Thoughts: Game 79 – Pens get lit up by Flyers powerplay in 4-1 loss

By: Meesh Shanmugam

If you missed the Pens/Blue Jackets thoughts, here they are (more vitriol than this post, which is rather calm).

Here’s a link to the Postgame Thoughts archive, in case you want to catch up on what you may have missed.

Flyers 4  Pens 1

Record: 42-26-11

Sutter (19) (PP) from Perron, Cole

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 79 - Goals

Winnik (cross-checking) – Stupid (cross-checks Couturier in the back as Couturier is going for a puck against the boards and doesn’t even have a stick to play it with)
Comeau (hooking) – Unnecessary (tries to reach around Couturier in the neutral zone and gets his stick caught in Couturier’s arm and midsection for a penalty)
Bennett (tripping) – Inconsequential (reaches across Streit to get knock the puck away from him but takes out his legs for a tripping call; the penalty is evened out by Giroux taking a roughing penalty on Kunitz though)
Bennett (goalie interference) – Careless (drives to the net looking for a deflection and gets his stick into Mason’s chest, shoving him backwards into the net)
Hornqvist (goalie interference) – Bad Call (stops short of Mason before entering the crease and then gets pushed into the crease and Mason by Manning from behind)

Three Forwards

Gm 79 - Forwards

Beau Bennett
  • Good: Recorded four shots on net, intercepted two passes, broke up a play in the neutral zone, and had a takeaway and forced turnover in the offensive zone.
  • Bad: Took a late goalie interference penalty in the 3rd period and also an earlier tripping penalty, though that was negated by Kunitz drawing a roughing minor.
  • Overall: Bennett started the game on the 3rd line and looked strong in the first period as he, Sutter, and Winnik created quite a few chances early on. Despite his strong play along the boards, the positive turnover ratio, and the success of the line, he was eventually dropped back to the 4th line as the lines were juggled and he essentially disappeared aside from two penalties in the 3rd period. It was generally still one of Bennett’s stronger efforts in recent weeks, but it still wasn’t enough to get badly needed production from him.
Blake Comeau
  • Good: Tied for the team-lead with five shots on net.
  • Bad: Had a giveaway in the offensive zone, struggled on several odd-man offensive chances, lost track of a coverage in the defensive zone which led to the 3rd goal against, and took an unnecessary hooking penalty which led to the 2nd goal against.
  • Overall: It was a disappointing weekend for Comeau in all facets of the game. He made more costly mistakes in the defensive zone on the 3rd goal against as he left his coverage of White, which allowed White to skate into the slot for an uncovered one-timer goal. Comeau was also in the penalty box for another goal against after taking a hooking penalty in the neutral zone. As if the goals against weren’t enough, he struggled on three odd-man breaks in the offensive zone. Malkin set him up for several chances, but Comeau was unable to control the puck, generally hesitated to shoot it, and waited out all of his chances until they were no longer existent. Though he does have a wrist injury, Comeau looked like a player who had very little confidence in himself and the results played out as such.
Comeau and the Pens tried everything to beat Mason, but it wasn't happening. (Tom Mihalek/AP Photo)

Comeau and the Pens tried everything to beat Mason, but it wasn’t happening. (Tom Mihalek/AP Photo)

Maxim Lapierre
  • Good: Forced an offensive zone turnover and had two shots on net.
  • Bad: Lost the puck twice in the offensive zone and played very passively on the penalty kill, which led to the first goal against.
  • Overall: Lapierre had a couple of quality opportunities in the offensive zone early in the game when the 4th line was playing well, but he was generally unable to control the puck around the net. Things later went awry for him on the first penalty kill when Adams left his position for a hit and Lapierre stayed way too deep in the zone, allowing Streit to easily move the puck to Voracek for a one-timer goal. After that, he generally had a quiet game and his notable moments were over. The PK mistake loomed large as the Penguins went to intermission tied at 1 after getting a 22-4 lead in shots.

