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.
Pens 3 Coyotes 2
Winnik (9) from Martin, Crosby
Downie (14) (PP) from Crosby, Malkin
Crosby (25) from Pouliot, Malkin
Click here to read the goal assessments
Lapierre (roughing) – Inconsequential (gets into a shoving match with Crombeen after a whistle and they each get a minor penalty)
Hornqvist (hooking) – Inconsequential (takes the original penalty for hooking Arcobello entering the Penguins zone, but Doan hits him after the whistle to negate the potential powerplay)
Comeau (boarding – 5 min) – Careless (hits Campbell from behind and shoves his face into the boards, so he gets a major/game misconduct for it)
Comeau (game misconduct) – Careless (hits Campbell from behind and shoves his face into the boards, so he gets a major/game misconduct for it)
Kunitz (hooking) – Good (sprints back in a 2-on-1 situation and hooks Vitale’s hands/stick to prevent an open chance in front of the net)
Downie (fighting) – Inconsequential (drops the gloves with Doan on Doan’s next shift after he knocked out Letang, so each player gets a fighting major)
- Good: Led the team with six shots on net, recorded a goal and two assists, had a defensive zone takeaway, broke up a play in the defensive zone, and created several chances around the net/crease area.
- Bad: Had three offensive zone giveaways and two lost pucks in the neutral zone.
- Overall: Crosby gave himself a little room in the scoring race with a three-point day against Arizona. He recorded a secondary assist on Winnik’s goal by winning a faceoff back to Martin, who shot the puck to the net for Winnik. He then had a beautiful primary powerplay assist on Downie’s goal as he skated from the Penguins blue line to the Coyotes zone, then made a backhand pass off the boards back to Downie, which left Moss in a hopeless position to defend Downie. Finally, he scored the eventual game-winner in the crease when a pass from Pouliot hit off of Crosby’s stick, then his knee, and then his skate before going into the net. Throughout the day, he spent most of his time down low in the zone and around the crease, which created opportunities for basically everyone on the ice. I’m willing to bet that most of Crosby’s 3+ point games have come when he’s been doing work around that area. The first line is nearly unstoppable when Crosby gets into that mode, even with his unfortunately high turnover numbers in this game.
- Good: Recorded five shots on net, had two assists, broke up a play in the defensive zone, forced a turnover in the defensive zone, and recorded three takeaways.
- Bad: Had a neutral zone giveaway and lost track of his coverage in the defensive zone near the end of the game, which partially led to the 2nd goal against.
- Overall: Malkin returned from his lower body injury and appeared to be at full strength against Arizona. He ended up with two secondary assists as he moved the puck to Crosby for Downie’s goal and sent it across the ice to Pouliot for Crosby’s goal. He found a new home on the powerplay on the right-half boards as Crosby moved down low, which appeared to make the entire powerplay more effective in the 3rd period. My only big knock on him was how he played the 2nd goal against late in the 3rd period, when both he and Martin got caught in the middle of the defensive zone covering no one as two Coyotes’ forwards went to the net. Overall though, it was a solid return and that’s without Geno even taking over a game like we know he can.
- Good: Scored a powerplay goal and developed a stronger bond with his teammates and fans by fighting Doan shortly after Doan knocked Letang out of the game.
- Bad: Had two failed clears in the defensive zone, lost a puck in the neutral zone, and had a giveaway in the offensive zone.
- Overall: Downie didn’t have a great game in terms of puck management, but he had two highlight reel moments that evened him out. The first was when he dropped the gloves with Doan after Doan’s hit on Letang. Interestingly enough, Downie did not have harsh words for the hit, but both players seemed to settle into the point of view that it needed to be done. For whatever it was worth, it certainly fired up the fans and team. His second, actually tangible, big moment came when he scored a powerplay goal on a slapshot from above the left faceoff circle to give the Penguins the lead. It was a very visible game for Downie and he was both productive and under control given the circumstances. I thought his defensive zone work was a bit weak with the failed clears and getting caught in his own zone a few times, but he took care of things on the scoreboard at least.
- Good: Recorded three shots on net, intercepted a pass, broke up a play, and recorded a takeaway in the defensive zone.
- Bad: None.
