Thoughts: Game 69 – Red Wings 5 Pens 4 (OT)

Red Wings 5  Pens 4 (OT)

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

**PS – Tailgate/meetup at the Melody Lot (above where Mellon used to be) around 9am before the Tampa Bay game on Saturday.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions**

Stempniak (10) from Kunitz, Bortuzzo
Malkin (20) from Neal, Jokinen
Malkin (21) (PP) from Neal, Jokinen
Adams (4) from Sutter, Gibbons

Shots: Neal (10)
Missed Shots: Neal, Niskanen, Stempniak (2)
Blocked Shots: Bortuzzo, Scuderi (3)
Hits: Orpik (5)
Ice Time: Niskanen (27:55) … Vitale (9:00)
Faceoffs: Sutter (7/10) … Goc (3/8)

Gotta say, I've seen better defensive techniques. (Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Gotta say, I’ve seen better defensive techniques. (Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Quick Summary
Good: Malkin, Neal, Sutter
Noteworthy: Kunitz, Niskanen
Bad: Scuderi, Bortuzzo
Other Players: Crosby, Gibbons, Adams, Goc
Misc Thoughts: Fleury Games, Inconsistency, Depth Forwards, Second Line Madness, Overall
1st GA: Bortuzzo
2nd GA: Niskanen, Scuderi
1st GF: Bortuzzo, Kunitz, Stempniak
2nd GF: Jokinen, Neal, Malkin
3rd GF: Kunitz, Neal, Malkin
3rd GA: Scuderi
4th GA: Maatta, Bortuzzo
4th GF: Gibbons, Sutter, Adams
5th GA: Kunitz, Scuderi
Niskanen (boarding; Bad)
Neal (cross-checking; Bad-Stupid)
Kunitz (holding; Bad-Stupid)
Jokinen (cross-checking; Bad-Stupid)
Malkin (holding; Bad-Careless)
Neal (interference; Bad Call)

Player Assessment

Malkin literally took one for the team to try for a win. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Malkin literally took one for the team to try for a win. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Evgeni Malkin – Geno certainly had moments where he was a bit out of control with the puck, but he definitely put the Penguins on his back and powered them towards a chance of victory. He tried to do a little too much at times with two offensive zone turnovers on the powerplay, a neutral zone turnover, and a bit of a careless “holding” (should have been tripping) penalty in the offensive zone. The effort paid off for Malkin overall though. He drew three penalties (tripping, hooking, major for butt-ending), scored two goals, notched two takeaways in the offensive zone, and added a takeaway in the defensive zone as well. He also added seven shots on net, a healthy number that we have not seen in a while. He was dominant at times and far too frustrating for the Red Wings to really handle.

James Neal – Malkin’s partner in crime (seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if Neal committed crimes) had a very strong night as well. He led the team with 10 shots, assisted on both of Malkin’s goals, had two offensive zone takeaways, and forced another turnover in the offensive zone due to spirited puck pursuit. The only bad part of his game was a blatantly stupid cross-checking penalty (the interference penalty was a bad call). On the play, Neal collided with Glendening, then took offense to it and slashed him in the arm, THEN cross-checked him in the face when he skated away to play the puck. Neal’s irrational temper is the only thing that kept him from being a perfect player in this game.  Sidenote – as I keep track of penalties, Neal leads the team with 5 bad calls and no one else has more than 2.  I doubt that’s by accident.

Brandon Sutter – Sutter put together a very well-rounded game and seems to be meshing very well with Gibbons and Adams as his linemates on the new “4th line.” The speed of Gibbons and the defensive responsibility of Adams have allowed Sutter to float a bit more around the ice to where his hockey sense may take him. The result was two broken up neutral zone passes, great offensive zone puck support, an assist on the tying goal, a drawn holding penalty, and a good defensive zone poke check to force a turnover. He also had four shots on net and went 7 for 10 in faceoffs. If this was a “demotion” for him, he’s taking it quite well.

Chris Kunitz owns the front of the crease. (Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Chris Kunitz owns the front of the crease. (Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Chris Kunitz – Kunitz was a solid mix of good and bad, with all of these events occurring beyond center ice. On the good side, he intercepted a pass in the offensive zone, assisted on Stempniak’s goal, and set up a great screen for Malkin’s powerplay goal. On the bad side, he had two offensive zone giveaways, a foolish holding penalty as he exited the offensive zone, and an offensive zone turnover that led to the 3-on-1 and eventual game-winning goal in overtime. While I credited Kunitz with doing a great job of keeping his head up against Dallas, he made a habit of staring down his targets a little too much in this game.

