Thoughts: Game 51 – Pens cruise to quiet 2-0 win over Oilers

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 2  Oilers 0

Record: 29-14-8

Malkin (20) from Arcobello, Hornqvist
Perron (12) from Letang, Crosby

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 51 - Goals

Perron (hooking) – Unnecessary (tries to lift the stick of Klinkhammer in the offensive zone and loses his balance as he pulls down Klinkhammer as well)
Bortuzzo (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a scrum with Hendricks in front of the benches and they each receive a minor)

Notable Players


Gm 51 - Forwards

Evgeni Malkin – Coming off of a groin injury, Geno didn’t miss a beat as he scored the first goal, which turned out to be the game-winner. He showed no lingering issues whatsoever with his skating as he earned a takeaway, two pass interceptions, and a broken-up play in the offensive zone. The puck did roll on him a bit, leading to a lost puck in the offensive zone, but that was the case with basically everyone on the ice. As for his goal, it was an easy tap-in from just outside the crease after Arcobello set him up and Hornqvist/Aulie pulled Fasth out of position. The important thing in the end is Geno looked completely healthy at full speed, so the Penguins have two solid lines again.

Life is good when Geno smiles. (Jason Franson/AP Photo)

Life is good when Geno smiles. (Jason Franson/AP Photo)

David Perron – Perron had the other goal of the game in his triumphant return to Edmonton. It was a solid game overall with two takeaways and three pass interceptions in comparison to a giveaway, a lost puck, and a hooking penalty, but most of the attention should go to his goal. He received the puck from Martin at the Oilers blue line with just five seconds left in the second period, then dropped it off for Crosby and went directly to the front of the net as Crosby passed it to Letang. Letang’s one-timer rebounded off of Fasth’s pads into the crease, where it “hit” Perron’s skate and went in. Make no mistake, Perron made a little stutter-stop with his left skate so the puck would bounce into the net. It wasn’t a kicking motion, but it was a beautifully sneaky move with his skate to send the puck where he wanted it. Perron’s abilities continue to impress.

Mark Arcobello – The other man making his return to Edmonton (hey, he and Perron had a tribute video) had a much rockier game than Perron but still contributed nonetheless. Arcobello really had a terrible first period on Malkin’s left wing. Part of it was just being on his off-hand for chances, which was demonstrated by a lost puck in the slot when Malkin passed the puck to his backhand. Much of it appeared to be because he seemed overwhelmed, demonstrated by a giveaway, three lost pucks, and a lost defensive coverage. Arcobello did turn his game around though as the second period hit. He assisted on Malkin’s goal with a nice backhand pass in tight next to the crease. He also ended up with four shots, a takeaway, and a pass interception. He’s not meant for the second line in the long run, but he was a solid fill-in once he figured out his pace.


Gm 51 - Defense


Marc-Andre Fleury – Fleury wasn’t forced into making a plethora of saves, but he stopped all 22 pucks that were thrown his way for his 7th shutout of the season. Much like the Devils win, this game featured long stretches (10+ mins) of hockey during which Fleury had absolutely nothing to do while the Penguins dominated play. He stayed focused though and did his job when he needed to. Of his notable stops, he made high shoulder saves on Petry and Nugent-Hopkins, he was ready for a very awkward save from the slot after the Pens lost possession in front of the net, and he stopped Petry again streaking down the right side of the zone late in the third period. With the Pens never really putting this game away, Fleury came up big to make sure there was no reason to panic.

Hopefully this game gives Fleury a little boost after some rough outings with the team. (Jason Franson/AP Photo)

Hopefully this game gives Fleury a little boost after some rough outings with the team. (Jason Franson/AP Photo)

Derrick Pouliot – Pouliot was very active in the offensive zone for his first few shifts as he kept skating down to the circles and the slot, but then he backed off and had a quiet game the rest of the way. Make no mistake though, quiet for Pouliot is unexpectedly good. For a defenseman who has been hyped as an offensive threat and possible defensive liability, he has shown more defensive awareness than expected. He made several smart, safe plays throughout the game that were generally unexpected. He backed off on pucks near the offensive blue line twice to pull them back into the neutral zone and keep control rather than risking a break the other way. He also did an exceptional job of using the boards to move the puck when there were some open-looking lanes up the middle. In terms of puck management, he just had one lost puck and one broken-up play. Pouliot played a smart game, which just adds to the notion that he should be in the lineup nightly at this point.

