Thoughts: Game 7 – Penguins @ Flyers

Penguins 4  Flyers 1

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Jokinen (4) from Malkin
Kunitz (3) from Dupuis, Niskanen
Crosby (6) from Dupuis
Malkin (3) from Adams, Crosby

Goal Assessment

Jokinen finally found a way to beat a very strong Steve Mason. (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Jokinen finally found a way to beat a very strong Steve Mason. (Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

First Goal For (Jokinen)
Kimmo Timonen picks up a loose puck trying to leave his own zone and Chuck Kobasew stick checks him and puts pressure on him to turn towards Evgeni Malkin, still inside the Flyers zone. Timonen falls to the ice and Malkin retrieves the puck before it crosses out of the zone. Malkin passes to Jussi Jokinen a few feet ahead of him and Jokinen beats Steve Mason with a wrist shot to his glove side from the right faceoff circle.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Kobasew (3), Malkin (8), Jokinen (6)

Second Goal For (Kunitz)
Sidney Crosby picks up a rebound on the right side boards in the Flyers zone and passes the puck to Matt Niskanen at the point. Niskanen takes a one-timer towards the net, where Pascal Dupuis is jostling with Kimmo Timonen for positioning on the crease. Mason makes the save and gives up a rebound while Timonen falls to the ground as he’s battling Dupuis. Dupuis gets his stick on the puck and then Chris Kunitz skates in from the faceoff circle and shoots the rebound in past Mason.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Crosby (14), Niskanen (8), Dupuis (7), Kunitz (10)

First Goal Against (Simmonds)
Marc-Andre Fleury had taken a penalty for interference (Jokinen serving in the box). Claude Giroux recovers a puck poke checked by Craig Adams. Giroux holds the puck and fires a wrist shot as time is winding down. Wayne Simmonds, who is standing on the crease untouched next to Rob Scuderi and in front of Fleury, deflects Giroux’s shot into the net.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Fleury (1), Scuderi (4)

Third Goal For (Crosby)
Sidney Crosby follows Braydon Coburn around the boards in the defensive zone to get the puck. Crosby lifts Coburn’s stick, steals the puck, and passes it to the middle of the ice in one quick motion. The puck slides out to Pascal Dupuis as Crosby goes to the front of the net. Dupuis winds up for a one-timer and then slap-passes the puck to Crosby on the crease. Crosby redirects the puck into the net with Mason out of position anticipating a shot from Dupuis.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Dupuis (8), Crosby (15)

Fourth Goal For (Malkin)
The Flyers, with the goalie pulled, win a puck battle in the corner by Fleury and sweep the puck behind the net. Sidney Crosby goes behind the net to pick up the puck and pass it along to Craig Adams in the defensive zone. Adams passes it out of the zone to Evgeni Malkin at center ice. Malkin pulls up at the offensive zone blue line and slides it into an empty net.
Players contributing to the fourth goal for: Crosby (16), Adams (4), Malkin (9)

No, Fleury. Bad Fleury!! (Tom Mihalek/AP Photo)

No, Fleury. Bad Fleury!! (Tom Mihalek/AP Photo)

Penalty Assessment

Vitale (tripping): Bad, tried to move his stick through Schenn’s legs to get to a puck in the offensive zone, tripping Schenn up.
Bortuzzo (fighting): Inconsequential, was challenged to a fight by Newbury after hitting Rinaldo cleanly.
Fleury (interference): Bad, went to play the puck behind the net and had to interfere with Talbot to keep him from getting the puck while he was behind the net.
Orpik (hooking): Bad, gave the puck away in the defensive zone and then hooked Talbot to slow him down with the puck.
Niskanen (roughing): Bad-stupid, punched Schenn in the back of the head several times in a scrum in the corner.

Player Assessment


Marc-Andre Fleury – Though he didn’t get quite the workload that opposing goalie Steve Mason had, MAF made several dazzling, point-blank saves in a 24-save effort that kept him undefeated on the year (6-0). After a very quiet first half of the game, Fleury dealt with an onslaught from the Flyers in the second half of the game and was up to the task. His most impressive/ridiculous save may have been one that very few people realized he made – when Schenn shot at a wide open net and the puck actually glanced off of the butt-end of Fleury’s stick. Sadly, Fleury ruined his own shutout bid by taking an interference penalty behind the net which led to the Flyers only goal. You were never a shutout goalie anyways, Flower.

Sidney Crosby – Another game, another two points for Crosby. He actually contributed on three of the Penguins’ four goals, earning a goal and an assist, and also setting the play in motion for Kunitz’s goal. He played an almost flawless game as he drew a tripping penalty and added an offensive zone takeaway to his strong statistics. The only fault in his game was in the faceoff circle, where he went a dismal 12 for 33. As long as he keeps producing, it certainly doesn’t matter much.

Niskanen is playing the best hockey of his career right now. (Tom Mihalek/AP Photo)

Niskanen is playing the best hockey of his career right now. (Tom Mihalek/AP Photo)

Matt Niskanen – Continuing the theme of every player who played great did one thing poorly, Matt Niskanen joins the list despite his incredibly stupid roughing penalty. With a one goal lead early in the third period, Niskanen went to the box for punching Schenn in the back of the head several times in the corner. It was unnecessary and stupid. Aside from that penalty, Niskanen was great on both sides of the ice. He led the team with 6 shots, one of which led to an assist on the Kunitz goal thanks to the rebound it created. He was also solid in the defensive zone, handling every 1-on-1 situation perfectly. Niskanen appears to have adopted the poke check that Paul Martin used in his rise to greatness last season and he’s using it well.

