Thoughts: Game 64 – Pens dominate 2nd period and cruise to 5-2 win over Anaheim

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 5  Ducks 2

Record: 37-18-9

Comeau (15) from Pouliot, Malkin
Hornqvist (20) from Perron, Crosby
Hornqvist (21) from Cole, Martin
Malkin (28) from Kunitz, Comeau
Crosby (21) (EN) from Sutter, Letang

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 64 - Goals

Perron (holding) – Inconsequential (holds Perry in the neutral zone as Perry is shoving him so they each receive a minor penalty)
Scuderi (tripping) – Bad (loses a step on Sekac entering the Penguins zone and has to dive to hit the puck and trip Sekac for a penalty)
Penguins (too many men) – Stupid (A defenseman, possibly Lovejoy but the camera angle made it too tough to read the number, jumps on the ice when none of the five guys are coming close to changing as the Ducks are dumping the puck into the Penguins zone, so too many men is called)
Hornqvist (slashing) – Overly aggressive (tries to break up a pass going to Etem in the slot and breaks Etem’s stick with a slash for a penalty)

Three Forwards

Gm 64 - Forwards

Evgeni Malkin
  • Good: Scored on a wrist shot from the right circle, earned the 2nd assist on Comeau’s goal by getting the puck to the neutral zone, forced a turnover and broke up a play in the defensive zone, and was very smart about moving the puck back to open up space and move it forward all night.
  • Bad: Lost his man skating back into the defensive zone early in the game and lost two pucks throughout the course of the game.
  • Overall: Malkin extended his point streak to seven games and the “2nd line” continues to look as unstoppable as he does. He made smart decisions with the puck (no giveaways) and read Comeau and Kunitz beautifully all night. The 2nd line is definitely the one to watch right now.
Patric Hornqvist
  • Good: Scored two goals on two shots (a bank shot off of Andersen from behind the goal line and a redirection on a Cole slapshot), blocked two shots, forced a defensive zone turnover, and just kept going to the net at every chance.
  • Bad: Had some trouble getting the puck out of the defensive zone with two failed clears along the boards, lost the puck in the defensive zone, took an aggressive slashing penalty in the defensive zone, and also had some bad luck as he broke up Rakell’s centering pass and knocked it right to Perry for the 2nd goal against.
  • Overall: Hornqvist’s production since joining the first line continues, though it was thanks to a terrible goal allowed by Andersen and a deflection with the 2nd powerplay unit. On the other side of the ice, he had a rough time in the defensive zone in most areas. His positioning was always perfect but he couldn’t achieve his intended results at all. Two goals put him over the top though to get through this game.
Hornqvist keeps going to the net and goalies keep suffering. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

Hornqvist keeps going to the net and goalies keep suffering. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

Chris Kunitz
  • Good: Tied for the team-lead with four shots, set up Malkin’s goal from behind the goal line, broke up a play in the defensive zone, had two pass interceptions, recorded a takeaway in the neutral zone, and cycled well with Comeau especially around the boards in the offensive zone.
  • Bad: Turned the puck over three times in the offensive zone (two giveaways, one lost puck), had another giveaway in the neutral zone, and looked lost at times on the powerplay when the top unit was scrambling and couldn’t get set up (ie – skated directly into another forward at one point).
  • Overall: Kunitz doesn’t look like he did a year ago, and he may never look like that again, but he has found a comfortable spot on Malkin’s left wing as the 2nd line continues to do damage. He was very active in trying to get the puck on net and read Comeau and Malkin’s movements in the offensive zone well. His existence on the top powerplay, especially with 2 defensemen on the ice, makes little sense at this point though.

Two Defensemen and a Goalie

Gm 64 - Defense

Thomas Greiss
  • Good: Broke up two centering passes with poke checks and stopped 27 of 29 shots, which included: a point blank shot from the slot by Fleischmann, an accidental redirect off of Letang’s skate, a right pad save on Palmieri from the right circle, a shoulder stop on Kesler, and a one-timer stop on Fowler when the Penguins were on the powerplay.
  • Bad: Looked shaky throughout the night with uncertain rebound control and glove work, also allowed a questionable first goal as he put his glove hand up to stop a rising Fleischmann shot and knocked the puck up into the air, sending it falling into the net behind him as he checked his glove, unsure of where the puck was.
  • Overall: Despite the 3rd period scare and the overall shaky look, Greiss had a strong night, especially given that the Ducks took over the play in the 3rd period. The second goal was certainly not his fault due to a bad bounce. He continues to provide competent backup goaltending, which is all that the Penguins need in these back-to-back situations.
Gm 64 - Greiss (Jae C. Hong-AP)