Matt Niskanen – Another game, another shorthanded breakaway at the hands of Niskanen. As he has done frequently, Fleury bailed out Niskanen by stopping the breakaway after Niskanen turned the puck over at the offensive zone blue line. Niskanen also had a giveaway in the defensive zone and took a boarding penalty that led to a Detroit powerplay goal. It wasn’t all bad plays for him though. He had a couple of great offensive zone pinches and also two solid 1-on-1 stand-ups in the defensive zone. Niskanen seems to be playing back a bit more with Orpik as his partner and it’s still difficult to determine if that’s good or bad. Orpik had his 2nd decent game in a row, so that may be the answer.

Yes, Scuderi. Another goal off of you. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Yes, Scuderi. Another goal off of you. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Rob Scuderi – Bad skating, bad decisions, bad luck – Scuderi was just a mess in Detroit. He was partially at fault for the 2nd goal against when Detroit scored on the powerplay by banking the puck off of his stick past Fleury. He was partially at fault for the third goal against as he skated into Maatta’s path despite the fact that he should have seen Maatta and foreseen the collision that provided Detroit with a nice break. Finally, he was partially at fault on the overtime winner as he pinched deep into the Red Wings zone, got caught behind the play for the 3-on-1 on Maatta, and then had the rebound bounce off of him and into the net. No matter how you look at it, it was just an ugly night for Scuderi. I did mark him down for two nice shot blocks and a nice broken up pass in the defensive zone, but there’s no coming back from three goals against. With that being said, keep in mind that luck did play a heavy factor into those situations and his teammates didn’t always help (ie – Kunitz with the turnover on the last goal). Regardless, it’s safe to say that Maatta/Scuderi as a pairing is not helping Scuderi enough and it’s hurting Maatta more than it’s worth.

Robert Bortuzzo – Bortuzzo had a little more good in him than Scuderi, but still two goals against to go with it. On the plus side, he did end up with an assist and also had a couple of instances of good 1-on-1 defense. As for the goals against, he made a very poor decision to stay with Franzen (covered by Despres) instead of skating out to Alfredsson to pressure the puck on the first goal against. Additionally, the 4th goal against was partially his fault as he had a chance to put a hard clear around the boards but hesitated, allowing Miller to hinder him and force the puck to softly slide to Bertuzzi. While Bortuzzo gets a nice reputation for hitting, his urge to hit (like with Franzen) and his inability to play the puck that well (like with Miler) can be a bad combination against some of the more skilled teams. That was definitely on display against Detroit.

Misc. Thoughts

Other Player Notes – Sidney Crosby played 25:18, second to only Niskanen, but it sure didn’t feel like that. He had several shifts that faded away into nothing and his powerplay work was frustrating and painful as he frequently set up on his off side (left boards), especially on the 5 minute powerplay. Brian Gibbons had another solid game as he forced two turnovers and earned an assist. He was horrid with puck control, but so persistent that his turnovers never turned into clean turnovers. Craig Adams had a solid game beyond his goal, also providing great puck support in the neutral and offensive zones. Finally, Marcel Goc looked much better against Detroit and had two takeaways in the offensive zone as his line stepped up as well.

I bet Fleury's sports psychologist will need a psychologist after this. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

I bet Fleury’s sports psychologist will need a psychologist after this. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Fleury Games – The Penguins have had a weird month and their recent work will do nothing to keep Marc-Andre Fleury sane for the playoffs. In Fleury’s last three starts, the Penguins have simply not shown up for a majority of his time in the game (Philly, 14 mins of Philly, and now Detroit). The goals against number is frightening – 12 goals in roughly 2.25 games. How many have been Fleury’s fault though? – Zero. In fact, he has made several spectacular saves on breakaways and point blank chances that everyone will inevitably forget because of the losses. So the question is – when will the Penguins put together a complete effort in front of their #1 goalie? Your guess is as good as mine.

