Thoughts: Game 65 – Fleury makes like a brick wall and shuts out Kings, 1-0 (OT)

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 1  Kings 0 (OT)

Record: 38-18-9

Hornqvist (22) unassisted

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 65 - Goals

Kunitz (holding the stick) – Unnecessary (wraps his arm around Kopitar’s stick on a backcheck in the neutral zone and yanks Kopitar’s stick out of his hands for a penalty)
Cole (interference) – Unnecessary (ties up and takes down Kopitar as he’s skating towards the net for an interference penalty)
Letang (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a little scrap with Nolan after Nolan hits him late and they each receive a roughing minor)

Three Forwards

Gm 65 - Forwards

Patric Hornqvist
  • Good: Scored the only goal of the game on his third shot of the night, had four takeaways, forced a turnover in the offensive zone, and stopped a breakout by the Kings in their zone.
  • Bad: Lost a puck in the offensive zone and was knocked over as he failed to clear the puck in the defensive zone once.
  • Overall: The offense continues to come from Hornqvist, who has points in six out of his last seven games. After getting pushed around in the first period, he upped his physical game and started to terrorize LA in their zone. The game-winning goal sequence was an amazing display of perseverance as Hornqvist stole the puck near the point, then stole the puck again deep in the zone, lost it, and finally found the loose puck in the slot before throwing it past Quick’s right shoulder for the only goal. That’s the type of “battle level” that Pittsburgh will greatly appreciate when the playoffs arrive.
Yet again, Hornqvist got the job done and put the puck in the net. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Yet again, Hornqvist got the job done and put the puck in the net. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Sidney Crosby
  • Good: Had two offensive zone takeaways, forced a neutral zone turnover, broke up two plays in the defensive zone, had a defensive zone takeaway, beat Doughty in two 1-on-1 situations, and generally played his best overall and defensive game in months.
  • Bad: None.
  • Overall: Crosby didn’t end up with any points for his effort, but he never quit skating through the entire game and was up to every challenge that he was faced with. He made Doughty look silly at times, though Doughty was good enough to recover. He was also on top of his game defensively with superb backchecking and defensive pressure. Even without the points, it was one of Crosby’s most complete efforts this season.
Evgeni Malkin
  • Good: Recorded three takeaways, intercepted a pass in the offensive zone, and finished with three shots on net.
  • Bad: Had two giveaways and also passed up on a perfect shooting opportunity from the right circle to force a pass across the slot on the powerplay.
  • Overall: Much like Crosby, the results weren’t there but the performance was solid for Malkin. The second line continues to look excellent and Malkin had a few shifts where he tried to take over the game, but Los Angeles was up to the task. The powerplay looked at its best when he was shooting the puck, which wasn’t often, so that’s one thing he could certainly improve on.

Two Defensemen and a Goalie

Gm 65 - Defense1

Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Good: Stopped all 31 shots he faced, many of which came from high percentage shooting areas. Just to name a few: A one-timer blocker save on Greene followed by a right pad rebound save on Toffoli, a left pad save on Nolan from the slot, a chest save on Kopitar from the crease followed by a right pad rebound save on Gaborik followed by another rebound save on Kopitar again, a left pad save on Shore from the slot, a one-timer glove save on Clifford from the slot, etc. The entire game tape fits under this category.
  • Bad: None.
  • Overall: Fleury was a complete brick wall in net against the Kings. He was positionally sound, played rebounds perfectly, and only had one awkward looking moment – when he tried to play the puck behind the net. This was his franchise record-setting 9th shutout and he may have thrown his hat back into the race for the Vezina finalists as well (the award is Price’s easily, though). Fleury’s magnificent season continues.
Fleury was impossible to beat for the 9th time this season. (Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)

Fleury was impossible to beat for the 9th time this season. (Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)

Paul Martin
  • Good: Forced the offensive zone turnover that led to Hornqvist’s game-winner, had a takeaway and a pass interception in the offensive zone, and broke up a play in the defensive zone
  • Bad: Had one defensive zone giveaway.
  • Overall: Despite the constant pressure and hitting from the Kings offense, Martin played a steady game in the defensive zone and created chances in the offensive zone. He didn’t try to force anything leaving the defensive zone and he read the play very well in the Kings zone, as demonstrated by his opportunistic and deeper-than-usual pinch to force Toffoli into a turnover for the winner. As usual, Martin was quiet and steady.
Ben Lovejoy
  • Good: None.
  • Bad: Struggled with puck decisions when pressed by the Kings forwards, had two giveaways, lost the puck twice, and lost a coverage in the defensive zone leading to a 2-on-1 chance.
  • Overall: Perhaps familiarity worked in LA’s favor, but the Kings seemed to really key in on pressuring Lovejoy with the puck and Lovejoy did not react well most of the time. He struggled to move the puck into open areas when he was pressured and he fell into the trap of moving towards the next forechecker as the Kings sent pressure in waves. It was a far cry from his first two games as a Penguin, but hopefully just a blip on the radar against an opponent that might know him too well.

Three Thoughts

Pens Survive Playoff Test – The Kings may be struggling to get a playoff spot right now, but the game was played in a playoff atmosphere on several levels. The game was filled with big (mostly clean) hits, the refs let a lot go, and the teams raced back and forth in the latter half of the 3rd period as if this game would change a series. The Penguins certainly looked smaller, especially in the first period, as the Kings threw everyone around physically. The team fought back as a whole though as the game progressed and they were further inspired by their brick wall goaltender to finally win the game in overtime. It wasn’t a comeback, but it was certainly confidence-inspiring for a team that hasn’t done that well with adversity this year. This is a game that the organization can look at and say, this team is well on its way to playing playoff hockey and they can react appropriately when necessary.

Bottom-Six…Does Nothing – One alarming thing in this “playoff test” was that the bottom-six forwards pretty much disappeared. The 3rd and 4th lines didn’t record a shot on net and they both struggled to get through the neutral zone. The majority of their efforts were spent throwing pucks into the neutral zone and redirecting them into the offensive zone, where LA would get the puck and march right back into the Penguins zone. While everyone eyes up the combinations among the top-six, it might be the bottom-six that needs to be rearranged.

Perron’s Disappearance – Disappearance is probably harsh since Perron is still playing a decent overall game, but the offense has clearly dropped off significantly for him. He has 4 points (1g, 3a) in his last 11 games and he hasn’t recorded a shot on net in his last three games. If you’ll recall, his goal was actually a pass across the slot that went off of Jack Johnson’s glove and into the net. His shot attempts are down and this seems to coincide with two things: dropping to the 2nd powerplay and moving to Crosby’s left wing. With the team winning lately, this won’t be a point of emphasis for now. However, keep an eye on this because it’ll become a point of focus quickly if the team loses a couple of games in a row.

This picture is phenomenal. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

This picture is phenomenal. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Next Game: 3/9 @ San Jose, 10pm

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