Thoughts: Game 73 – Kings 3 Pens 2

Kings 3  Pens 2

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Pyatt stunned himself with that goal. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Pyatt stunned himself with that goal. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Goals
Kunitz (33) from Megna, Crosby
Pyatt (4) from Gibbons, Goc

Stats
Shots: Niskanen (7)
Missed Shots: Niskanen (3)
Blocked Shots: Bortuzzo, Neal (2)
Hits: Bortuzzo, Glass, Kunitz, Orpik (5)
Ice Time: Crosby (25:48) … Adams (8:07)
Faceoffs: Goc (6/8) … Crosby (11/28)

Doughty cross-checked Sutter about 90 times, but that didn't cause the interference if you're being honest. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Doughty cross-checked Sutter about 90 times, but that didn’t cause the interference if you’re being honest. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Quick Summary
Good: Bortuzzo, Gibbons
Noteworthy: Megna, Niskanen, Pyatt
Bad: Maatta, Jokinen
Other Players: Crosby, Engelland, Goc
Misc Thoughts: Morning Skate Comments, Goc Injury, Disallowed Goal, Powerplay Woes
1st GA: Niskanen, Maatta, Engelland
2nd GA: Glass, Orpik
1st GF: Crosby, Megna, Kunitz
2nd GF: Goc, Gibbons, Pyatt
3rd GA: Megna
Niskanen (interference; Bad)
Glass (slashing; Bad-Stupid)
Adams (high-sticking; Bad-Stupid)

Player Assessment

Good
Even laying on the ice and barely looking, Bortuzzo ties up his man. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Even laying on the ice and barely looking, Bortuzzo ties up his man. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Robert Bortuzzo – For the second game in a row, Bortuzzo turned out to be the most trustworthy defenseman on the ice. I’m still not sure if that’s good for Bortuzzo or bad for the team. He was strong in a wide variety of circumstances. He prevented a dump-in by stepping up into the neutral zone, had two defensive zone takeaways, forced a turnover with a hit, blocked a couple of shots in the slot, forced an offensive zone turnover with a nice pinch from the point, and cleared the crease at a couple of clutch moments. He did have a couple of turnovers (offensive zone giveaway and losing the puck in the defensive zone), but he played well overall both physically and around the puck.

Brian Gibbons – It was another night of Gibbons drawing penalties, struggling to control the puck, and still contributing nonetheless. He drew two tripping penalties, assisted on Pyatt’s goal, broke up a pass in the defensive zone, and had a very nice keep on a bouncing puck in the offensive zone. As usual, he struggled to stickhandle and looked like he was about to lose the puck every time he had it, but he only ended up with one turnover in the neutral zone. It’s never pretty to watch, but Gibbons continues to make a positive impact in a depth role.

Noteworthy

Jayson Megna – Megna only played 9:51 and was with a random assortment of linemates most of the game, but he was rather effective in his limited ice time. He drew an interference penalty, assisted on Kunitz’s goal, and forced an offensive zone turnover. He looked much more natural getting into the play than he did against Phoenix. However, he did make one major, costly mistake when he followed Stoll towards the Penguins net instead of letting Gibbons take care of it. That left Drew Doughty wide open to score the winning goal. He needs to avoid those types of defensive mistakes if he wants to stay in the lineup if everyone is ever healthy.

Matt Niskanen – Niskanen had a strong start to the game and appeared to fade as the Kings wore him down. He had a good poke check to prevent a dump-in, intercepted two passes in the defensive zone, and also forced an offensive zone turnover with a nice pinch. Niskanen took the opportunities given to him in the offensive zone as well by getting seven shots on net to lead the team. His only mistake early on was an interference penalty when he lost his man off of a faceoff. As the game continued into the third period though, he started making mistakes with the puck more frequently. He took the puck offside twice and also turned it over twice in the neutral zone. Given the seven powerplays that the team had, Niskanen might have been in a bit over his head in this game.

(From http://paulmartinamericanhero.tumblr.com/)

(Credit: http://paulmartinamericanhero.tumblr.com)

Taylor Pyatt – In stunning fashion, Taylor Pyatt managed to somehow score for the second game in a row on one of the odder goals we have seen this season. While it was nice to see him contribute yet again, the rest of his game was rather mediocre at best. He had two other positive moments, a good poke check in the neutral zone and winning a puck battle in the offensive zone. He struggled with the puck though, turning it over twice in the neutral zone, losing two other puck battles in the offensive zone, and also failing to help out with a clearing attempt in the defensive zone. The odd goal was helpful, but he didn’t play nearly as well overall as he did against Phoenix.