Inconsistency – Building off of the last point, the Pens have been bafflingly inconsistent from game-to-game and even shift-to-shift. Here’s a VERY rough estimate of their “complete” efforts this month:
Chicago – 0 mins, Nashville – 60 mins, San Jose – 25 mins, Anaheim – 30 mins, Washington – 30 mins, Washington – 60 mins, Philadelphia – 0 mins, Philadelphia – 40 mins, Dallas – 60 mins, Detroit – 40 mins. All of those numbers are very debatable, but the point is that the team isn’t playing their best and it’s not just because of injuries and lack of talent in the lineup. They have gotten away with earning points despite incomplete efforts and bad penalties. The playoffs aren’t nearly as forgiving. From the coaching staff, to the stars, to the veteran role players, everyone should be putting an effort towards fixing this. Now comes a long month of anxiously awaiting such an effort.

Depth Forwards – One huge wonderful takeaway from this game was how the 3rd and 4th lines performed. Adams and the 4th line scoring a goal was big. Even bigger than that was just their general zone time. In the first period, I marked Goc’s line down for three long shifts in the offensive zone. I made more similar notes regarding Sutter’s line in the third period. If those lines can just get the puck into the offensive zone for any sustainable amount of time, games will usually tilt in favor of the Penguins. Note that Adams now has two points in two games. The bottom six doesn’t have to be great; they just have to be serviceable. This game was at least a step forward for that.

Goal: Adams - By @JustPuckIt

Goal: Adams – By @JustPuckIt

More good, less bad please. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

More good, less bad please. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Second Line Madness – Is there anything more amazing and frustrating at the same time than the second line? They have amazing offensive power and an even more amazing ability to take stupid penalties (Neal cross-checking and even Jokinen with a cross-checking?!?) When that line is focused and playing their best, there is probably more pure talent than the top line. They continually seem to hold themselves back though. James Neal needs to stop toeing the line of getting suspended. How long until management has a talk with him?

Overall – Thousands of words later, my overall view of this game is forget about it. There were some very odd bounces, odd calls (Neal interference), and there was nothing normal about the flow of the game at any point. Hopefully this just provides adversity for the Penguins and they will actually learn how to deal with it before the games really matter. Hooray depth forwards. Settle down, second line. Slow defense, please be less slow and make better decisions.

Goal Assessment

First Goal Against (Alfredsson)
The Red Wings pick up the puck in the neutral zone and back into their own zone as the Penguins try to change their personnel while Tanner Glass goes in on the forecheck. Danny DeKeyser has the puck in the corner of the Wings zone and passes the puck up a few feet to Johan Franzen as Glass approaches the corner. Franzen skates all the way to the Penguins blue line with no pressure as both Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo are backing off and the forwards are in the middle of a change. Franzen crosses the blue line and drops the puck to the left for Daniel Alfredsson entering the Penguins zone. Franzen continues towards the net at Despres as Bortuzzo also turns to shove Franzen, allowing Alfredsson to continue skating deeper into the zone with no pressure. Franzen and Despres continue towards Fleury as Bortuzzo also gets tied up with Franzen and drops to the ground. Alfredsson skates the puck into the left faceoff circle, holds off on the shot as Bortuzzo goes down at the feet of Franzen, and then cuts to the slot, from where he takes a wrist shot that beats Fleury’s glove.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Bortuzzo (15)

Second Goal Against (Nyquist)
Matt Niskanen is in the penalty box for boarding. Nicklas Kronwall starts with the puck behind his own net and passes it up to Gustav Nyquist skating through the right side of the zone. Nyquist passes the puck to Johan Franzen on the left side boards in the neutral zone and Franzen carries the puck into the Penguins zone. He drops the puck on the boards as soon as he crosses the blue line due to pressure from Brandon Sutter. Todd Bertuzzi is there to pick up the puck and he drops it to the blue line for Danny DeKeyser skating into the zone. DeKeyser reaches out to keep the puck in the zone at the left point and passes the puck to Daniel Alfredsson at the right point. Alfredsson winds up as if he’s going to take a shot and then passes the puck down to Nyquist at the goal line next to the net. He tries to center the puck in the crease for Bertuzzi, who had just knocked down Scuderi as Scuderi was leaning into him, but the puck goes off of Scuderi’s stick and into the net.
Players at fault for the second goal against: Niskanen (27), Scuderi (20)

