Thoughts: Game 53 – Pens get demolished by Canucks in 5-0 loss

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.

Canucks 5  Pens 0

Record: 30-15-8

Goals
None

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 53 - Goals

Penalties
Letang (holding) – Good (gets his stick around the waist of Matthias and puts his right hand on Matthias’ back to shove him as he goes to the net after blowing past Martin, so Letang ends a breakaway chance after Martin lost his coverage)
Crosby (holding) – Unnecessary (wraps his right arm around Sbisa and puts his stick across Sbisa’s body as he chases him behind the net, pulling him down for a penalty)
Perron (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a shoving match with Hamhuis in front of the Canucks net and they each receive a minor)
Bortuzzo (fighting) – Inconsequential (accepts a fight from Kassian after shooting an offside puck on net and they each receive a fighting major)
Letang (unsportsmanlike conduct) – Unnecessary (continually argues with refs after the 4th goal after Malkin was tripped to start the sequence with no call, so he gets an unsportsmanlike conduct)
Letang (slashing) – Unnecessary (slashes Hansen when he’s 1-on-1 with Greiss, but it’s after Hansen has taken the shot so it’s a useless penalty)
Hornqvist (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a shoving match with Dorsett and they each get a roughing minor)
Malkin (roughing) – Unnecessary (shoves Hamhuis several times as the puck goes away from them and gets a minor for it)
Hornqvist (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a shoving match with Burrows after Malkin takes a penalty and each guy gets a minor)
Adams (10 min misconduct) – Inconsequential (gets into a scrum with Sbisa late in the 3rd period and they both receive misconducts)

Notable Players

Forwards

Gm 53 - Forwards

Zach Sill – Sill bounced between the 4th and 2nd lines and put together a relatively solid performance. He managed to get three shots on net and recorded a takeaway, pass interception, and forced turnover to go against only one giveaway. He only had 11:33 of ice time, but it felt like much more because he was actually noticeable in good ways when he was on the ice. Seeing Sill on the 2nd line screams depth problems across the team, but he did better than expected given his role and usual performances.

Credit where credit is due...somehow that lands on Zach Sill. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Credit where credit is due…somehow that lands on Zach Sill. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Patric Hornqvist – For all of the “toughness” that the team has acquired (Downie, Lapierre, etc), Hornqvist was the guy who impressed me the most in terms of “battle level” and just showing that he cared. He ended up with two roughing minors, one of which came as he got into a scrum for Malkin, and he also drew a penalty on his own as well. He finished the game with three shots on net, a pass interception and forced turnover in the defensive zone, and two broken up plays in the neutral zone. On the other hand, he had a lost puck and a failed clear, but Hornqvist at least looked like he was ready for this game, unlike much of the team.

Evgeni Malkin – Malkin had trouble with the puck in the Calgary game (five lost pucks) and it somehow got worse against Vancouver. Though he did have three takeaways in the defensive zone, he also had three giveaways in the defensive zone and a total of four lost pucks on the ice. Two of those lost pucks led to goals against. The first occurred when he couldn’t handle a pass from Lapierre (the pass was fine) in the defensive zone and lost the puck to Horvat stepping up on him. Horvat proceeded to get past Martin for a 2-on-1 situation and Horvat ended up with a goal in the end. The second lost puck that led to a goal was a bit more difficult to assess because Malkin went down after Hamhuis put a free hand on him and also wrapped his stick around him, but there was no penalty called. There certainly *could* have been a penalty called, but as there wasn’t, it’s still a lost puck that went straight to Vrbata and eventually led to a goal. Finally, add in a bad penalty for going after Hamhuis in the 3rd period when he was clearly just getting frustrated. Western Canada was not good to Geno, and I’m sure it didn’t help that he had Arcobello/Sill rotating on one side and Hornqvist looking out of sync with him on the other. Comeau’s return (or maybe using Bennett) can’t come quickly enough for the star center.

Defensemen/Goalies

Gm 53 - Defense

Derrick Pouliot – Pouliot wasn’t perfect by any means, but I continue to be encouraged with his work in the defensive zone and how smart he has been away from the puck. In terms of puck management, I marked him down for a takeaway (on a beautiful 1-on-1 play), pass interception, forced turnover, and a broken-up play to go against two lost pucks in the neutral zone and a lost coverage. While I’d like to see him getting the puck and shooting it more (only one shot), it’s also very clear that he is putting a significant amount of effort into making safe and smart plays. As opposed to the “development” of Bennett, I really like how the team seems to have given Pouliot orders and he’s listening and learning on the fly. The offense will come eventually purely based on his talent. If he continues to round out defensively like he has, Pouliot will crush expectations soon.

Kris Letang – Letang had a rollercoaster performance and he showed flashes of old hot-headed Kris Letang for the first time in quite a while. On the plus side, he led the team with five shots on net, had two pass interceptions, two broken-up plays, and also took a good penalty when he hindered Matthias on a breakaway attempt after he blew past Martin. Letang argued the penalty fervently, but between wrapping his stick around the waist of Matthias and also placing his free hand on the back of Matthias, it was an understandable call. On the bad side, he had a giveaway and a lost coverage, which resulted in the 2nd goal against when he got in the way of Dorsett’s one-timer chance but then also was stuck flat-footed so he couldn’t recover as Dorsett got the puck back in front of the crease and knocked it over to Horvat. Letang also took two penalties, one of which was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for continuing to argue with the refs after the 4th goal against. The other was a slashing penalty when Hansen had a breakaway on Greiss and it was after Hansen had taken the shot, so it was a needless penalty. On top of that, Vancouver scored their 5th goal with Letang in the box for that penalty. So while his play with the puck was fine, Letang’s demeanor and 60-minute argument with the refs was not-so-good. I can’t imagine we’ll see another game like this one for a while from the Letang/Martin pairing. (Shout out to Martin for also being bad but not worth writing about as much as Letang)

