Thoughts: Game 8 – Penguins vs Canucks

Penguins 4  Canucks 3 (SO)

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Goals
Crosby (7) from Kunitz, Dupuis
Kunitz (4) (PP) from Malkin, Crosby
Maatta (1) from Kunitz, Crosby
SO Winner: Malkin

Goal Assessment

First Goal Against (Edler)
Alexander Edler receives the puck at center ice and takes a long slapshot on net. The puck hits off of Fleury’s chest and goes into the air where he loses track of it. It ends up falling to the crease behind him and bounces into the net before he can recover.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Fleury (2)

Crosby is somehow better than he's ever been. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Crosby is somehow better than he’s ever been. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

First Goal For (Crosby)
Chris Kunitz knocks the puck away from a Canucks’ forward in the defensive zone and up to Pascal Dupuis, who exits the zone with the puck. Dupuis carries the puck to center ice, where he leaves it for Sidney Crosby. Crosby brings the puck into the offensive zone with Chris Kunitz trailing him and passes the puck back to Dupuis on the left side. Dupuis takes a slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle that Luongo can’t control with his glove, producing a rebound as Crosby heads towards the crease. Crosby shoots the rebound, which hits off of Kunitz as he is skating through the crease and bounces back to Crosby. Crosby then fires the puck past Luongo’s glove.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Kunitz (11), Dupuis (9), Crosby (17)

Second Goal For (Kunitz)
Chris Kunitz retrieves a loose puck along the right side boards on the powerplay. He skates the puck up towards the point and leaves it for Evgeni Malkin to skate deeper into the zone. Malkin passes to Sidney Crosby in the corner and skates behind the net. Crosby moves the puck over to Malkin behind the net as Chris Kunitz sneaks into the slot while everyone is paying attention to Malkin. Malkin fakes coming out on one side of the net, and goes back to pass to Kunitz from the other side. Kunitz quickly one-times the puck past Luongo’s glove as everyone is watching the other post waiting for Malkin to come around.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Crosby (18), Malkin (10), Kunitz (12)

Second Goal Against (Richardson)
Paul Martin can’t keep a puck in at the offensive zone blue line and gets beat to the puck by Dale Weise. Weise enters the Penguins zone 1-on-1 against Brooks Orpik and drops the puck for Kevin Bieksa, who was trailing the play. Weise then collides with Martin as Bieksa passes the puck to Brad Richardson, who had just entered the middle of the zone. Meanwhile, Deryk Engelland is the closest forward to the play but unable to get back in time to even up the now 3-on-2. Richardson puts the puck through Martin’s legs to Weise as Martin gets flat-footed and loses momentum. Weise, Bieksa, and Richardson end up with a 3-on-1 below the faceoff dots on Brooks Orpik. Bieksa goes to the net and Orpik tries to take away a shooting lane and a passing lane to Bieksa. Meanwhile, Weise passes the puck from the left faceoff circle to Richardson open on the right faceoff circle. Richardson corrals the puck and fires it past Fleury’s glove before he could get across from post to post.
Players at fault for the second goal against: Engelland (2), Martin (6)

Third Goal Against (Kassian)
Tanner Glass blocks a shot up at the point and the puck bounces over to the boards. Chris Conner loses a puck battle at the defensive blue line where he’s trying to clear the loose puck. The puck ends up in the air, where Matt Niskanen jumps up and bats it towards Conner at the blue line again. Conner fails to clear the puck again and has it stolen from him after hesitating with it. Zack Kassian ends up with the puck, skates around Conner, and puts it deeper into the defensive zone where it’s worked around the perimeter by Brad Richardson, David Booth, and Kevin Bieksa until it’s back to the point with Ryan Stanton. Stanton passes the puck back to Bieksa at the other point. Bieksa takes a wrist shot that is deflected by both Booth at the faceoff circle and Kassian on the crease on its way past Fleury’s blocker. Niskanen was on Kassian at the crease, but made no attempt to clear him from the area until after the deflection occurred.
Players at fault for the third goal against: Conner (1), Niskanen (1)