Simon Despres – The Despres/Letang experiment mostly ended against the Oilers as Despres returned to Scuderi’s side. He ended up with a mediocre performance, though some of his decision-making is certainly coming into question. He had a pass interception, forced turnover, and two broken-up plays in the defensive zone to go against three giveaways. One of those giveaways was another pass through the middle of the defensive zone, which is something you would think he might have hesitated on after the Nashville game. On a happier note, he put three shots on net and seems to have gotten better at finding shooting lanes over the past few games. It’s still hard to tell exactly how good Despres is at times, but he’s certainly a top-four guy on this current team.

Misc. Thoughts

Scratching Bennett – While I was nonchalant about Bennett getting scratched last week, I can’t say I really understood the decision to scratch him against Edmonton. There are four possibilities as far as I can tell – 1) resting an injury, 2) sending him a message, 3) not a top-12 forward, 4) potential trade bait. I’m going to eliminate (1) based on his work in practice and extra work after practice – I don’t think he would be skating so much if there was an injury. I’m going to eliminate (3) because that’s asinine. So that leaves us with sending a message or potential trade bait. If it’s sending a message, I question how exactly this message is being sent. The first healthy scratch makes sense from the sending a message standpoint. However, bringing him back in the next game, then slowly tailing off his ice time (note: he was hit by Lapierre), and finally giving him mostly 4th line linemates in the 3rd period is not going to do him any favors or teach him anything. Scratching him the next game based on that seems like an unfair judgment of his performance. Meanwhile, if Bennett is potential trade bait, I can’t imagine the Penguins are going to make a good trade. It has nothing to do with actually getting rid of Bennett. It MUST be noted that Bennett’s career high in goals is THREE (each season, in 26 games, 21 games, and currently 20 games). He is more hype than performance at this point in his career, without question. However, several years into his career with several injuries, that hype is not even close to what it used to be. His trade value is probably as low as it has been at this point, plus he is a cheap contract for a team working near the salary cap. Pending the offer of course, Bennett’s value is likely higher to the Penguins than in the trade market, which still might not say much.

Maybe Bennett was scratched because he doesn’t fit on the 4th line and the team wanted to make sure Arcobello played in Edmonton? This is definitely possible, but it would be poor reasoning. The Penguins had scored two goals in their last three games (heck, it’s still only four in their last four after Edmonton). Playing Edmonton is also a great chance for any player to boost their confidence. Playing Bennett against Edmonton seemed ripe for the sake of waking him up and helping the team’s quiet offense.  He has to get that 4th goal eventually, right?!

In the end, it’s probably still too early to be concerned about the treatment of Bennett. It’s only two games and the organization is definitely still trying to figure out what they have going into the deadline and into the stretch run. They should probably figure out what they have in Bennett too, but hopefully that will come in the next few weeks. I’m sure there will be more to come on this topic.

Takeaways – The Penguins dominated a bad team and came away with a surprisingly close win. Tell me if you’ve heard this one. Hint: it was two recaps ago. While the Penguins did look quite dominant against the Oilers, it’s hard not to see this on the same level as the Devils game. This was a game the Pens should have won, and they did win, so it’s two points in the standings but it wasn’t a statement of any sort and there aren’t many takeaways moving forward. They’re going to play a much tougher pair in back-to-backs this weekend against Calgary and Vancouver. Will Calgary pull off what Nashville did after the Devils game? This weekend has every chance to be a “statement” weekend or add another level of concern to this team. I’ll save up my thoughts for that. Pittsburgh... (Courtesy of @JustPuckIt)

Meanwhile…in Pittsburgh… (Courtesy of @JustPuckIt)

Next Game: 2/6 @ Calgary, 9pm

Thanks for reading!