Thoughts: Game 6 – Penguins vs Oilers

Penguins 3  Oilers 2

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Dupuis (2) from Crosby, Kunitz
Kunitz (2) from Crosby, Dupuis
Malkin (2) (PP) from Martin, Crosby

Goal Assessment

First Goal For (Dupuis)
Pascal Dupuis recovers a blocked shot in the offensive zone and taps the puck down the boards. Chris Kunitz chases the puck along the boards, drawing two Oilers’ players to him, but he lets the puck go to Sidney Crosby behind the net. Dupuis then moves towards the faceoff dot uncovered and Crosby passes the puck to him where he takes a quick wrist shot that beats LaBarbera through his five hole.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Kunitz (7), Crosby (11), Dupuis (5)

First Goal Against (Hemsky)
Paul Martin is in the box for hooking at the start of the play. The Oilers win a faceoff in the offensive zone back to the point, pass the puck across the ice, and Jeff Petry takes a shot from the point. Deryk Engelland partially blocks the shot, but can’t control the puck and loses it to David Perron, who then turns to take a quick shot that hits the post. The puck hits off the post and goes into Fleury’s back, where Olli Maatta tries to keep it with his stick. Maatta loses the puck battle though as Ales Hemsky lifts his stick, steals the puck, and slides it into an open net.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Martin (5), Engelland (1), Maatta (3)

Second Goal For (Kunitz)
Rob Scuderi settles the puck behind the Penguins’ net and passes the puck up between two Oilers to Chris Kunitz exiting the zone. Kunitz passes to Sidney Crosby at center ice, who makes a great play to kick the puck up to his stick with the pass being behind him. Crosby passes to the right to Pascal Dupuis as they enter the zone and continues towards the net. Dupuis pulls up at the point and takes a quick snapshot that leaks through LaBarbera into the crease area. As Crosby circles around the net for it, Kunitz crashes the crease and smacks it into the net.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Scuderi (3), Crosby (12), Dupuis (6), Kunitz (8)

Geno, we already have a goalie. You're sitting on him. (Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images)

Geno, we already have a goalie. You’re sitting on him. (Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images)

Second Goal Against (Eberle)
Jordan Eberle and Mark Arcobello enter the Penguins zone with a 2 on 2 against Brooks Orpik and Olli Maatta. Taylor Hall streaks into the zone to make it a 3 on 2 with Evgeni Malkin lagging a few steps behind him. Orpik steps up on Arcobello as he gets the puck, which breaks up the pass and takes him and Arcobello out of the play. Meanwhile, Jordan Eberle swoops in to get the loose puck as Malkin overskates it and Maatta keeps an eye on Hall going to the back post. Malkin drops to the ground in front of Fleury and Maatta goes after Eberle, who takes a backhand shot that goes wide of the net. Taylor Hall, now uncovered after Maatta slid to Eberle, picks up the loose puck and takes a quick shot which is saved by Fleury. During this part, Malkin gets back up on the crease, goes down in front of Fleury again, and then swipes the puck towards the back boards. Jordan Eberle followed his original shot that went wide and is there to pick up the loose puck. Eberle circles to the slot with Malkin lying on top of Fleury, Maatta on the back side of the play since he stopped pursuit at the post, and Orpik skating back into the picture to hit both Petry and Hall around the crease instead of playing the puck carrier. Eberle then backhands the puck into the net as Maatta is the only player to try to stop him but is too far away to do anything.
Players at fault for the second goal against: Malkin (3), Maatta (4), Orpik (2)

Third Goal For (Malkin)
Evgeni Malkin wins a puck battle deep in the offensive zone on the powerplay and pushes the puck along to Chris Kunitz in the corner. Kunitz continues it along to Sidney Crosby behind the net. Crosby skates the puck over to the boards and passes up the boards to Matt Niskanen at the point. Niskanen draws an Oilers’ forward away from Crosby and then passes the puck back to him. Crosby passes the puck across to the other point and Paul Martin fans on a one-timer attempt. The failed shot gets LaBarbera to go down for a save while the puck ends up sliding down to Evgeni Malkin at the bottom of the faceoff circle. Malkin one-times Martin’s failed shot past LaBarbera before he can recover.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Kunitz (9), Crosby (13), Niskanen (7), Martin (5), Malkin (7)

Penalty Assessment

Malkin (tripping): Bad call, Malkin plays the puck back towards the offensive blue line and continues in his stride while looking back. Meanwhile, Boyd Gordon skates into Malkin’s right skate and trips over it. The argument for a penalty is Malkin trailed his right skate a little for a trip, but there isn’t nearly enough to show it was anything more than incidental contact by the two players.
Martin (hooking): Bad, Martin gets caught putting his stick parallel to the ice and hooking Perron while not taking a stride to chase him. In the end, Perron closes his arm on the stick to emphasize the hook, but it was a penalty before he even tried that.
Dupuis (hooking): Good, Niskanen turned the puck over at the defensive zone blue line, leading to a 2 on 1 against Scuderi. Dupuis hustled back into the play and hooked Taylor Hall to prevent a scoring chance as Eberle tried to pass it to Hall in front of the net.

