Thoughts: Game 70 – Pens can’t get goals or calls in 2-0 loss to the Devils

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.

Devils 2  Pens 0

Record: 39-21-10

Goals
None

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 70 - Goals1

 

Penalties
Winnik (embellishment) – Unnecessary (throws both of his arms up in the air as he’s getting tripped and gets called for embellishing for it)
Perron (holding) – Unnecessary (uses his free right hand to grab the right side of Greene as he follows him in the offensive zone and gets called for holding)
Winnik (slashing) – Stupid (slashes Bernier’s stick with two hands as they’re skating through the neutral zone and knocks his stick down for a penalty)

Three Forwards

Gm 70 - Forwards

Beau Bennett
  • Good: Recorded two takeaways, intercepted two passes in the offensive zone, and forced a neutral zone turnover.
  • Bad: Had a failed clearing attempt along the boards in the defensive zone and lost the puck once in the offensive zone after passing up on a shot opportunity.
  • Overall: Bennett demonstrated everything good and bad about his current level of play in one simple performance. He knew where to be in the offensive zone and disrupted New Jersey’s breakouts with ease, keeping the puck in the Devils zone frequently. On the other hand, he usually didn’t know what exactly to do with the puck and where to go with it as he looked indecisive and lost. The talent is there, the opportunity is there, but the execution and decision-making are not. To his credit, he has gotten more physical and is throwing his body a little more, but the main thing that this team needs him to do is shoot the puck when the opportunity presents itself. Right now, he looks like a player who loses focus on one facet of his game every time he tries to focus on another facet. That’s not a good sign and not going to work in the long run.
Bennett has worked on what he was supposed to. But other things have fallen off. (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Bennett has worked on what he was supposed to, but other things have fallen off. (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Blake Comeau
  • Good: Recorded two shots on net, forced a turnover in the defensive zone, intercepted a pass in the offensive zone, and had a takeaway in the neutral zone.
  • Bad: Had three giveaways (two offensive zone, one defensive zone) and also lost the puck three times (once in each zone).
  • Overall: Comeau had the puck on his stick a lot and was efficient about getting it to the offensive zone, but he didn’t deal with pressure well in this game. One thing that was very noticeable is how differently he plays with time and space. Playing alongside Malkin has given Comeau a ton of room to work with all season, leading to his success this year. Playing with Sutter in this game did not afford him those same opportunities and the pressure led to lost pucks and giveaways. Late in the game though, Comeau was placed on Crosby’s line, which created time and space again. Comeau recorded a great one-timer chance that was stopped by Schneider and looked better overall on Crosby’s line. The not-so-surprising takeaway: the way Crosby and Malkin draw attention is what has created the Comeau we love this season. With Sutter though, Comeau was just another player who struggled with puck management as the Devils pressed him. Come back soon, Malkin.
Daniel Winnik
  • Good: Recorded three shots on net and intercepted a pass in the neutral zone.
  • Bad: Failed to clear the puck from the defensive zone once and took two bad penalties (embellishment and slashing).
  • Overall: Winnik joined most of the forwards in having a fairly quiet game, though he made it more eventful for himself than he needed to. He drew a tripping penalty and negated it with an embellishment penalty. Personally, I was okay with the call because Winnik launched both of his arms into the air unnecessarily as he dropped to the ice. Arms naturally go up when a guy gets taken down, but not that high. After negating that potential powerplay, he later took a stupid slashing penalty by two-handing the top of Bernier’s stick/hand when Bernier was chasing a loose puck against two Penguins. There was ample coverage for the Pens to just play the situation, so the slash was completely unnecessary and stupid. It wasn’t a terrible game for Winnik, but his mistakes stood out in a game that didn’t include many major ones.