First Goal For (Stempniak)
Three Penguins and three Red Wings battle for a puck in the left corner of the Red Wings zone. The puck squirts out towards the slot, where Drew Miller tries to chip it higher in the zone. He partially fans on the puck and it goes directly to Chris Kunitz skating through the left faceoff dot. Kunitz passes the puck back to Robert Bortuzzo at the right point and continues to skate towards the blue line. Bortuzzo holds the puck and gives it back to Kunitz at the middle of the blue line. Kunitz decides to wrist the puck to the net and Lee Stempniak redirects it as he falls in front of the crease. The puck goes past Jimmy Howard’s right pad and slides into the net.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Bortuzzo (7), Kunitz (85), Stempniak (7)

Goal: Stempniak - By @JustPuckIt

Goal: Stempniak – By @JustPuckIt

Second Goal For (Malkin)
On a faceoff in the right circle of the Red Wings zone, Jussi Jokinen wins the puck back as he gets tied up with David Legwand. Evgeni Malkin, who had lined up at left wing, skates behind Jokinen to pick up the puck and skates along the right side boards towards the corner as James Neal moves from his right wing position towards the front of the net. Malkin centers the puck for Neal, who gets it on the far side of the crease but shoots it into the side of the net. Malkin continues along his path to skate behind the net and he chips the puck from the side of the net back towards the crease, where it hits Jimmy Howard, who is trying to get to the post, and banks into the net.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Jokinen (52), Neal (57), Malkin (82)

Goal: Malkin (1) - By @JustPuckIt

Goal: Malkin (1) – By @JustPuckIt

Third Goal For (Malkin)
As the Penguins are on a 5-on-3 powerplay, Jimmy Howard makes a save on an Evgeni Malkin one-timer and the puck caroms around the boards through the right corner. James Neal and Niklas Kronwall race for the puck along the right side boards and Neal wins the battle. Neal pushes the puck back to Malkin at the right point. Malkin pulls the puck to the middle and skates deeper into the middle of the zone before taking a slapshot that goes past a screen by Chris Kunitz (causing Jimmy Howard to lean to his right to see) and over the left shoulder of Howard.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Kunitz (86), Neal (58), Malkin (83)

Goal: Malkin (2) - By @JustPuckIt

Goal: Malkin (2) – By @JustPuckIt

Third Goal Against (Tatar)
In a 4-on-4 situation, Tomas Tatar gets the puck in the corner of the Red Wings zone, escapes an Evgeni Malkin check, and starts skating the puck through his zone. As Tatar starts bringing the puck up, Olli Maatta starts backing up from the blue line and Rob Scuderi is in the neutral zone. Scuderi starts cutting backwards towards the middle of the neutral zone so that he can pick up speed and he ends up tangling skates with Maatta, who is skating straight backwards. Maatta goes down and Tatar passes the puck to Riley Sheahan skating down the left side boars in the neutral zone. Jussi Jokinen, who was staying square with Tatar exiting the Red Wings zone, then turns to skate into the defensive zone but is hindered by Maatta getting back up (Jokinen then tries to push Maatta forward with his stick to no avail). Also, Scuderi has now turned around and is skating towards the Penguins net after not being able to pick up speed due to the collision with Maatta. Sheahan carries the puck into the left side of the Penguins zone with Scuderi in the middle of the zone and Tatar skating full speed entering the right side of the zone. Sheahan keeps the puck wide as Scuderi dives trying to cover the passing lane. Sheahan then makes a bouncing pass over Scuderi’s stick to Tatar on the backside of the crease. The puck bounces up on Tatar a little, allowing him to easily put it over Fleury’s attempt to stretch post-to-post.
Players at fault for the third goal against: Scuderi (21)

Fourth Goal Against (Bertuzzi)
Danny DeKeyser has the puck in the Red Wings zone and throws it up ice. It’s redirected by Luke Glendening at the Penguins blue line to negate icing and the puck ends up in the right corner of the Penguins zone. Olli Maatta gets to the puck first and tries to play it along the boards, but he moves it into Glendening on the forecheck. Maatta still manages to poke the puck behind the net for Robert Bortuzzo, who followed up the play. Bortuzzo doesn’t play the puck quick enough and Drew Miller gets a stick on the puck as Bortuzzo attempts to move it along the boards to the left side. The puck slides along the boards to the left side to Todd Bertuzzi next to the left faceoff circle. Bertuzzi quickly throws the puck towards the front of the net, where it bounces off of Olli Maatta’s leg and bounces just inside the far post out of the reach of Fleury.
Players at fault for the fourth goal against: Maatta (32), Bortuzzo (16)