Jussi Jokinen – Jokinen only played 12:51, but put more energy into those minutes than almost anyone else out there. He was one of the most defensively responsible forwards all night and put in the hard skating work to go up and down the ice to make sure everyone was covered. He kicked off the scoring with a snipe from the faceoff circle that beat Mason’s glove. He also added a block and two poke checks that knocked the puck out of the defensive zone for the Pens. It was a very complete effort for Jokinen in limited time.

Brandon Sutter – Sutter’s offensive game may never get him here at this rate, but his defensive game is getting better and better as the season goes on. He is truly turning into a defensive specialist (for better or worse). He finished the game 9 for 14 in faceoffs, was very strong on the PK, blocked a couple of shots, and forced two turnovers in the defensive zone. He is showing a bigger physical presence and his anticipation is still among the best in the defensive zone.


Chris Kunitz – Kunitz played pretty well, notching a goal and winning a couple of puck battles in the offensive zone, but the scary thing is I don’t think he’s reached his highest level yet. He still seems slightly out of sync with Crosby and I think much of it is due to his new defensive responsibilities and the altered breakouts. He had a couple of failed clears/bad passes, but for the most part, the team has been around to erase any mistakes. Just wait until Kunitz gets everything going at his highest level.

Evgeni Malkin – Malkin continued his trend of having several amazing shifts and several shifts that make you stare blankly at the tv in confusion. On the good side, he drew a hooking call on Giroux, had a couple of good keeps at the blue line including the one that led to an assist on Jokinen’s goal, and had a couple of offensive zone steals. He also added an empty net goal of his own. On the bad side, he turned the puck over twice in the offensive zone, failed to clear the puck a couple of times in the defensive zone, and had that mind-numbing pass up the middle in the defensive zone that ended up as a turnover. Take the good with the bad with Geno, but hopefully he has a better ratio soon.



Misc Thoughts

Maatta was not phased playing against the Giroux line. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Maatta was not phased playing against the Giroux line. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Other Player Notes – Craig Adams looked solid in the defensive zone as usual. He made a great block on Simmonds when Fleury wasn’t ready for the shot and he generally looked good on the PK. Chuck Kobasew made a nice play on the Jokinen goal but clearly hasn’t meshed well with the 2nd line. His chemistry with Malkin might dip into the negative numbers. Tanner Glass had one of his best physical games, notching 10 hits and winning several puck battles in the offensive zone. He looks like a much more confident player than he ever did last season. Olli Maatta looked much better in this game and saw his playing time rise to almost 17 minutes. He dealt with Philly’s top line frequently and didn’t look out of place whatsoever.

Engelland at Forward – The Deryk Engelland at winger experiment didn’t turn out to be so horrible. He played less than 8 minutes, and oddly enough, struggled in the defensive zone. His forechecking and offensive zone work was a pleasant surprise though. The biggest flaw in his game as a forward was his inability to determine what skating lanes he should be in and how deep he should come back into the defensive zone to help out with clears. He was caught off-guard frequently, which led to several hits that toppled him. Overall though, it could have been worse. He clearly has a knack for grinding in the offensive zone, but I don’t expect to see this experiment more than a couple times again this season.

Lineup Thoughts – Playing Engelland at forward allowed Bylsma to double shift Malkin and Crosby frequently with the 4th line. It didn’t necessarily add up to much, but getting them more ice time is never a bad thing. Maatta and Bortuzzo were paired up again (Maatta played a solid 5 more minutes than Bortuzzo) and looked much better than Maatta/Engelland did in the previous two games. If Joe Vitale takes another bad tripping penalty and goes 1 for 10 in faceoffs again, expect Dustin Jeffrey back. I wouldn’t be surprised if the change was made for Saturday.

Calm Pens/Flyers Game – It was a breath of fresh air to watch a calm Pens/Flyers game that was close, featured big hits, but didn’t have the theatrics of so many other matchups. The Bortuzzo-Newbury fight was within reason and there was actual good hockey played (though both teams played it at different points in the game). Here’s hoping that this rivalry turns over a new leaf and actually focuses on hockey from now on. It’s much better that way, sorry NBC.

Penalty Kill Coverage – I harped on this issue during the preseason, and it has come up a couple of times during the regular season now. One of the flaws in the Penguins PK coverage is that one defenseman is frequently left around the crease to cover two forwards. Generally, one forward is attempting to screen the goalie and the other forward is on the back post looking for a one-timer. As teams move the puck from low to high in the zone, the PK coverage spreads out and it generally leaves that last defenseman with two significant gaps in very high percentage scoring areas. On the Flyers PP goal, Scuderi had the option of getting physical with Simmonds and trying to clear him from the crease, or playing close to Simmonds while keeping his stance open to defend the forward on the back side of the play. He chose the latter, which almost leaves both players open and the goalie screened. It’s not a knock on Scuderi, but it’s a potential reoccurring issue that the Pens may have to work on to make sure both guys by the net are covered first.

Pens Record: 6-1
Next Game: Saturday, 10/19 vs Vancouver, 1pm

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