Maybe unconventional, perhaps downright frightening, but Greiss got the job done. (Jae C. Hong/AP Photo)

Kris Letang
  • Good: Recorded the 2nd assist on Crosby’s empty-netter, drew a penalty, broke up two plays, forced a turnover, had a takeaway, and intercepted four passes in the defensive zone as he read the play extremely well all night.
  • Bad: Lost his man in coverage due to an excessive pinch into the offensive zone in the first period, also had a defensive zone giveaway.
  • Overall: Letang had one of his best “hockey sense” games in the defensive zone as he put himself in position to intercept passes, slow down skaters, and generally deter the Ducks from doing what they ideally wanted to do. After that pinch in the first period, he held back and played extremely responsible hockey. Even with only one point, on an empty netter, he found a way to be impressive.
Derrick Pouliot
  • Good: Made a beautiful play to deke around Fleischmann in the neutral zone and enter the offensive zone to set up Comeau for the first goal, had an offensive zone takeaway, forced a defensive zone turnover, broke up two plays in the defensive zone, played perfect 1-on-1 defense against Getzlaf to force him to the outside, and generally looked no worse for wear after getting burned against Colorado.
  • Bad: Had two giveaways and a failed clear in the defensive zone.
  • Overall: Pouliot bounced back very nicely after getting burned for the 3rd goal against vs Colorado. His gap coverage was strong, he was smart about when to move into the neutral zone, and his movement in the offensive zone on the powerplay is starting to open up passing lanes. It’s clear that he has confidence in his own abilities over the results, which should help him survive as a defenseman for many years to come.

Three Thoughts

Adams in for Downie – Though the morning skate led to suggestions that Bennett would be the healthy scratch, Mike Johnston opted to sit Downie instead as Bennett moved to the 3rd line and Adams played on the 4th. This rotation will probably continue through the rest of the season as all three players take turns sitting. Bennett wasn’t exactly impressive as he received the least amount of ice time on the team. Towards the end of the game, he was taken off of the 3rd line and replaced by Adams, presumably for defensive purposes. At this point, Bennett is struggling to show himself as any type of game changer, Downie is unpredictable each night, and Adams isn’t exactly hurting the team in results, but he’s not helping either. The staff has a reason to choose each guy: Bennett (talent/skill/puck possession), Downie (agitator/skill), Adams (defensive awareness/trust). The last 18 games of the season might as well be a tryout for all three going into the playoffs, so expect to see plenty of all three down the stretch. (FWIW – I would be pushing Bennett as hard as possible to figure out what he truly is as a hockey player.)

Bennett continues to sit on a career-high of 3 goals.  That needs to change. (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

Bennett continues to sit on a career-high of 3 goals. That needs to change. (Debora Robinson/Getty Images)

Greiss 3rd periods – Another Greiss game, another 3rd period that had everyone on the edge of their seats. Many people are not comfortable with Greiss, and that’s understandable based on some of the games he’s had and the optics of how shaky he can look. Even in this game, his rebound control was suspect and he let a few shots get past him, though he managed to somehow keep two of those out of the net with acrobatics. In the overall scheme of things though, Greiss just has to give Fleury a breather at least three more times in back-to-back situations and maybe start another game or two if the organization wants Fleury to get extra rest going into the playoffs. Greiss played well in this game and keeps doing his job, which is just a matter of giving the team a chance to win when the starter is taking a night off. He’s just a backup being a backup.

New Guys – Though they weren’t necessarily worth elaborating on above, Lovejoy and Cole continued to look good in their 2nd game with the team. Cole tied for the team-lead with four shots on net and assisted on Hornqvist’s deflection goal with a low hard slapshot. Lovejoy had three broken-up plays in the defensive zone, though he did lose the puck there a couple of times. Both received a little powerplay and penalty kill time (a lot of PK time for Lovejoy), but they ended up 5th and 6th in ice time among defensemen. Both players certainly seem capable of more, so it looks like the Penguins are truly deep with guys that can move up and down the pairings on defense now.

Next Game: 3/7 @ Los Angeles, 10pm

Thanks for reading!