Fourth Goal For (Adams)
Brian Gibbons gets the puck from Matt Niskanen in the defensive zone, skates it through the neutral zone, and carries it into the offensive zone with Brandon Sutter and Craig Adams joining him. Gibbons tries to stick-handle the puck and loses it as two Red Wings poke check it away from him. He continues to follow the puck though as it goes towards the top of the left faceoff circle and he chips it to the left boards. Gibbons then falls down on the puck, preventing Glendening from clearing it. As soon as he gets back up, he chips the puck down the boards and Sutter chases it into the right corner. Jakub Kindl falls as he tries to battle Sutter and Sutter ends up with the puck. Kyle Quincey, who had been behind the net, vacates the area to cover the passing lane between Sutter and Adams, who is in the slot. With the newly opened space, Sutter takes the puck behind the net and then quickly backhands a pass to Adams as soon as Quincey leaves the slot to chase him behind the net again. Adams easily one-times the puck past Howard’s blocker with no opposition.
Players contributing to the fourth goal for: Gibbons (17), Sutter (26), Adams (14)

Fifth Goal Against (Alfredsson)
In a 4-on-4 overtime situation, Chris Kunitz carries the puck down the right side boards into the Red Wings zone. He holds the puck as he gets down to the right faceoff circle and waits for help from the team. Rob Scuderi is the next man into the zone and skates past Kunitz, straight to the net. Meanwhile, Kunitz is staring down Evgeni Malkin entering the middle of the zone. Kunitz tries to make a pass to Malkin but it gets deflected by Kyle Quincey into the air. Malkin jumps up in the air for it and runs into Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist stays on his feet while Malkin goes down and the Penguins are trapped with Kunitz deep, Scuderi deep, and Malkin lying on the ice. Nyquist chips the puck up to Daniel Alfredsson exiting the Red Wings zone and the Wings skate through the neutral zone on a 3-on-1 against Olli Maatta with six seconds left in overtime and both Scuderi and Kunitz trying to recover/chase. Alfredsson pushes the puck forward and catches back up to it at the top of the right faceoff circle in the Penguins zone. He takes a quick wrist shot on net which Fleury stops. The rebound bounces out, hits Rob Scuderi in the hands, and bounces back past Fleury’s blocker and into the net with .4 seconds left.
Players at fault for the fifth goal against: Kunitz (16), Scuderi (22)

Penalty Assessment

Niskanen (boarding): Bad, follows Tatar below the goal line and shoves him in the back/side a few feet into the boards to draw a boarding call.
Neal (cross-checking): Bad-Stupid, with the puck in the offensive zone, Neal and Luke Glendening collide and shove each other. Neal proceeds to slash Glendening. Then as the puck gets close to them, Glendening goes to play the puck and Neal cross-checks him in the face.
Kunitz (holding): Bad-Stupid, is following Brendan Smith out of Detroit’s zone, carelessly gets his stick in between Smith’s legs so Smith veers in his way, and then wraps his arm around Smith to throw him down to the ice.
Jokinen (cross-checking): Bad-Stupid, is battling for positioning near the puck along the boards with Riley Sheahan. Sheahan loses his edge and falls near the puck, where Jokinen fully cross-checks him in the back twice instead of playing the puck.
Malkin (holding): Bad-Careless, races Danny DeKeyser through the Wings zone for a puck on the back boards and accidentally puts his stick in between DeKeyser’s legs, taking him down into the boards.
Neal (interference): Bad Call, Neal slides a stick laying at his feet over to the boards while the Penguins are on the powerplay. The only reason this should be called interference is if it interferes with the play or if a player is trying to retrieve the stick. Glendening had several chances to pick it up (perhaps broken) and was in fact, skating away from it at this point. Meanwhile, the puck was behind the net, nowhere near where Neal was or where the stick was pushed to.

Pens Record: 45-19-5
Next Game: Saturday, 3/22 vs Tampa Bay, 1pm

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