- Overall: Postgame comments about Doan aside, Cole provided a steady presence on the blue line as usual. His positioning was solid throughout the game and he displayed a shoot-first mentality any time he got the puck in the offensive zone. The best part about his game was how well he balanced taking advantage of offensive opportunities with never straying too far defensively. He has been one of the most dependable guys on the team since the deadline.
- Good: Recorded two shots on net, blocked three shots, broke up two plays in the defensive zone, intercepted a pass in the defensive zone, and forced two turnovers.
- Bad: Had one failed clearing attempt.
- Overall: Lovejoy played one of his better games in recent weeks and it seemed to hinge on his willingness to be physical. He led the team with nine hits, two of which forced turnovers in a successful defensive effort. Arizona didn’t test the Penguins too much throughout the day, but Lovejoy was efficient with his coverages and ensured that no chances came from a dangerous area in front of Greiss. It was definitely a step up from his recent performances.
- Good: Assisted on Crosby’s goal, put four shots on net, blocked three shots, had two takeaways, and broke up a play in the defensive zone.
- Bad: Lost the puck four times (twice in the offensive zone and twice in the defensive zone), one of which turned into a goal against after Vitale stole the puck from him.
- Overall: Pouliot’s performance played out to his usual scouting report with strong offensive zone work and some shaky defense at times. He was great in the offensive zone with constant movement, especially on the powerplay, and he gave Crosby a perfect pass across the crease from the left faceoff circle for Crosby’s goal. On defense, he had issues with decision-making, mostly with how quick he was making those decisions. He had plenty of time with the puck against Vitale on the 2nd goal against, but he kept backing up unsure of where to play it and he ended up losing the puck to Vitale in the end. Credit Vitale for attacking Pouliot on the forecheck, but that’s a situation where the young defenseman just needs to get rid of the puck instead of looking for the perfect pass. Pouliot has a ton of upside, but that’s the type of situation that is scary to think about in the playoffs when the forechecks get harder and the pressure is on (not that there are any other defensemen to play right now).
Letang Hit/Injury – To summarize my thoughts on Doan’s hit on Letang: I didn’t think it was late, but it was certainly unnecessary with how Doan had to change directions to hit Letang. To me, that’s a two-minute minor for interference (that rarely, if ever, gets called). It was only made 100x worse by how Letang was off-balance and fell into the boards to slam his head. If Letang stays upright and shrugs off that hit, is it even a discussion point? Does anyone even notice it? Probably not, Letang maybe slashes the back of Doan’s leg and they just skate up ice to get back into the play. I consider that hit to be interference by the book and a very, very unfortunate landing. With how many missed minors there are in the game nowadays, I guess missing a minor for interference doesn’t faze me. It’s just the result that makes it *seem* different. Doan will not face any supplemental discipline and Letang is out indefinitely with a concussion.
Shots, Shots, Shots – The Pens did a wonderful job of getting shots to the net with over 40 in this game. Mike Smith made several great saves through the first two periods, but it wasn’t until the 3rd period that the Pens really started forcing the issue in terms of traffic around the net and disrupting Smith. Even when the Pens have been getting shots on net over the past week, the problem has often been there aren’t screens, deflections, or big crease battles for garbage goals. The first Penguins’ goal in this game came due to a deflection by Winnik that allowed him to get his own rebound as Smith kicked it out. The 3rd goal was a sequence of crazy bounces as Crosby stood in the crease over Smith. Getting shots on net is a good start, but making it difficult for the goalie is the next step. The Penguins did a much better job of that in the 3rd period and earned a win because of it.
Roster Situation – Kris Letang and Christian Ehrhoff are both out indefinitely. According to Dave Molinari, LTIR is no longer an option with less than 10 games left in the season. Therefore, the Penguins are in quite a roster bind since they are up against the salary cap and don’t have the space to field a full roster. From Seth Rorabaugh, there is an emergency clause that may allow the Penguins to make an emergency call-up the game after they play with less than 18 skaters. However, the Penguins will have 18 skaters healthy, just with 13 forwards and 5 defensemen. In such a scenario, it appears that Daniel Winnik will be the emergency defenseman, as he will be against San Jose. The rest of the regular season is likely going to be a mess for the Penguins’ lineup.
Next Game: 3/29 vs SJ, 7:30pm
Thanks for reading!