Thoughts: Game 42 – Even Sill gets on the board in Pens 7-2 dismantling of Minnesota

Published on January 14th, 2015

By: Meesh Shanmugam

Here’s a link to the Postgame Thoughts archive, in case you want to catch up on what you may have missed.

Pens 7  Wild 2

Record: 26-10-6

Goals
Goc (2) from Sill, Adams
Perron (7) from Ehrhoff, Crosby
Kunitz (13) (PP) from Malkin, Letang
Sutter (9) from Martin
Martin (2) from Spaling, Malkin
Letang (9) from Perron, Crosby
Perron (8) from Kunitz, Crosby

Gm 42 - Goals

Click here to read the goal assessments

Penalties
Bortuzzo (interference) – Unnecessary (trips Carter off of an offensive zone faceoff with 2 second left in the period)

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 42 - Forwards

David Perron – Winger for Sid? Yes, it looks like there is finally a winger for Sid. After a week of getting his timing down, Perron looked completely in sync with Crosby and Kunitz (and Letang) against the Wild and the results showed up on the scoreboard in a big way. He scored two goals and added an assist to power the first line to the best performance we have seen in a few weeks. His first goal was a testament to his unbelievable hands as he picked up a rebound off of Backstrom’s pads on his forehand and then switched to his backhand as he pushed the puck across the front of the crease with lightning speed before sliding the puck into the net. His second goal was a bit easier, but no less impressive, as he one-timed a shot from the slot that Curry still can’t figure out where it beat him. He also assisted on Letang’s goal with a nice read as he drew three players to him entering the Wild zone, which left Letang wide open for a pass and drive to the net. Good hands, drawing more attention, and converting on his chances…I think we’ll learn to like this Perron guy.

Sidney Crosby – Crosby looked much more like himself against the Wild as he was willing to free skate with the puck more, tried to get to the middle of the ice, and also drove to the net on several occasions with the puck. He ended up with three assists (all secondary) and contributed to another goal as well. Two of the goals he contributed to were off of offensive zone faceoffs, when he won the faceoff and got the puck back to the right point, which resulted in a shot and then goals by Perron and Kunitz. His other assists were impressive in their own right as well. Before the Letang goal, Crosby swooped through the neutral/defensive zones twice as he kept skating away from defenders until the Wild were completely out of position. Then he made a pass up to Perron entering the Wild zone, which led to a wide open Letang going to the net. Later, for the 2nd Perron goal, Crosby forced a turnover in the offensive zone with a poke check on Spurgeon to get Kunitz the puck. Some may question his secondary assists, but Crosby earned all three of them (and more) against the Wild.

Marcel Goc – I’ve been tough on Goc this season and his linemates have certainly been an issue, but he played one of his best games of the season against Minnesota. Not only did he score a goal by swatting the puck into the net after Sill set him up on the crease, but he also played mistake-free hockey throughout the night. I didn’t mark him down for any turnovers and he had a pass interception in the neutral zone and a forced turnover in the defensive zone. His overall play and positioning was great as he ended up with 3 shots on net. Maybe Florida’s version of Goc isn’t gone forever after all.

Zach Sill has recorded a point. History will NOT be made. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Zach Sill has recorded a point. History will NOT be made. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Defensemen/Goalies

Gm 42 - Defense

Marc-Andre Fleury – Though the scoreboard says blowout, it could have easily gone the other way if the goalies switched sides. Fleury had another strong game and his performance started in the very first minute when Malkin committed a giveaway right in front of the net and Fleury had to come up big with a glove save on Haula. He also made nice saves on shots from the slot by Carter and Koivu later in the period, then came up big for the Pens again as he stopped a shot redirected by Bortuzzo and then the rebound attempt from Haula. Both of the goals he allowed were hard, perfectly placed wrist shots, which every goalie will be prone to giving up. His overall play to start the game kept the Penguins in position to dominate though, which they then proceeded to do.

Fleury could allow 10 goals and it would still be a beautiful performance in those pads. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Fleury could allow 10 goals and it would still be a beautiful performance in those pads. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Kris Letang – Much has been said about the Letang/Perron friendship since Perron arrived from Pittsburgh and it looks like that chemistry might help on the ice as well. Letang appeared to jump up into the play with Perron more than others and it paid off on his goal when Perron drew the attention of three guys and then passed the puck off to Letang, who went in 1-on-1 vs Backstrom, pulled the puck to his backhand at the last second, and slid the puck into the net. Offense aside, Letang was solid as usual on defense and Ehrhoff had another good game on his pairing as well. Now hopefully he doesn’t get *too* caught up with trying to skate on offense with Perron.

Robert Bortuzzo – Bortuzzo was a mix of good and questionable in this game, which is definitely an improvement from where he has been. He contributed to the first goal by retrieving a loose puck along the boards and sending it back to Adams at the right point to set that play in motion for Goc’s goal. He also threw some monster hits (ask Niederreiter) and I liked the fact that he didn’t try to retaliate or send a message after Suter’s elbow on Downie since the Pens could easily send the message on the scoreboard. I still have my concerns about him in the defensive zone though. Bortuzzo seems to be getting pinned more and more in the defensive zone and he appears to be dragging the “third” defenseman down in the defensive zone, whether it be Martin or Ehrhoff depending on the game. Though he has survived his partial role as a 2nd pairing defenseman so far, I would love to see the Pens find a way to drop him to the 3rd pairing for the sake of unleashing his talented partner (Ehrhoff or Martin) a bit.

Misc. Thoughts

Suter/Downie Elbow – Suter’s elbow on Downie was as blatant as they come and Suter will have a phone hearing with the Department of Player Safety about it today. There was tons of outrage over the lack of call, but to be honest, I think it’s actually an understandable missed call. The puck was moving away from the play and the elbow happened so nonchalantly and quickly that it was tough to see. Watching the play live, I actually thought Suter’s glove just got into Downie’s eyes and that’s why he went down. Of course, replay showed that it was an absurd elbow and I will be shocked if Suter isn’t suspended for 2ish games. I do believe he’s sorry that he actually injured Downie, but there’s no question he was at least trying to get a piece of Downie higher than he should have. It was a careless and reckless move and it should be punished as such, with a suspension. Your move, player safety.

Speaking of moves, you might want to look into one, Yeo. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Speaking of moves, you might want to look into one, Yeo. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Maatta’s Season Officially Ends – The Penguins conveniently announced right after the 7-2 win that Maatta is going to undergo surgery again. After the rumors (h/t Pensblog) from a month ago, this isn’t a shock, but it is a disappointment. This injury essentially makes Martin non-tradeable, not that I wanted to trade him to begin with, and it certainly brings the Penguins defense into question. The defense has done a good job so far, but a lot of that credit goes to Fleury as well. I have no reason to believe Fleury’s performance will drop, but for the sake of limiting chances, the Penguins could really use another defenseman if possible. I’m not comfortable with Bortuzzo as a 2nd pairing defenseman and though I think Despres has the talent to play there, I understand the team not wanting to break up Despres/Scuderi because well, it has worked after no one thought anything with Scuderi could work. Forget the top-six forward, my eyes are on the defense for the next several weeks going into the trade deadline.

Next Game: 1/16 @ NY Islanders, 7pm

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