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 4 Red Wings 1
Hornqvist (15) from Letang, Comeau
Comeau (12) from Hornqvist
Perron (14) from Lapierre, Martin
Spaling (8) from Scuderi, Despres
Click here to read the goal assessments
Downie (hooking) – Unnecessary (holds his stick parallel to the ice as he gets his blade into the midsection of Sheahan, which leads to a hooking call)
Blake Comeau – Who knew that Blake Comeau was the most integral part of the offense? Comeau’s return went better than anyone could have expected with an assist on Hornqvist’s opening goal and a goal of his own in the slot from Hornqvist. He finished the game with two pass interceptions and two shots on net to go with his goal and assist. The second line looked dynamic on a completely different level with Comeau back in the lineup. If there ever will be a “Mike Johnston player”, it might be Comeau with his focus on moving the puck forward and getting it to the net. Who knows, maybe Comeau will have to fix the powerplay too.
Patric Hornqvist – Maybe it was Comeau or maybe it was the three day break, but for whatever reason, Hornqvist looked quicker and more determined than he has been since his own injury return. His forechecking effort was fantastic and he continually disrupted both Detroit’s forwards and defensemen as they tried to move the puck in their own zone. I marked him down for a takeaway, a pass interception, and two broken-up plays to go along with the opening goal of the game and the only assist on Comeau’s goal. Hornqvist wasn’t without his faults with a couple of lost pucks, a giveaway, and a failed clear, but all of it was largely meaningless in the third period as the Pens backed into a shell after a dominant first two periods. If the second line can be productive without Malkin recording a point, look out NHL.
Max Lapierre – The 4th line didn’t necessarily have a great game, but Lapierre made his few seconds on the ice with David Perron count for more than anyone could have predicted. He knocked Brendan Smith off the puck below the goal line in the offensive zone, took the puck above the goal line, and then put it on net to produce a rebound that Perron scored on. Aside from that takeaway and assist, Lapierre also had a neutral zone takeaway and two shots on net with no big mistakes. The 4th line is still certainly a work in progress, but Lapierre’s flash of success is a promising sign.
Marc-Andre Fleury – As has often been the case in recent Pittsburgh wins, Fleury had to fight off boredom at times to stay sharp (only 1 Detroit shot in the first 10 minutes) and he successfully did so throughout the night. The only goal that was scored against him was on a Detroit powerplay on a redirect from the slot that actually “missed” the net, but hit the post and went off of Fleury into the net. He made a couple of great stops in the second period, most notably a 1-on-1 opportunity against Helm and also a shot from close range by Miller. He then came up huge in the 3rd period as the Red Wings took control of the game but were unable to capitalize. He made a nice glove save on Zetterberg and had a couple of great point saves on Kronwall. The Zetterberg save may have been the best indication of how confident Fleury is feeling because he stayed up and read the shot instead of dropping down like he often does in that situation. Hopefully that confidence never leaves.
Simon Despres – Despres has been pretty hit or miss over the last few weeks, but he looked good with Scuderi for most of this game. He finished with a team-high four blocked shots and also assisted on Spaling’s goal by sending the puck to Scuderi at the left point (yes, it’s as weird for me to type as it is for you to read). He had a takeaway, forced turnover, and broken-up play in the defensive zone with nothing going the other way. It was a smart, careful hockey game for Despres, which was the perfect mindset against a skilled Red Wings team.
Kris Letang – Letang didn’t play poorly, but I wasn’t thrilled with a lot of his decisions against a smooth skating Detroit team. I marked him down for three giveaways, two lost pucks, and two lost coverages (one led to the Helm 1-on-1) in a bit of a lackluster effort that went largely unnoticed because the rest of the team was dominating. On the plus side, he did have a pass interception, a forced turnover, two broken-up plays, and the primary assist on Hornqvist’s opening goal. Letang has set the bar extremely high for himself this season, which makes an “average” performance look worse compared to usual. I’m guessing it won’t be a lingering issue.
Waiving Arcobello – I was torn between not caring about and not liking the decision to waive Arcobello. I don’t think Sill has played poorly in recent weeks, but I see much more potential in Arcobello than a guy like Zach Sill. Then, there’s the argument of can Arcobello play “4th line minutes.” What are 4th line minutes? If all four lines can control and carry the puck, does anyone care about a grinding 4th line? I don’t like the move because I think it’s a poor assessment of talent, however, Arcobello isn’t going to make or break this team, so it probably doesn’t matter much in the long run. In the world of having four talented lines, Arcobello stays, but we don’t live in that world yet.
Assessing Bennett’s Return – Bennett looked pretty solid in his return to the lineup after a string of healthy scratches. He had a defensive zone pass interception and two broken-up plays to go against only one lost puck. He also contributed to Spaling’s goal by dumping the puck into the Red Wings zone with Sutter racing in to start the sequence. Assessing his return based on coachspeak is a different story though. Was his battle level any better, specifically along the boards? I personally didn’t think it was. He looked like the same old Beau Bennett to me, which is hardly a bad thing. It will be interesting to see if the coaches call him out on that aspect of his game again as the season continues on. I think we all already know what Bennett is going to be in puck battles and along the boards, and that’s not where he’ll earn his money.
Depth and Powerplay – The additions of Comeau and Bennett back to the lineup had a wonderful trickledown effect through the lineup. The first and second lines were solid, Bennett added creativity to the 3rd line, and Downie made the 4th line infinitely better talent-wise. The roster could still use some tinkering, but this group of forwards is pretty close to deep enough for a Cup run when healthy. … Moving on to a quick word about the powerplay…SHOOT!!! Mike Johnston said after the game that the powerplay needs to get back into the shooting mentality and I don’t think a single person would question that. It’s been the same thing for weeks – not enough shots and not enough crease play. I would love to see Johnston take his “10 shots in the first 10 minutes of the game” theory and force that on the powerplay to get a couple within the first minute…not that the team is accomplishing the original theory that much either. Just. Shoot. The. Puck.
Next Game: 2/12 @ Ottawa, 7:30pm
Thanks for reading!