Two Defensemen and a Goalie

Gm 70 - Defense

Thomas Greiss
  • Good: Stopped 17 of 18 shots which included: a left pad save on a 3-on-1 on the first shift of the game, a 2-on-1 left pad save, a stop on a Gomez one-timer from the left circle, and a stop on a one-timer from Ruutu in front of the crease.
  • Bad: Bobbled a bad angle shot from the corner of the Penguins zone (but he still kept it out of the net).
  • Overall: Greiss only allowed one goal in a strong effort, even if it wasn’t the most taxing one. The only goal he allowed was on a 3-on-2 that turned into a 2-on-1 as Josefson brought the puck to the inside of the right faceoff circle and sniped a perfect wrist shot that hit the post out of the reach of the blocker of Greiss. His positioning and rebound control looked good throughout the night and he did everything that was expected of him in this game. The team really couldn’t ask for much more out of Greiss.
Greiss deserved better, as he often does. (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Greiss deserved better, as the goalies often have lately. (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Ian Cole
  • Good: Tied for the team-lead with four shots on net, blocked a shot, intercepted two passes in the neutral zone, forced a defensive zone turnover, and broke up two plays in the defensive zone.
  • Bad: Lost a puck in the defensive zone.
  • Overall: Cole played strong and steady hockey at both ends of the ice, even though he was the unfortunate victim of multiple odd-man breaks against. He unleashed his shot every time he got a chance from the point and he never wandered too far into the offensive zone, so he was always back on defense when necessary. He was on the ice for the first goal against, which was a 2-on-1 where Cole covered up the pass properly, so he wasn’t at fault for that result. Overall, it was a quietly solid performance for Cole, which is the type of performance that might make him very valuable in the playoffs.
Rob Scuderi
  • Good: Broke up two plays, intercepted a pass, and recorded a takeaway in the defensive zone.
  • Bad: Had a lost puck, giveaway, and a lost coverage in the defensive zone, the latter of which led to a goal against.
  • Overall: Scuderi wasn’t awful (though I could still do without some of his wrap-along-the-boards clears), but he made a vital mistake at a vital time. With the Devils standing three guys at the Penguins blue line, Scuderi stepped up on Ryder getting the puck in a 3-on-2 situation. Scuderi did get a piece of the puck, but it still made its way to Josefson to give the Devils a 2-on-1 against Cole, which resulted in a goal. Scuderi needs to be aware of that situation, especially since the Penguins were clearly finishing a forward change at that point. With the offense non-existent, the defense can’t afford to make many mistakes right now. Unfortunately, Scuderi made a costly one (Spaling also partially at fault for the goal).

Related note: It might be a good thing that Pouliot isn’t playing with the big team right now because this same type of mistake may wear him down much quicker mentally with the team not scoring. When one mistake = a loss, it’s not the worst thing in the world to keep a prized rookie out of that treacherous situation for his own psyche.

Three Thoughts

Process, Process, Process – I’ve said it in the last few posts, and I’ll say it again, the results don’t matter – the process does. Admittedly, I had to remind myself of this several times after the game before writing this. These games are frustrating and the lack of offense is frustrating, but the Penguins need to work on fine-tuning the process going into the playoffs more than they need any of these wins. The process doesn’t look all that bad. The Penguins controlled most of the play, they got the puck to the net, and they were strong defensively aside from a few miscues that led to odd-man breaks, one of which turned into a goal. Of course, the process doesn’t matter in the end if the results don’t show up, but the Penguins still have a little less than a month to find their results.

Goal Drought – Positive results would require goals, of course. The Penguins have one goal on their last 108 shots in the past three games. They have played two very strong goalies (Rask and Schneider) and a third goalie who played quite well (Mrazek). They have also played most of that time without Malkin (new team MVP candidate?) and some of it without Crosby or Hornqvist. Does that excuse having only one goal since playing Edmonton? No. They’re at least getting plenty of shots on net, so I’ll give them credit for that – it’s a big change from last month’s hockey. The only big issue I noticed against New Jersey was that Schneider could see literally everything. To his credit, he tracked the puck extremely well, but no one was screening him on long shots (the loss of Hornqvist hurts that cause severely) and no one really caused chaos for him like Mrazek had to deal with in the Detroit game. Mike Johnston also had an interesting take on the offense after the game:

With the offense sputtering, the task is simple – get the puck to the net and crash the crease. The first part is operating fine. It’s time to start phase two of that plan without Hornqvist. Games against Dallas and Arizona this week should help the Penguins find their goal scoring touch easily. As of now, I think it’s an issue that will be fixed sooner than later. If they continue this drought through the rest of this road trip, then I will be extremely concerned.

Referees – The only call that the Penguins received in their favor was negated by an embellishment call (which as I said above, I was okay with). Missed calls went both ways (Perron had several holds and holding-the-sticks, Martin had several slashes). Regardless, it’s hard to watch Kris Letang get blatantly tripped with no call, stick straight to skate to take him down, and not think that the referees have banded themselves against the Penguins. There is nothing right or fair if such a theory is accurate, and this article by retired referee Kerry Fraser suggests that it could be accurate, but that’s the world the Penguins live in. It’s tough to watch, it’s frustrating, but is there anything the Pens can really do about it? It shouldn’t be an issue in the NHL, but it apparently is and the Penguins just have to deal with it and play through it. It is currently in the best interest of the team to work on their 5-on-5 offense and improve that because that’s the only opportunity they’re going to have and it isn’t getting the job done right now. The Penguins are in control of their offense and strategy, not the referees. Focus on what you can control. (life advice provided at no charge)

Letang was a little less than pleased with the final trip of the game. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Letang was a little less than pleased with the final trip of the game. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Next Game: 3/19 @ Dal, 8:30pm

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