Bad
There has been way too much of this happening on the PK. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

There has been way too much of this happening on the PK. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Olli Maatta – Maatta continued on his downward trend that is getting tough to watch at times. He started the game off okay but clearly wore down by the third period. Despite all of the outside opinions suggesting he needs time off for fatigue, he led the defensemen and was second to only Crosby in playing time. On the plus side in his game, he forced two turnovers with poke checks (one offensive zone, one defensive zone). As for everything that went awry: he was partially at fault for the first goal against, had a failed clear on the penalty kill, played a shorthanded 2-on-2 break very poorly which led to a semi-breakaway, and had five offensive zone turnovers. Two of those turnovers were because he just fanned on the puck and another two were on the powerplay. Maatta’s game is deteriorating quickly and the team is doing nothing to help him at all right now. (Edit: Maatta will be a healthy scratch against Columbus, finally some common sense)

Jussi Jokinen – After getting benched on Tuesday for a bad penalty, Jokinen came out with a rather lifeless effort. He had two neutral zone turnovers, a defensive zone turnover, an offensive zone turnover, and also lost a race to a puck in the defensive zone when the Penguins were on the powerplay. His puck control was bad, his vision was poor, and he very much looked like he was just skating through the motions at times. Perhaps it was just a bad game, or perhaps this is a bad sign; we shall find out very soon.

Misc. Thoughts

Other Player Notes – Sidney Crosby hasn’t been around the puck as much as usual over the past few games, but his effort was exemplary and very noticeable in this game. He tried several times in the third period to take control of the game but the Kings were up to the task. He still did manage to get an assist at least. Deryk Engelland played well and looked great in the third period as he tried to change momentum with a couple of jarring hits. He also drew a penalty and forced a couple of turnovers, but looked questionable on the first goal against. Finally, Marcel Goc was having a very strong game before he was injured. He drew a penalty, recorded an assist, and helped out on defense very well.

Morning Skate Comments – Before the LA game even began, there were several questions about comments that Dan Bylsma made after the morning skate. Some of the odder comments (paraphrased) included how Jokinen could be benched for a bad penalty but it was more difficult to bench stars, how Crosby wouldn’t be happy being told to sit and Bylsma didn’t want to tell him he had to rest, and how part of the problem with physicality on the 3rd and 4th lines was the injuries to Conner and Ebbett. Perhaps I am crazy, but all of that sounds like a coach who has lost a little bit of confidence lately.

Three weeks is a gift for how bad the injury looked. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Three weeks is a gift for how bad the injury looked. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Goc Injury – The Goc injury looked pretty bad and definitely hurts the Penguins on depth. He will miss three weeks. I do not think it is a *huge* loss though. Goc was doing great with faceoffs, playing decent PK time, but didn’t look great in general during 5-on-5 situations. Jokinen can slide into center and is fine with faceoffs, several guys can handle taking over the PK time, and whoever plugs into the lineup (healthy Bennett) can be just as average 5-on-5 as well. Goc never made the impact we all expected on day one, so it’s hard to say his loss is massive aside from the fact that it’s the loss of yet another body.  Hopefully he returns to what we expect when the playoffs come around.

Disallowed Goal – The disallowed goal was just weird. I agreed with the final call, that it was goalie interference because Sutter shoved his stick into the right pad of Jones to keep him from stopping the puck. Why was there ever a video review though? The goalie interference call should have been made on the ice (and supposedly it was after the referees discussed it). After that, it should have been done. There was no reason for headphones, reviews, or any of that nonsense. It should have just been a call on the ice and that’s it. It was the right call, just a very aggravating way of getting there, at least visually.

Powerplay Woes – Thinking back to the January 30th Pens/Kings game, the Pens basically won that game in the first period on powerplay goals alone. They had a 5-on-3 powerplay and Evgeni Malkin, two key factors in success. A difference stylistically though was that the Penguins did a great job of sneaking guys into the high slot area and they kept getting the puck towards the middle of the ice and forcing the Kings to slide and scramble. In this game’s 0-for-7 effort, the Penguins were largely limited to the perimeter and outside shots (see: Niskanen’s high shot total). There was less movement around the inside to get the Kings moving and the penalty kill was easily able to shift to wherever the puck was on the outside. The Jan. 30th powerplay looked like a group that could and would get away with moving the puck to wherever they wanted it. This powerplay looked much more tentative. Is Malkin the difference? Is the team mentality the difference? I don’t have answers or theories on this one, just an observation to share.

Goal Assessment

First Goal Against (Carter)
Matt Niskanen is in the penalty box for interference. Slava Voynov has the puck at the middle of the blue line as the Kings work the puck around on the powerplay in the Penguins zone. Voynov passes the puck to Drew Doughty along the boards next to the right faceoff circle. The puck bounces off of Doughty’s skate and to Craig Adams, who tries to get control of the puck instead of swatting at it for a clear. Adams can’t control the puck and it rolls back to Voynov, who has moved to the right point. Voynov quickly passes the puck to Anze Kopitar at the left point. Kopitar holds it and then passes the puck down to Jeff Carter in the left corner on the goal line. Carter makes a pass through the Penguins penalty kill formation to Doughty at the right faceoff dot. Doughty can’t control the puck but recovers it along the boards. He skates towards the net and loses the puck to the right corner to Marian Gaborik. Gaborik passes the puck to the right point for Kopitar as Jeff Carter moves to the front of the net in front of Zatkoff. Kopitar draws Adams up to him at the blue line and passes the puck to Gaborik, now at the top of the right faceoff circle. Gaborik turns and wrists the puck on net and it’s deflected by Carter (untouched/uncovered by either defenseman in a situation where Engelland is responsible for keeping the puck from getting to the net and Maatta should be sliding to the front) at the top of the crease past Zatkoff’s blocker.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Niskanen (30), Maatta (35), Engelland (16)