Maatta contemplates eating Chris Kunitz to celebrate his first NHL goal. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Maatta contemplates eating Chris Kunitz to celebrate his first NHL goal. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Third Goal For (Maatta)
Sidney Crosby knocks Ryan Kesler off of a loose puck in the defensive zone and carries it out of the zone. Crosby carries it into the offensive zone on a 3-on-2 with Olli Maatta and Chris Kunitz. As Maatta skates towards the net, Crosby pulls up and passes across to Chris Kunitz at the top of the faceoff circle. Kunitz takes a wrist shot that produces a rebound, and Maatta skates to the crease and knocks the rebound in past Luongo’s right pad.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Crosby (19), Kunitz (13), Maatta (4)

Penalty Assessment

Engelland (fighting): Inconsequential, Engelland and Sestito agreed to drop the gloves right off of a faceoff midway through the first period.
Malkin (tripping): Bad, puts his stick into skate blade of Mike Santorelli as Santorelli was switching directions with the puck along the boards in the offensive zone.

Player Assessment

Good

Sidney Crosby – Part of me is concerned that the Penguins offense is getting extremely top heavy with their production. The rest of me is just amazed at how Sidney Crosby is creating everything in every situation right now. He added another three points to his league-leading total in 25:24 of ice time. He is looking strong in the defensive zone too. Crosby has looked good on the PK and also started the sequence for the 3rd goal by knocking Ryan Kesler off of the puck in the defensive zone. Crosby is just on a completely different level than anyone else right now.

Chris Kunitz – Joining Crosby for the ride, Kunitz also added a three point night as the two (and Dupuis) continue to demonstrate impressive amounts of chemistry and synergy. Kunitz led the team with 5 shots, added in 4 hits, and played a surprisingly high 23:17 (boosted by almost five minutes on the powerplay). He drove to the crease, put the puck on net, and threw big hits at the perfect times. He even erased a Malkin turnover with a big hit at the offensive blue line that sent the puck loose again. He could stand to be a little more careful with the puck in the offensive zone (lost it twice), but he is certainly playing well overall.

Noteworthy

Evgeni Malkin – If Geno could just be a little more careful with the puck, he would jump up into the Good section. He had a powerplay assist, drew a tripping penalty, and finished the game off with a beautiful shootout winner. On the other hand, he took a tripping penalty and lost the puck four times by my count (three times in the offensive zone, two of which were on the powerplay). Malkin is doing a lot of great things on the ice, especially given his current linemates, but his still has to be more careful with the puck against better defensive personnel.

It took 7 starts for Fleury to allow a goal worthy of flipping out over. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

It took 7 starts for Fleury to allow a goal worthy of flipping out over. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Marc-Andre Fleury – After the opening goal of the game, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Fleury would end up in the bad section. It was an awkward goal, and just a plain bad goal to give up to a good team. Fleury bounced back nicely though, finishing with 36 saves on 39 shots. He made several great saves to keep the Penguins in the game and he really had no chance at stopping Vancouver’s 2nd and 3rd goals. Add in a perfect shootout performance, and Fleury came back from his opening period gaffe nicely. It demonstrated good mental stability from Fleury, which as we all know, is a very significant result.

Olli Maatta – In the 8th game of his 9-game tryout, Maatta demonstrated a little bit of everything…good and bad. He struggled mightily in the first period and a half as he gave the puck away twice on breakouts, lost control of the puck in the offensive zone, and got beat due to bad positioning in the defensive zone twice. Maatta’s play improved late in the 2nd period with a good poke check and some strong 1-on-1 plays. He then elevated his play in the third by singlehandedly stopping a couple of zone entries for the Canucks and jumping into the offensive zone for his first NHL goal. The up-and-down nature of his game fits that of any rookie defenseman, but his recovery ability from bad moments shows a greater maturity than most.

Brandon Sutter – Sutter is getting to the point that he is driving me crazy. On one side of the center red line, Sutter is amazing. He plays great PK minutes, never loses his man, and knows exactly how to slide within the defensive zone. On the other side of the red line, he loses the puck regularly, falls flat on his face with the puck, and looks clueless the deeper he gets into the offensive zone. Sutter has shown absolutely no confidence in the offensive zone lately while still being brilliant in the defensive zone. I don’t even know how to explain it anymore.

