Thoughts: Game 74 – Pens look lost in 5-2 loss to Hurricanes

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.

Hurricanes 5  Pens 2

Record: 40-23-11

Sutter (17) from Crosby, Lovejoy
Cole (5) from Adams, Bennett

Click here to read the goal assessments

Lapierre (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a little shoving match with Malone in front of the benches and they each get a minor penalty)
Comeau (high-sticking) – Careless (tries to get his stick on the hands of Faulk and has his stick ride up the arm of Faulk into his face)
Spaling (high-sticking) – Careless (skates through the neutral zone trying to get around Biega and lifts his stick into his face)
Perron (cross-checking) – Stupid (gets into a little battle with Jordan in the Hurricanes zone behind the play and gives him an extra cross-check to his back to get a penalty)
Bennett (high-sticking) – Careless (misses a puck coming off of the back boards and lifts his stick into the face of Jordan)

Three Forwards

Gm 74 - Forwards

Sidney Crosby
  • Good: Assisted on Sutter’s goal by getting the puck to the front of the net, drew a hooking penalty, had an offensive zone takeaway, intercepted a neutral zone pass, and generally played a good two-way game again.
  • Bad: Lost two pucks and had two giveaways.
  • Overall: Crosby’s strong effort at both ends of the ice continued against Carolina. He was positionally sound and created opportunities in the offensive zone, though Cam Ward was insistent on no one finishing them. He earned an assist on Sutter’s goal by taking the puck away from Jordan Staal, setting up Lovejoy for a great chance, and then retrieving Lovejoy’s missed shot and getting it to the crease for Sutter to smash in. His turnover number was a little high (as was the entire team’s), but Crosby seems to be doing everything he can right now.
See Sidney Crosby. See Sidney Crosby watching the blade fly off of his stick. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

See Sidney Crosby. See Sidney Crosby watching the blade fly off of his stick. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Beau Bennett
  • Good: Assisted on Cole’s goal by starting the play with an offensive zone takeaway, recorded three takeaways including that one, and forced a turnover in the defensive zone.
  • Bad: Had a giveaway in the neutral zone, lost the puck four times (three in the offensive zone), and took a careless high-sticking penalty.
  • Overall: Bennett mainly deserves credit for two things in this game – trying his best to play in a bottom-six role and actually playing at full speed through the end of the game. He continued to throw hits in the offensive zone, which led to two takeaways, but he was also knocked off of the puck just as easily as he turned it over in the offensive zone. His decision-making with the puck looks a little sluggish at times and he seems uncertain of himself with it, but he is getting stronger away from the puck and in terms of that “battle level” that Johnston was looking for when he doesn’t have it. Bennett is slowly adapting to a new mold, but I’m not sure if that’s actually a good thing or not.
David Perron
  • Good: Recorded three shots on net and had an offensive zone takeaway.
  • Bad: Lost the puck twice in the neutral zone, took a selfish cross-checking penalty away from the play in the offensive zone that resulted in a powerplay goal against, and was partially at fault for the 4th goal against as he skated with Nash to the net but didn’t actually do anything to defend him or the pass to Semin for the goal.
  • Overall: Perron was absolutely robbed by Cam Ward on a chance from the right faceoff circle and things went downhill from there for him. His lack of scoring has been noted, along with his penalty issues, and now we can add a bad defensive play to it as he had every opportunity to tie up Nash or block the passing lane and he did neither. Perron’s game summary is regularly turning into: 1) failed scoring opportunity, 2) bad penalty, 3) dropped off of Crosby’s line. These trends need to change if the Penguins are ever going to find their scoring touch again.

