sneaks past Markstrom.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Crosby (6), Dupuis (3)

Fifth Goal Against (Fleischmann)
Tomas Fleischmann grabs a loose puck at the Penguins’ blue line and skates in one-on-one against Brooks Orpik. Fleischmann takes a shot that hits Zatkoff in the mask and comes back out in front of the crease. Orpik goes to clear Fleischmann from the slot area, but doesn’t play the rebound or Fleischmann’s stick. Fleischmann knocks the rebound in past Zatkoff as he’s getting pushed down by Orpik.
Players at fault for the fifth goal against: Orpik (1)

Sixth Goal Against (Boyes)
Sidney Crosby is in the box for interference at the beginning of the play. Jeff Zatkoff makes a glove save and the rebound pops out to Robert Bortuzzo. Bortuzzo completely fans on a clearing attempt, allowing Florida to get the puck back. The Panthers play it safe and make six passes along the perimeter while the Penguins are in their penalty kill formation. Eventually, Aleksander Barkov ends up with the puck at the goal line to the left of Zatkoff. Rob Scuderi drops to the ice to block a passing lane, but essentially takes himself out of the play. Meanwhile, Craig Adams is covering the slot area, where there are no Panthers. Barkov moves himself around Scuderi and passes the puck over Scuderi’s stick. Meanwhile, Adams is too far out of the play to get his stick on the puck. The pass makes it across to Brad Boyes, who has a wide open net as Zatkoff pushed out to play a Barkov shot instead of a pass.
Players at fault for the sixth goal against: Crosby (2), Bortuzzo (2), Scuderi (3), Adams (1)

Penalty Assessment

Kunitz (high-sticking): Bad, goes for a stick lift on Gudbranson off of the first faceoff on a powerplay but completely misses his stick and hits Gudbranson in the face instead.
Orpik (cross-checking): Inconsequential, took coincidental minors with Huberdeau as they battled around the Penguins’ net.
Martin (interference): Bad, knocks down Upshall with a hit to his back next to the net for no reason as the puck is being played around the boards.
Vitale (tripping): Bad, trips Versteeg along the boards in the defensive zone while the Panthers are already on a powerplay.
Crosby (interference): Bad, takes out Weaver from behind after Weaver had leveled Dupuis. It was a retaliation penalty with less than 3 minutes left and the Penguins down by 2 goals. Sticking up for Dupuis is a fine idea, but that wasn’t the time for it.

Player Assessment


Matt Niskanen – After a subpar showing against Carolina, Niskanen picked his game back up with a strong 20:41 of ice time. One thing that helped his case was very limited time on special teams, which generally looked bad for the Penguins. Overall though, Niskanen made no glaring errors in the defensive zone and added a lot of help in the offensive zone. He had 4 shots, helped on the play that led to the first goal for the Penguins, and drew an interference penalty behind the net in the offensive zone. This was the two-way version of Niskanen that could easily be a top-4 defenseman in the NHL.

Malkin finally got his goal, but at the expense of other facets of his game. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Malkin finally got his goal, but at the expense of other facets of his game. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Robert Bortuzzo – Bortuzzo did most of the little things right (3 excellent poke checks, a big shot block on the crease, and two nice keeps in the offensive zone), but had two specific bad plays that eventually led to two goals against. On Florida’s 2nd goal, he missed a hit behind the net which allowed Gomez to get away with the puck and set up the goal. On Florida’s 6th goal, he completely fanned on the puck when he had a clearing chance on the penalty kill. Neither play is an easy one to excuse for a more defensive defenseman.

Evgeni Malkin – It was good to see Geno finally get his first goal of the season, but he still has some work to do. Oddly enough, after three games where Malkin didn’t score but didn’t force too much, he scored a goal and forced way too much. Of course, it could be because the Penguins were losing, but Malkin lost the puck far too many times in the offensive zone and even in the defensive zone as he tried to create offense. It was his worst game of the young season in terms of puck protection. Be patient, Geno.


Sidney Crosby – Crosby had a nice assist on Duper’s goal, but the rest of his game looked awful. He was at fault for the first goal against with a bad giveaway at the blue line and the sixth goal against as he showed no discipline in a close game. Additionally, he managed to give the puck away in all three zones throughout the game. Crosby generally just made a lot of bad decisions against Florida.

Chris Kunitz – Kunitz had several problems of his own next to Crosby. He took an awful high-sticking penalty that negated a Penguins powerplay completely. He also had trouble with the puck in the offensive zone and struggled to possess it. Meanwhile, he had a couple of failed clears in the defensive zone as Florida keyed in on his role along the boards.

Jeff Zatkoff – Zatkoff’s performance wasn’t as ugly as the score or his stats (24 saves on 30 shots) may suggest. However, it was still a bad performance. He was only partially at fault for one goal – a powerplay goal by Florida where he didn’t make a clean save and the puck popped up over him. His game was shaky overall though. His positioning on the 2nd and 6th goals against were suspect as he got caught anticipating different plays than what occurred. The Penguins didn’t help him out too much with several bad defensive plays and turnovers, but Zatkoff struggled with his crease depth as he decided whether to face the shot or anticipate a pass. Hopefully he will be able to shake it off and learn from his mistakes with a few more starts.

Misc Thoughts

Craig Adams and the 4th line continue to contribute early in the season. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images).

Craig Adams and the 4th line continue to contribute early in the season. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images).

Other Player Notes – Dustin Jeffrey was pretty invisible throughout the game. The third line seemed to get stuck in the defensive zone a little too much. On the other hand, the fourth line did a great job of getting offensive pressure. Joe Vitale’s tripping penalty on the PK was a huge turning point and pretty much buried the Penguins. The effort Craig Adams demonstrated on his goal was extremely impressive as he crossed back and forth through the offensive zone to make that goal happen. Paul Martin had a very up and down game, as did Rob Scuderi. Olli Maatta continues to fill a 3rd defensive pairing role very well.

Random Observations – The Panthers keyed in on the Penguins’ breakout scheme almost immediately and closed off all tip passes at the defensive blue line quickly. The Penguins adjusted after the first period though and changed their breakouts to look up the middle more frequently. The result didn’t pan out, but it was a smart mid-game adjustment. Beau Bennett was blatantly tripped twice with no calls – that just seemed odd. The Penguins used 4 forwards on their 4 on 3 powerplay. I was not a fan of that move and think the PP looks considerably more comfortable with defensemen manning the points. The camera work was horrendous for this game.

Maatta Watch – Olli Maatta continues to look good and earn more playing time. He was used with a variety of defensemen throughout the game and showed no problems in adjusting. He does seem unsure of himself with the puck in the defensive zone sometimes, but he takes the time to make the play that is less risky. He’s doing all of the right things to acclimate himself to the NHL without making big mistakes. The decision on him gets tougher with every game.

Zatkoff wasn't nearly as bad as it looked...but it was still bad. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Zatkoff wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked…but it was still bad. (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Goalie Situation – Even though Zatkoff had a poor outing, it’s still just one game. I would advise not passing judgment too quickly on him and giving it another two games or so before determining your level of comfort with him. For now, I think the Pens should continue to give him a shot. This is the time of the season when Shero can test this and he might as well figure out what he has there in Zatkoff.

Pens Record: 3-1
Next Game: Saturday, 10/12 @ Tampa Bay, 7pm

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