Two Defensemen and a Goalie

Gm 79 - Defense

Derrick Pouliot
  • Good: Tied for the team-lead with five shots on net, had two takeaways in the defensive zone, intercepted a pass in the offensive zone, and broke up two plays in the defensive zone.
  • Bad: Lost the puck twice and also lost track of a coverage in the defensive zone.
  • Overall: Pouliot bounced back well after a very rough game against the Blue Jackets. He looked solid in the offensive zone with constant movement and he showed no hesitancies in getting the puck to the net, unlike on Saturday. He was also stronger in the defensive zone with a couple of takeaways and more assertive play overall. He did make a couple of mistakes with the puck, but it was a far cry from the Columbus game and he certainly made a positive impact on the team overall.
Ian Cole
  • Good: Led the team with four blocked shots, recorded a secondary assist on Sutter’s powerplay goal, intercepted three passes in the defensive zone, forced a turnover in the offensive zone, and broke up two plays in the defensive zone.
  • Bad: Had four giveaways (three in the defensive zone), lost the puck twice in the defensive zone, and lost track of his coverage once.
  • Overall: Cole added to the offense yet again with an assist on the powerplay as he fed the puck to Perron, who moved it to Sutter for the first goal of the game. After that, Cole was a mixed bag. He was positioned well defensively and didn’t jump into the play nearly as much as he did against Columbus. However, he often struggled with the puck in the defensive zone after getting it from the Flyers. Despite the questionable puck management, he played well enough overall and continues to produce.
Cole did a great job of causing problems for Philly when he didn't have the puck. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Cole did a great job of causing problems for Philly when he didn’t have the puck. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Thomas Greiss
  • Good: Made a few clutch saves early in the 3rd period to keep the Penguins within a goal, including a blocker save on Bellemare from the high slot, a shoulder save on Schenn from the right circle, a pad save on VandeVelde from the slot, and another pad save on Lecavalier right in front.
  • Bad: None, though the stat line isn’t pretty with 16 saves on 20 shots.
  • Overall: Greiss did what he could to keep the Penguins in the game, which they very much were in until the Flyers made it 3-1 with five minutes left in the game. He didn’t face many shots but he was up to the task when necessary, especially in a messy start to the 3rd period for the Penguins. As for the goals he allowed: 1) the first was a rocket of a one-timer from Voracek at the right circle on the powerplay, 2) the second one flew up into the air and over everyone as it bounced into the crease, off of the post, and into the net on a very odd play on the powerplay, 3) the third was a one-timer by White after a pass was made across the slot to him and Greiss had no chance to get across, and 4) the fourth was another powerplay goal, this time redirected by Del Zotto alone in front of the net through the five-hole of Greiss. It probably wouldn’t have mattered which goalie was in net for the Penguins.

Three Thoughts

Strong Effort Still Doesn’t Win – The Penguins did almost everything they could do to win the game…except for outscoring the other team. They put 47 shots on net, crashed the crease, had an effective looking powerplay, and only allowed 20 shots on net. Overall, from a process standpoint, it was a solid game. However, some unnecessary penalties (especially Winnik’s, which led to a tie game), Mason playing extremely well, and the inability to score ruined any positive results from a positive process. Which brings us to…

Too Late For Moral Victories – Unfortunately for the Penguins, the process isn’t good enough anymore. It was one thing a month ago when they were gearing up for the playoffs and needed to prepare themselves by playing the right way. Some messy, bad losses (Carolina, Philly on Wed, Columbus) took away their breathing room to have a “good” loss though, which is something that every team will have. This loss was a “good” loss based on process, but it feels incredibly empty because of how valuable the game became after the messy losses in the last two weeks. This loss wasn’t the problem, the ugly losses were, but the standings don’t discriminate based on what type of loss a team suffers anyways.

Greiss stopped what was stoppable, but it wasn't enough. (Tom Mihalek/AP Photo)

Greiss stopped what was stoppable, but it wasn’t enough. (Tom Mihalek/AP Photo)

Playoff Watch – The Penguins are still in position to make the playoffs, tied with Boston and Detroit at 95 points with three games left for each. They also have the tiebreaker on both teams (38 ROW to 37 ROW for both). Ottawa sits at 92 points as I write this, with four games left (currently playing Toronto). If Ottawa beats Toronto, Tuesday is a gigantic game with the Penguins in Ottawa. If not, the game still looms large, but the breathing room would be significant. Here are the schedules the rest of the way:

Boston (95) – @Was, @Fla, @TB
Pittsburgh (95) – @Ott, vs NYI, @Buf
Detroit (95) – vs Car, @Mtl, @Car
Ottawa (92) – @Tor (in progress), vs Pit, @NYR, @Phi

Theoretically, Detroit probably has the easiest schedule, then Pittsburgh, then Ottawa, then Boston. However, given how all of these teams are playing, it’s certainly not easy to predict. Three of these teams will get in and the odds still favor everyone but Ottawa, but this race certainly isn’t over.

Next Game: 4/7 @ Ott, 7:30pm

Thanks for reading!