Thomas Greiss – Greiss received very little help from his team, but he also didn’t help himself out throughout the game either. He kept the Penguins in the game early and made at least four 2-on-1 saves and a breakaway save, but he looked very shaky and uncertain of his positioning throughout the night. There’s a decent chance he stopped trusting his defense as the game went on, which would have been completely understandable. The only goal that was truly his fault was the 4th goal against, which was Fleuryish as Greiss went behind the net, misplayed a puck directly to Linden Vey, and was out of the net while Vey passed the puck to Kassian for an easy tap-in goal on an empty net. He finished with 22 saves on 27 shots in a performance that he and the team just need to forget.

Here's your picture summary of the game. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Here’s your picture summary of the game. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Rob Scuderi – Scuderi has been a capable 3rd pairing defenseman (contract aside) for much of the season, but he was completely out of sorts against the Canucks. I marked him down for a takeaway and a broken-up defensive play, but an abysmal three lost coverages. He ended up being partially at fault for two goals against. He made a bad pinch on the 3rd goal against when Malkin lost the puck to Vrbata. Scuderi stepped up to Vrbata as Hamhuis and Matthias were exiting the zone, which left a 2-on-1 for Despres and absolutely no hope for Scuderi to recover. He was then partially at fault for the 5th goal against on the PK when he failed to clear the puck along the boards, then stepped up on H. Sedin and left a 2-on-1 for Bortuzzo to deal with in front of the net. Scuderi was just in all-out abandon his teammates mode against Vancouver.

Misc. Thoughts

Bennett’s Scratches Continue – This thought will be quite short: I don’t fault Johnston for not changing the lineup after two straight shutouts. In hindsight, the team could have really used Bennett, but it’s very difficult to argue for altering a team that hadn’t allowed a goal since last Sunday. I will be shocked if Bennett and Harrington don’t get into the lineup on Wednesday.

Bad Preparation? – The Penguins looked ill-prepared for the Canucks from the very start of the game. Against Edmonton and Calgary, the team did a great job of stifling their opponents’ breakouts starting at the offensive blue line. Vancouver had no problem chipping the puck up the boards and chasing it with speed to create chances. The speed of the Canucks’ attack seemed to catch the entire defense off-guard. I can’t recall a performance where I’ve seen Martin and Letang get caught flat-footed so frequently, especially for how well those two can handle the transition game. The entire team just seemed to consistently get blown past on rushes and it led to a plethora of odd-man chances for Vancouver. Perhaps the Penguins were tired – it was their 2nd in back-to-backs and 3rd in 4 nights, but one would think that players would hang back a little more to play everything safe if that was the case. I don’t want to say this was a bad effort, but it certainly wasn’t a smart, well-thought-out effort.

Bad Calls – The Penguins certainly weren’t helped out by the refs, who seemed to call things much tighter on the Penguins than the Canucks (this was even mentioned by national writers). The big sticking point for many was Pouliot’s disallowed goal, which was waived off because the net came off as the puck was crossing the line. I have no problem with the no goal call, but I understand Johnston’s displeasure with the refs not calling it goal or no goal on the ice and deferring to Toronto, who seemed to say that they couldn’t tell either, so the refs went with no goal. The call on the ice can’t technically stand due to inconclusiveness when there is no definitive call on the ice. That no-goal aside, the Canucks scored their 3rd goal after Hamhuis took Malkin down in the offensive zone and forced a turnover. Was it a penalty? I would say 50/50. Based on how Letang’s penalty was called to start the game though, it should have been a penalty. They were mirror image plays with a stick wrapping around and a free hand on the back except for Letang was defending a breakaway. That level of inconsistency in officiating is maddening and I understand everyone’s gripe on the non-call for that reason. Despite these issues, the Penguins scored 0 goals, played horrible defense, and didn’t really earn much, so I’m not going to blame the loss on a no goal and a non-call or two. The Penguins need to learn to work through that along with learning how to work through the adversity of being down after 1 period.

Bad bounce, bad luck, bad call...whatever it was, the Pens need to find a way to overcome these things. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Bad bounce, bad luck, bad call…whatever it was, the Pens need to find a way to overcome these things. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

How Much Does This Game Matter? – This is a constant question after every win and loss with how bipolar the team has looked. Circumstances didn’t help (2nd game in a row, blah blah), but the Penguins continue to underwhelm: a) against good teams, b) on the powerplay, and c) when trailing after a period. On pure talent alone, this team is too good to struggle on all three facets, especially when (b) could easily fix (a) and (c). Even while not getting all of the calls they should have gotten, the powerplay went 0 for 4 with seven shots. Deep teams don’t need a great powerplay to survive in the playoffs. A team playing Zach Sill on the 2nd line needs the powerplay to survive.

Since the all-star break, the Pens have gone 4-3 (yes, it feels worse, I know). Four wins have featured a 3-for-9 powerplay (no PPs in the Edmonton game). Three losses have featured a 0-for-11 powerplay. This team’s success might rely entirely on the powerplay as the roster stands right now, so that first powerplay better find their way back to the first month of the season.

PS – the penalty kill is 7 for 7 in those four wins and 8 for 12 in those three losses if you’re wondering.  Win and lose on special teams is now the trend.

Next Game: 2/11 vs Detroit, 8pm

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