Three Defensemen

Gm 74 - Defense

Ian Cole
  • Good: Scored on a hard wrist shot over Ward’s left shoulder late in the 3rd period, intercepted two passes in the defensive zone, broke up a play in the defensive zone, and drew an interference penalty.
  • Bad: None.
  • Overall: Cole finished as the only player that I had positive overall marks for and a positive impression of after this game. He was generally quiet, but played strong positionally and cleaned up his own end well. He has turned into that unnoticeable bottom pairing defenseman that Scuderi was ideally supposed to be, except with a little more offensive potential as well. In a game that saw a lot of terrible defense, give credit to Cole for not falling prey to bad habits and decisions.
Ben Lovejoy
  • Good: Recorded an assist on Sutter’s goal (though it was due to a missed shot) and broke up a play in the offensive zone.
  • Bad: Had four giveaways (three in the neutral zone), lost a puck in the defensive zone, and lost a coverage in the defensive zone.
  • Overall: Goal-wise, Lovejoy came out on the plus side by contributing to Sutter’s goal and not being at fault for any against. However, his puck management short-circuited several breakouts. Lovejoy seems to have regressed with each passing week since joining the Penguins. He has done a great job on pinches in the offensive zone and knows where to be as teams are trying to break out of their zone, but his ability to move the puck into the offensive zone has been lacking. The entire team was a turnover machine in this game, but Lovejoy’s blatant neutral zone giveaways certainly stood out.
Kris Letang
  • Good: Led the team with five shots on net, broke up two plays, had an offensive zone takeaway, and intercepted a pass in the defensive zone.
  • Bad: Had three giveaways (two in the defensive zone), lost a puck in the defensive zone, and lost/missed his coverages three times, two of which led to goals against.
  • Overall: On the plus side, Letang continued shooting the puck as much as he could, which *should* turn into something positive eventually (right?!). The problem in this game was largely how he read odd-man breaks, especially because there were too many to count in this game. He was partially at fault for the 2nd goal against as he stepped up on Rask in a 3-on-2 situation, which allowed Malone to get past him uncovered to get the puck with time and space to make the pass to Murphy for the goal. He was also partially at fault for the 4th goal against as he got caught in the offensive zone after a rebound bounced over his stick, then he got back into the defensive zone and chased the man that Martin was covering instead of going to the net, which left everyone in a systematic defensive mess. Letang has done an exceptional job all season of recovering to catch odd-man breaks from behind, but living dangerously cost him and the team in this game.
No worries defense, this net will stop the puck for you. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

No worries defense, this net will stop the puck for you. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Many Thoughts

Games like this one can’t be broken down into three neat paragraphs, so here’s a laundry list of thoughts:

  • Starting with the goalie, Fleury allowed five goals but I didn’t think any were really on him. It was a mess of odd-man breaks for the most part and I also noticed he didn’t get a chance to challenge much with the time, space, and speed that the Hurricanes often had. The defense was just a disaster.
  • The defense in this entire game looked like the defense that blew a four-goal lead against Edmonton. They looked completely lost against another team that isn’t necessarily fundamentally sound. Great defensive efforts have come against solid teams with a solid plan. When opposing teams just start playing hockey like it’s a fun thing to do, the Penguins start getting lost.
  • Speaking of that Edmonton comeback, wouldn’t it be nice if the Penguins found some way to not look lifeless when they fall behind in a game? At 3-1, it was tough to think the Penguins had any chance of a comeback, not even including the Cam Ward factor. How sad is it that I want this team to take something away from what Edmonton does?
  • Now speaking of Cam Ward, give him credit for playing a fantastic game. He robbed several guys throughout the night, including a big glove save on Perron and stopping Letang alone in front. Bob Errey made a good point though, the team rarely got second chances on him and when they actually did create chaos around the net – it resulted in Sutter’s goal.
  • Moving to chaos in front of the net, is anyone ever going to step up for Hornqvist and what he does? In the absence of Hornqvist and Malkin, literally no one has stepped up their game. In years past, Malkin and Crosby would get hurt and the entire team would start playing great defense and find ways to win with some unexpected hero getting a point. Plenty of guys are playing well right now, but no one seems to be able to find that extra boost to help compensate for the guys that are missing. No one can make up for Hornqvist and Malkin, but it would be nice if someone tried.
  • After the Blues game, I noted that St. Louis started their comeback largely after a failed powerplay for the Penguins, not the Adams fight. In this game, Carolina scored their 2nd goal right after a failed powerplay, after the Penguins had actually gotten off to a good start in the game. The disjointed powerplay seems to continually ruin the game flow for the Penguins and that’s becoming a much bigger issue than just the lack of scoring by that unit.
  • This is probably an anomaly, but the Penguins had three high-sticking penalties in this game. Is anyone focusing on anything?
  • Going back through my goal assessments, I had Rob Scuderi marked down for a -5 through the first 48 games of the season. He has been a -8 in the past 26. Alarming doesn’t even begin to describe that as we get close to the playoffs.
  • The lack of intensity, and as Crosby said  – desperation, was very disappointing, especially in the third period. The team as a whole looked like they had accepted their loss and were ready to move on. I’m not saying there was a lack of effort or that they didn’t care, but there was a major lack of urgency. Malkin and Hornqvist aren’t just missed for their offense, they are also two players that have frequently increased their level of play through adversity. This team doesn’t have many of those types that are showing themselves right now.
  • In the end, just like with any other game, this game doesn’t say a whole lot about what the Penguins will do in the playoffs necessarily. It’s impossible to ignore the red flags though and there is a growing amount of them. I can’t even rely on “process” as my rallying call after how the defense played.
Help. The. Goalie. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Help. The. Goalie. (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Next Game: 3/28 vs Ari, 1pm

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