By: Meesh Shanmugam
Red Wings 4 Pens 3 (OT)
Dupuis (2) from Comeau
Maatta (1) from Comeau, Malkin
Kunitz (3) from Despres
Click here to read the goal assessments
Goc (hooking) – Lazy (doesn’t keep his feet moving as Jurco skates to the slot, forcing him to hook Jurco as the puck gets there for a penalty)
Comeau (holding) – Overly aggressive (tries to get around Quincey as they race for the puck and pulls Quincey down to the ice with his arms)
Crosby (interference) – Stupid (hits Zetterberg from behind for no reason with the puck not there out of pure stupidity)
Kunitz (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a shoving match with Abdelkader and they both get two minutes)
Downie (cross-checking) – Inconsequential (gets into a cross-checking match with Ericsson and they both get minors)
Pascal Dupuis – Dupuis was solid for about 95% of the game with a couple of forced turnovers, two broken-up plays, a goal, and the perfect amount of interference to help out with Maatta’s goal. The 5% he was bad in was very costly though. He was partially at fault for both of Kronwall’s goals. On the first one, he turned the puck over at the Red Wings blue line instead of getting the puck deep while the Penguins were changing, which led to a scramble back, Kronwall embarrassing Hornqvist, and a goal against. On Kronwall’s second goal of the game, Dupuis inexplicably tried to shoot the puck through three players at the empty net instead of playing it safe and pushing the puck deep in the zone. He proceeded to fall in the neutral zone as the Wings rushed up ice and then completely missed his coverage as he followed everyone deep and left Kronwall all alone at the top of the zone. The decision by Dupuis to give the puck away directly instead of playing it safe is mind-boggling for a player as smart as him. Two goals for and two goals against evens out the ledger, but Dupuis should have been on the positive side.
Sidney Crosby – According to the stat sheet, Crosby had a team-leading five shots. According to my notes, he had three offensive zone giveaways and took an incredibly stupid, useless penalty. The Wings didn’t score on that powerplay, but I can’t imagine anyone was impressed with Crosby’s game against the Red Wings, which seemed to continue from a lackluster second half of the Flyers game. In six games this season, Crosby has three even-strength points. The sample size is tiny, but he needs to produce more at even strength, especially with the Penguins having depth issues for the foreseeable future at forward. He should also consider inspiring his team with a big actual hockey play rather than by hitting Zetterberg in the back for a penalty. Crosby wasn’t awful against Detroit, but he was just a bit too quiet and left a lasting impression of childishness until Saturday.
Patric Hornqvist – Hornqvist helped out on Kunitz’s goal by taking the defense away from him, but was also partially at fault for two goals against to negate the good. On Kronwall’s goal, he was flat-out fooled at the top of the zone as Kronwall moved to his backhand to get around Hornqvist and get a free shot from the high slot. Then in overtime, Hornqvist watched Martin turn the puck over but didn’t react as quickly as Abdelkader despite being closer to the puck, so Abdelkader got to it first for the game-winning goal. In general, Hornqvist just didn’t seem to have his legs under him tonight. Literally. He was down on the ice at Joe Vitale levels of falling throughout the entire game. We’ll mark it down as just a bad game, but he is going to quickly learn that this team doesn’t have much of a survival plan for when the top line is playing bad.
Simon Despres – Despres evened himself out when it came to good plays and mistakes overall and put himself over the top with a couple of contributions to goals. Though he originally lost his defensive coverage in the Penguins zone, he recovered nicely to poke check the puck/Kindl’s stick in the play that led to the Dupuis goal. Later in the game, he made a nice read to get Kunitz the puck on the far side of the ice from the benches as Detroit changed, allowing Kunitz to take a free path to the net and fire a shot past Howard. Though he had to chase the puck a lot in his own zone against Detroit, I thought Despres played a decent game overall and it was a nice bounce back after a few ugly games.
