Thoughts: Game 68 – Unexpected losses of Crosby, Malkin doom Pens in 2-0 shutout to Bruins

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.

Bruins 2  Pens 0

Record: 39-19-10

Goals
None

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 68 - Goals

Penalties
Perron (tripping) – Overly aggressive (slashes down on Talbot’s legs as he goes to the Penguins crease, which takes him down to the ice for a tripping penalty)
Hornqvist (interference) – Unnecessary (battles with Krug in front of Boston’s net and knocks Krug over, then keeps him down for an interference penalty)
Lovejoy (hooking) – Bad (misses the puck in the corner of the offensive zone and then hooks up Marchand as he starts skating away with the puck)
Downie (unsportsmanlike conduct) – Unnecessary (argues with the refs after Chara’s empty netter about a hit he took in front of the net and they toss him from the game)

Three Forwards

Gm 68 - Forwards

Blake Comeau
  • Good: Tied for the team-lead with six shots on net, had an offensive zone takeaway, broke up the play in the defensive zone, generally simplified his game to just move the puck forward and get it to the net.
  • Bad: Lost a puck in the offensive zone.
  • Overall: Generally when Crosby and Malkin are out, the game strategy shifts towards just shoot the puck at will. Comeau executed this plan perfectly (well, minus the scoring part) as he tried to create as much offense as he could by himself. He took several low, hard shots that created big rebound chances off of Rask’s pads as well. The result wasn’t there, but it was a strong showing for Comeau.
Patric Hornqvist
  • Good: Recorded four shots on net, blocked a shot, broke up two plays, had two takeaways, was hell-bent on creating chaos in front of Rask, and also did a great job of getting back to the defensive zone to help along the boards.
  • Bad: Lost the puck twice and took an unnecessary interference penalty as he was battling with Krug in front of the net.
  • Overall: Hornqvist continues to have his best looking games in playoff-type atmospheres. In another low-scoring, hard-hitting game (like LA and SJ), Hornqvist crashed the crease, did great work along the boards, put the puck on net, and played a solid two-way game. He’s the type of player the Pens have been missing in the playoffs to create chances in front, and though they didn’t go in against Rask, it’ll work itself out in a seven-game series. His interference penalty likely disappears with playoff reffing, so hopefully Hornqvist just continues on this path to the postseason.
Hornqvist is meant for the playoffs. Get ready to see him really shine. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Hornqvist is meant for the playoffs. Get ready to see him really shine. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Daniel Winnik
  • Good: Blocked two shots, broke up two plays, intercepted two passes in the offensive zone, forced an offensive zone turnover, and recorded a takeaway in the defensive zone.
  • Bad: Missed the net (grazed the outside of the post) on a 3-on-1 rush.
  • Overall: Winnik failed to test Rask like the two forwards above him, but he still created opportunities for the Penguins and was also fantastic on the penalty kill. His takeaway and one of his broken-up plays occurred on the PK, which kept Boston mostly harmless through the day. He also did a great job of transitioning between wing and center as the lines constantly changed with the absence of Malkin and Crosby. He was basically dependable in every situation he was put in, which is exactly the purpose he is meant to serve on this team.