Player Assessment

Dupuis is so good, he can skate uphill for his goal celebrations. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Dupuis is so good, he can skate uphill for his goal celebrations. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Pascal Dupuis – Sidney Crosby is great and all, but no player had a bigger impact all over the ice than Pascal Dupuis did (aside from maybe David Perron for the Oilers). On the stat sheet, it was just a goal and an assist, but Dupuis did much more than that against the Oilers. He almost had two more goals off of deflections in front of the net that managed to stay out thanks to some odd bounces and spins. He also was a terror in the offensive zone with several forced turnovers as he won every puck battle he got involved in. With a couple of blocks on defense and a good PK effort, Dupuis was my #1 star of the game.

Sidney Crosby – Crosby is loving life in the NHL right now with more room behind the net and everyone in constant fear of him at this point. He assisted on all three goals and is showing an intense desire to be around the net at all times. Even with the assists, his most impressive moment may have been before the 2nd goal (Kunitz) when Kunitz gave him a bad pass going through the neutral zone. It was no problem for Crosby though as he kicked the puck up to his stick in stride and entered the offensive zone. I don’t know what “it” is, but Sidney Crosby is feeling it.

Rob Scuderi – Scuderi was a very important neutralizing factor to the Oilers speed as he played smart and stayed back to cover up the mistakes of several other players. It’s alarming on one hand, but very impressive for Scuderi on the other. I had him marked down for breaking up two 2 on 1s and breaking up a pass during the 5 on 3 PK. Scuderi is great in odd-man situations, but the Penguins may want to limit those a little better.


Brandon Sutter – Sutter won’t get much fanfare for a while (especially if his linemates are Jeffrey and Zolnierczyk), but he’s getting the job done defensively. He had a couple of good poke checks, a big block on the penalty kill, and was great in pushing the puck out of the defensive zone on the last faceoff of the game. Most of his work is done on the PK and in the defensive zone at this point, but he is doing that work very well.

Joe Vitale – Vitale didn’t get any PK time or do much in the way of faceoffs (1 for 3), but he added energy when the 4th line was on and even drew a cross-checking penalty on the Oilers. He used pure effort to push back the Oilers a couple of times and he also beat out a hybrid icing call by outskating a very quick team.

Second straight game with a sad Olli Maatta. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Second straight game with a sad Olli Maatta. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Olli Maatta – Maatta dealt with the speed of the Oilers well but he struggled with play around the net on both Oilers’ goals. On the first goal against, Maatta was simply outmuscled as he tried to keep the puck out of the net but lost the battle to Hemsky in the crease. On the second goal against, he tried to cover up for Malkin and Orpik but then lost track of where he should be in the play. Whether it was due to his play or game circumstances, his ice time dropped a couple of minutes to 13:39. I’m still firmly in the mindset of sending him to London to get him 20+ minutes a game for one more year. His time will come.

Deryk Engelland – Preface: Engelland played well against Tampa Bay so I had no problem with him playing against Edmonton before the game started. Hindsight: Engelland was too slow to play against Edmonton and had a tough game against them. He was on for the first goal against, where he strayed a little too far from the crease and was unable to mark Perron around the net after blocking/deflecting a shot towards him. He also had a couple of bad clearing attempts and a giveaway in the defensive zone. I still think Engelland should play from time to time, but a matchup against Edmonton probably wasn’t the best choice, even if he earned it.

Misc Thoughts

Other Player Notes – Harry Zolnierczyk added a lot of energy and looked tenacious on the ice. However, he also had a giveaway entering the offensive zone and looked weak on the puck in general. Perhaps it was just me, but it seemed like Zolnierczyk ended half of his shifts with falling to the ice. It was nice to see him “protect” Crosby, but I wonder if his energy is just spent inefficiently overall. Matt Niskanen had a very good game aside from one awful turnover in the 3rd period. Tanner Glass learned from his mistake in slot coverage on Saturday and clearly had the mindset of preventing it from happening again. Fleury looked good in net again, not being at fault for either goal against.

Defensive Pairings – Olli Maatta has had two down games in a row by my watch and both games have been with Engelland. I’m not saying this to attack Engelland, but more to point out the chemistry that Bortuzzo and Maatta had immediately as a pairing. I hope we see Bortuzzo back in the lineup to evaluate Maatta a little more before the 9 game point. I’m also curious how Maatta would play with any of the other defensemen in a regular pairing scenario, but there’s no way that will happen this season.

Skate Blade-Gate – Andrew Ference lost his skate blade in the defensive zone and the referee immediately blew the whistle as soon as the Oilers had the puck, just like they would have done for an injury. Can we make this an NHL rule for the sake of consistency?

Too many chances like this were not finished by the Penguins. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Too many chances like this were not finished by the Penguins. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Net Presence – One thing the Penguins really lacked, especially in comparison to the Oilers, was any sort of net/crease presence.  LaBarbera was giving up big rebounds and looked “leaky” all night with shots.  Despite this, the Penguins didn’t get much in the way of scrums going around the net and luckily got the Kunitz goal because he streaked through the zone to swing at the puck.  Meanwhile, the Oilers scored both of their goals by causing complete chaos around the net.  When a goalie looks as shaky as LaBarbera did, the Penguins need to take advantage of it and just attack his personal space.

Injury Update – James Neal was placed on the long-term IR retroactively. As such, he will still miss at least 3 more games before he is eligible to return (has to miss at least 10 games or 21 days). Matt D’Agostini and Kris Letang are both back at practice and should be returning soon. Beau Bennett is not practicing though.

Pens Record: 5-1
Next Game: Thursday, 10/17 @ Philadelphia, 7pm

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