Thomas Greiss – Greiss deserved much better than what he got, but at least now Fleury has a friend that can commiserate with him. Many will remember Greiss getting beat four times, but the plays were easy to break down: 1) Bad defense, a screen, and a shot he never saw. 2) Broken down coverage and a perfect shot from Zetterberg. 3) Broken down coverage again and another perfect shot, this time from Kronwall. 4) A turnover in the slot and a one-timer from Abdelkader off the turnover. None of those are on Greiss whatsoever. He made three very nice saves on the PK in the slot and also poked away two chances for the Wings when the defense broke down. The trend here…the defense kept breaking down. Greiss put together a nice effort in his regular season debut, even if the stats don’t show it.
Protecting Leads/Maintaining Pressure – For the second game in a row, the Penguins got off to a quick start with an early lead and then watched it fall apart/helped it fall apart. Sadly, I can’t come up with any type of logical reasoning to explain that. One thing that was somewhat missing last night and missing completely tonight was offensive zone puck support. Remember the first 2-3 games where the Penguins rotated and swarmed around the puck at all times to the point that any time one of them lost it, there was another player there to get it immediately? That has not been there this week. The forwards seem to be spreading themselves out more, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the puck support dissipates with the larger gaps between players. I hate to say it, but the team might be trying to get too pretty and thinking ahead of themselves in terms of nice passes and goals rather than the hard work we initially saw.
Playing Smart /Safe – The next issue is just blatant stupidity. Pascal Dupuis and Paul Martin, you two are under fire for this one. Dupuis had no business shooting a puck at an empty net against three players all in a row in front of him. There was no way for that to end aside from a turnover going the other way. He could have safely played it down the boards and killed time as the team positioned itself for another rush. Dupuis, a guy who made a name for himself at times on the PK and with killing the clock, had a complete brain lapse on what smart hockey was there (not even including his bad coverage later in the play on the goal). Moving on to Martin, why was Martin trying to pass the puck up the middle from behind the goal line in overtime anyways? Take it behind the net, wrap it around the boards to either side, but DON’T THROW IT UP THROUGH THE MIDDLE. Zetterberg made a fantastic play to tip the puck to the slot, but Martin shouldn’t have been looking at whoever he was looking at anyways. Pittsburgh’s veteran players (add Crosby with his stupid penalty) really struggled with acting like veterans as this game fell apart.
Special Teams – The PK was a perfect 3-for-3 and the powerplay went 0-for-3. The PK still might be a bit of a façade, though it does look better. The spacing is better high in the zone, but the Penguins gave up two point-blank chances on the crease and Greiss stopped both with his pads. They can’t expect their goalies to make that save every time and they should really be covering the crease area better than that to begin with. Meanwhile, the powerplay looked great at first and then fell out of sync with later chances, much like against the Flyers. I am very curious to see what this powerplay averages out to over the next 10 games or so.
Roster/Lineup Issues – Tonight was a nice (okay, not nice) reminder that the Penguins do still have depth issues regardless of the roster fixes that have come along. Adams and Sill have done next to nothing and Goc loses a great deal of his value when he’s stuck alongside those two. Sutter’s line (now that he has the 3rd line again) will need to produce for the sake of depth scoring, and he certainly can’t allow a defensive lapse like he did against Zetterberg on the 2nd goal against. I generally defend Sutter because of his defensive prowess, but a couple of plays like that one and he better start scoring at a much higher pace to survive criticism. Meanwhile, I’m not sure what to think of Malkin with Comeau and Dupuis. He’s good, but he needs more than that. I would love to see Kunitz and Dupuis switch places or even see Downie on Malkin’s line instead of Comeau. In the end though, this roster is still a work in progress, just like this season after game 6 of 82 (and more). The players now get to face an early test, and guess what, so does a rookie NHL coach. It will be interesting to see how Johnston bounces his team back from this. Next up…James Neal.
Next Game: 10/25 @ Nashville, 8pm
Thanks for reading!!