GA: Carter - By @JustPuckIt

GA: Carter – By @JustPuckIt

Second Goal Against (Martinez)
Tanner Glass is in the penalty box for slashing. After a faceoff in the Penguins zone, Rob Scuderi gets the puck behind the net as he is closely followed by Tanner Pearson. Scuderi drops the puck off for Brooks Orpik, who rifles it off the glass on the right side boards in an attempt to clear the puck. Alec Martinez gloves the puck down at the right point to keep it in the zone. He quickly chips it further into the zone as he is pressured by Marcel Goc. Jarret Stoll gets it and throws it back into the right corner of the zone. Pearson gets it against the backboards and moves it up the right corner to Tyler Toffoli, who moves it up the right boards to Stoll, who moves it back to the right point for Martinez as the Kings form a line of puck support on the outside. Martinez moves the puck towards the middle of the blue line and fakes a shot before passing it back to Stoll on the right side boards. Stoll passes it right back to Martinez at the middle of the blue line. He stops the pass and takes a slapshot that deflects off of Orpik’s stick and beats Zatkoff’s glove.
Players at fault for the second goal against: Glass (4), Orpik (33)

GA: Martinez- By @JustPuckIt

GA: Martinez- By @JustPuckIt

First Goal For (Kunitz)
After Matt Niskanen turns the puck over in the neutral zone, Jayson Megna backchecks on Jeff Carter carrying the puck into the Penguins zone. He gets a stick on the puck and knocks Carter off of it in the Penguins zone, and then pokes it past Mike Richards who is trying to follow the play. The puck ends up with Chris Kunitz on the Penguins blue line and Kunitz throws the puck off the left side boards up to Sidney Crosby entering the Kings zone. Crosby leaves the puck for Kunitz at the left point and continues skating towards the goal line. Meanwhile, Kunitz picks up the puck and fakes a shot as he gets to the top of the left faceoff circle. He then passes the puck down to Crosby at the goal line. Crosby pushes the puck towards the net and it hits the side of the net. Megna skates in and chips the puck from the side of the net to the top of the crease, where Chris Kunitz skates in and taps the puck past the left pad of Martin Jones.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Crosby (107), Megna (9), Kunitz (89)

Goal: Kunitz - By @JustPuckIt

Goal: Kunitz – By @JustPuckIt

Second Goal For (Pyatt)
Jake Muzzin has the puck at the point in the Penguins zone. He tries to chip the puck down the boards, but Marcel Goc picks it up and chips the puck out of the zone. The puck reaches Brian Gibbons in the neutral zone, who chips it again to get it past Muzzin. As this is happening, Taylor Pyatt is skating through the neutral zone and picking up speed. Pyatt picks up the puck just past center ice and skate it down the right side boards. He takes a wrist shot from the top edge of the right faceoff circle that hits Jones in the shoulder, bounces into the crease, and rolls into the net.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Goc (2), Gibbons (19), Pyatt (6)

Goal: Pyatt - By @JustPuckIt

Goal: Pyatt – By @JustPuckIt

Third Goal Against (Doughty)
Martin Jones stops a puck behind the Kings net and moves it along to Jake Muzzin in the corner of the Kings zone. Muzzin moves it up the boards to Tanner Pearson, who redirects the puck to Dustin Brown exiting the Kings zone. Brown carries the puck through the neutral zone and into the right side of the Penguins zone as he goes 1-on-1 with Scuderi. Meanwhile, Brian Gibbons and Jayson Megna are both covering on defense and both skate to the front of the net as Jarret Stoll skates there. Brown drops the puck off at the right point for Drew Doughty, who is uncovered since Jayson Megna did not pass off Stoll to Gibbons and followed him instead. Doughty winds up and takes a slapshot that beats Zatkoff’s glove.
Players at fault for the third goal against: Megna (5)

GA: Doughty - By @JustPuckIt

GA: Doughty – By @JustPuckIt

Penalty Assessment

Niskanen (interference): Bad, falls a half-step behind Tyler Toffoli going to the net on a defensive zone faceoff and pulls him back a little for an interference penalty.
Glass (slashing): Bad-Stupid, after losing the puck in the offensive zone, Glass stands flat-footed and slashes Jordan Nolan in the leg, who was skating away with the puck.
Adams (high-sticking): Bad-Stupid, gets into a shoving match with Mike Richards around the Penguins net when the puck is at the point. Adams gets his stick into the face of Richards for the penalty.

Pens Record: 46-22-5
Next Game: Friday, 3/28 @ Columbus, 7pm

Thanks for reading!

(Credit: http://paulmartinamericanhero.tumblr.com/)

(Credit: http://paulmartinamericanhero.tumblr.com/)