Bad

Paul Martin – Martin had a down game (by his standards from last season), largely due to his inability to handle the puck well. On the plus side, he drew a holding penalty. On the minus side though, he lost the puck three times at the offensive zone blue line. One of those instances led to a goal against as he tried to recover but got caught up in too much of a scramble to erase his mistake. The Canucks did an impressive job of disrupting the Penguins all over the ice, but the team depends on Martin for poise with the puck at the point. He needs to handle pressure better than that.

Take steroids, Chris. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Take steroids, Chris. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Chris Conner – I love the energy and effort that Chris Conner brings. He’s smart, shows good awareness, and he’s as feisty as they come. However, his small stature is detrimental at times. He lost the puck multiple times because he was muscled off of it and one of those instances led to a goal against. Conner is the type of player you root for, but it’s just too much to expect him to have a strong game on the 4th line for the Penguins.

Misc Thoughts

Other Player Notes – Tanner Glass had another hard-hitting game, but he had multiple giveaways in the neutral zone that shouldn’t happen. Matt Niskanen had an average game, though I’d like to see him be stronger on the crease (perhaps a team-wide issue). Robert Bortuzzo may have had the save of the game when he swept a puck away from the goal line after it trickled past Fleury. Rob Scuderi continues to be very impressive in odd-man situations.

Maatta Decision – There are reports from the Trib that the Penguins plan to keep Maatta beyond his 9-game tryout but are unsure if they will keep him beyond 40 games. After 9 games, a year of his entry level contract begins. At 40 games, the question revolves around his future RFA/UFA rights. Personally, I’m still sticking with my position of sending Maatta down. I don’t think he will regress from a year in the OHL and I think it’s in the best interest of the Penguins’ current defense to keep everyone around. There are plenty of almost/already NHL-ready defensemen in the AHL for call-up purposes. I don’t like the idea of limiting Bortuzzo’s minutes or trading away a defenseman who is currently better than Maatta when the goal is clearly to win the Cup this year.

Engelland at Forward, Part 2 – Engelland played another game at forward, got into a fight, and generally looked okay again. I love the fact that when he fights as a forward, it doesn’t take away a defenseman for 5+ minutes of game time. He looked better in the neutral zone than he did on Thursday, and this may be a potential long-term experiment. If the Penguins do keep Maatta, leaving Engelland at forward would be a great way to get everyone some playing time. That being said, I’d rather see him elsewhere in the NHL.

Puck Control – The Penguins really struggled with passing, puck control, and puck possession at times against the Canucks. A majority of passes were not tape-to-tape and even the good ones often led to turnovers because they led players into bad positions. This was probably the first real test for the Penguins against a defensive and checking-oriented team, but keep in mind that it’s still a team that is learning a new coach and system. The Pens may be in for a few painful games as their level of competition eventually increases.

Dustin Jeffrey MIA – You have to wonder how the organization views Dustin Jeffrey at this point. He doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere on this team. It’s time to Letestu/Lovejoy him and trade him away for a pick for his own good.

Boarding/Checking From Behind – Just a quick thought with all of the stretchers and dirty hits we have seen in the NHL so far already. Perhaps part of the problem is that hitting from behind is completely okay in open ice but not okay against the boards. If you watch any stretch pass or clearing pass, there are several times where a player gets hit in the back or knocked over from behind as he’s about to receive the pass. Most people cry out for interference, and nothing is called, but it’s still a hit from behind technically. If it’s okay to hit a player in the numbers in that scenario, players aren’t going to get it through their heads that it’s not okay against the boards. Just eliminate all hits into a guy’s numbers, and perhaps the dirty hits will disappear. That’s just my random two cents.

Hockey Players Can Be Decent People – Speaking of a hit from behind, Daniel Sedin ended up hitting Malkin in the side/back into the boards in the defensive zone during overtime. While such hits are frustrating from penalty, injury, and safety views, I was happy to see how D. Sedin reacted. He didn’t leave the area. He bent over and tapped Malkin with his glove to check on him. Despite the play going the other way, Sedin didn’t skate away until Malkin started to get up and was clearly okay. I applaud you for acting like a human being, Daniel Sedin.

Pens Record: 7-1
Next Game: Monday, 10/21 vs Colorado, 7:30pm

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