Two Defensemen and a Goalie

Gm 68 - Defense

Christian Ehrhoff
  • Good: Returned from his concussion with no *apparent* ill-effects, tied for the team-lead with six shots on net, intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, drew a high-sticking penalty.
  • Bad: None.
  • Overall: Though Ehrhoff said after the game that his timing was off, it didn’t look that way in a seamless return to game action. He was great with gaps in the defensive zone, shot the puck as much as possible, and basically played flawless hockey against the Bruins. It was also nice to see that he joined Lovejoy’s pairing with no issues and the two players appeared to adjust to each other well. Now, just hope that he doesn’t have any concussion symptoms return again.
Thomas Greiss
  • Good: Stopped 28 of 29 shots, controlled rebounds better than he has in the last few games, didn’t have a 3rd period drop in performance, and held very strong on scrambles around the crease.
  • Bad: Allowed a stoppable first goal to Lucic as he reacted oddly by dropping straight down to the ice and then slowly as he tried to get his blocker and right pad out for the shot.
  • Overall: The weak goal-against hurt the perception of this performance, but Greiss put together a very solid game against Boston. There were no pucks rolling up his shoulders, he was kicking rebounds out to the sides, and he looked calm and confident in net regardless of the situation. The goal was unfortunate, but he definitely did enough to give the team a chance to win. It was a game that he can build on going into his next start.
Even with a questionable goal, Greiss had a great game. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Even with a questionable goal, Greiss had a great game. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Rob Scuderi
  • Good: Blocked two shots and forced a defensive zone turnover.
  • Bad: Lost a puck in the neutral zone, had a defensive zone giveaway, failed to clear a puck from the defensive zone, and generally made several “panic” clear attempts that were unnecessary.
  • Overall: Though Scuderi has never been the best with the puck in the defensive zone, he seemed unusually quick to try to move it against Boston, which led to some missed opportunities on potential breakouts. He basically wrapped the puck around the boards every chance he got, and though it cleared the zone (with help) most of the time, he often had the time or space to make a better decision. Perhaps he was trying to simplify his game even further with Crosby and Malkin out of the lineup, but he certainly did no favors for a team that could have used an extra odd-man rush. To make matters worse, his quickness to move the puck out along the boards also led to a few Boston rushes back into the zone. It was definitely a step back from a solid game against Edmonton.

Three Thoughts

Pouliot Scratched – As I mentioned in the Edmonton thoughts post, Johnston acknowledged that Pouliot had a rough game and that he wasn’t sure about scratching him since confidence is a big part of his game. Johnston did end up deciding to scratch Pouliot, which was an understandable decision. With this group of seven defensemen (currently six, but we’ll get to that shortly), it’s probably safe to assume that there will be a rotation of scratches for the bottom of the group, if not the top of the group too for the sake of rest. Prior to this game, I was hoping Pouliot would sit this game and Scuderi would sit against Detroit (he’s old, let him rest). That won’t work out because of injuries, but there was nothing noteworthy about this decision. Pouliot is young; he’ll learn, and he has time to learn. I trust that Johnston knows how to treat him better than anyone else, at least as long as he doesn’t sit for a string of several games in a row.

Process, Given Circumstances – This game was almost a throwaway from the very beginning. Crosby pulled himself from the lineup after warmups, which left Craig Adams scrambling to get dressed and join the game 8 minutes late. Then Malkin was injured in a collision along the boards, returned to finish the first period, and didn’t play in the 2nd or 3rd periods. The updates: Crosby “just didn’t feel well” and Malkin “couldn’t go.” Given that the Penguins lost two of the top scorers in the NHL unexpectedly, the team played very well. Boston only scored one goal on Greiss, the defense played very tight, and the team got shots on net and rebound chances. Rask was up to the task (sorry) and played a solid game. Compared to the Edmonton game, this was a much better process even if the desired result wasn’t there. It was a good loss, if there is such a thing, based on the circumstances.

Down went Malkin, and the odds of the Pens winning the game. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Down went Malkin, and the odds of the Pens winning the game. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Roster Move – Andrew Ebbett was recalled from WBS and Pouliot was sent down (relax, his two-way contract and having seven defensemen makes him the best candidate for a temporary demotion). It’s probably safe to assume that the Penguins expect at least one of Malkin/Crosby to be out against Detroit, if not both. Regardless of who plays against Detroit, the focus is still on process over results. Everything is about fine-tuning for the playoffs right now. Pouliot will be back as soon as everyone is healthy – I’m quite sure of that.

In the end, this was probably the best part of the game:

Next Game: 3/15 vs Detroit, 12:30pm

Thanks for reading!