Thoughts: Game 82 – Pens finally get the job done in 2-0 win over Sabres

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 2  Sabres 0

Record: 43-27-12

Sutter (20) from Comeau, Spaling
Sutter (21) from Winnik, Hornqvist

Click here to read the goal assessments

Gm 82 - Goals

Crosby (roughing) – Inconsequential (skates in front of Lindback and Lindback skates into him after a whistle as the two collide slightly and both players get minor penalties)

Three Forwards

Gm 82 - Forwards

Brandon Sutter
  • Good: Scored two goals on four shots.
  • Bad: Lost a puck in the offensive zone once.
  • Overall: There isn’t a lot to say about Sutter…except for that he was the entire offensive output in the game despite taking a puck to the face. Sutter scored the first goal of the game by receiving the puck behind the net from Comeau, pulling it around subtle interference in front of the net by Bennett, and backhanding it past Lindback’s blocker. He was soon rewarded with a puck to the face as he deflected a shot into his own nose/mouth. After missing a few shifts to get stitches, Sutter scored on his next shift as Winnik fed him the puck in a 2-on-1 situation just above the crease. Hopefully he can find a way to keep getting such timely goals as the playoffs get underway.
Sutter got the job done when it seemed like no one could. (Gary Wiepert/AP Photo)

Sutter got the job done when it seemed like no one could. (Gary Wiepert/AP Photo)

Maxim Lapierre
  • Good: Recorded three shots on net and had three takeaways.
  • Bad: None.
  • Overall: Lapierre had his second good game in a row and hopefully is getting situated for a successful playoff run. The fourth line did a great job of moving the puck into the offensive zone as they combined for seven shots and Lapierre’s forecheck was great once they were in the zone. Both of his offensive zone takeaways occurred near the net and he funneled the Sabres (yes, I know it’s the Sabres) perfectly into the right coverages. Things are looking up for Lapierre heading into the playoffs and hopefully some offense will come from it.
Evgeni Malkin
  • Good: Led the team with six shots on net, recorded three takeaways, and intercepted two passes.
  • Bad: Lost a puck in the neutral zone and had a failed clear in the defensive zone.
  • Overall: Despite clearly looking injured and tired, Malkin was as tenacious as he could be. The second line finished with 15 shots led by Malkin’s effort and he was great in the defensive zone with two takeaways and a pass interception. No one on the team will benefit more from four days without a game than Malkin, who already looks good while hurt.

A Goalie and Two Defensemen

Gm 82 - Defense

Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Good: Stopped all 28 shots he faced, including several nice blocker saves in the first period, a nice pad save on Meszaros in the second period, and a couple of big saves on Moulson and Ennis in front during a scramble in the third period.
  • Bad: None
  • Overall: Fleury recorded his 10th shutout of the season to finish as the league leader in shutouts, a first for a Penguins goaltender. He wasn’t tested heavily in this game and faced mostly long-range shots, but he was perfect for a team that needed a little perfection to get into the playoffs. It was interesting to note that he went with his white pads despite the team going with the black and gold third jerseys. Whether that was for the sake of comfort or because he has worse stats with the gold pads, it got the job done. There is no reason to believe anything will change going to the playoffs either.
Could Fleury steal a series for the Penguins? (Gary Wiepert/AP Photo)

Could Fleury steal a series for the Penguins? (Gary Wiepert/AP Photo)

Paul Martin
  • Good: Blocked two shots, had two defensive zone takeaways, and broke up a play in the neutral zone.
  • Bad: Lost a puck in the defensive zone.
  • Overall: Martin received a slight “break” in playing time, ONLY playing 25:50 in yet another five-defensemen game. Though he looked tired again through most of the game, he was very efficient with his puck movement and he was much better with staying in coverage and stepping up on Buffalo’s forwards than he was against Ottawa. A short break and the return of a 6th defenseman should help Martin out significantly going into the playoffs. He has certainly left it all out on the ice every night in recent weeks.
Taylor Chorney
  • Good: Forced a turnover in the defensive zone and broke up two plays.
  • Bad: Had one failed clearing attempt.
  • Overall: Chorney played 15:35 and settled comfortably into the 5th defenseman role. He did what was necessary of a WBS call-up and limited his mistakes by being dependable with his positioning. It’s still unknown if he’ll be needed and/or used in the playoffs, but Chorney has shown enough in the past few games to be trustworthy in the 6th defenseman spot if necessary. He might be worth keeping over Harrington on the depth chart for the playoffs for that reason alone.

Three Thoughts

Playoff-bound…finally – It was a weird journey, but the Penguins didn’t have to depend on the Lightning/Bruins game to get into the playoffs and they finally did what they needed to do with a win in Game 82. This team has been through a lot in the past calendar year with management changes, coaching changes, a roster overhaul, and a variety of ailments that no one would have predicted in their wildest dreams – ranging from cancer to mumps to concussions to the dreaded lower body injury. Add in the roster mismanagement that led to several games with less than 18 players, and I don’t think we’ll see another year quite like this one ever again. The first leg of this journey is over. Time for the second one to begin.

Playoff Expectations – I’ll save most of this for an upcoming playoff preview post, but there are literally no expectations for the Penguins anymore. Most people will have them getting swept or maybe winning a game against the Rangers, who finished 1st in the NHL. The Rangers are a very deep team. The Penguins, though talented, are still very broken with Letang out and a handful of other injuries to keep an eye on. For the first time since 2009, the Penguins will not be playing a lower seed and they will be complete underdogs. Enjoy it – every win will be special (assuming there is one) since the wins have become *relatively* scarce again.

Maybe Perron will come back for the playoffs.  What do you mean he never left? (Gary Wiepert/AP Photo)

Maybe Perron will come back for the playoffs. Wait, what do you mean he never left? (Gary Wiepert/AP Photo)

Quick Trends – As noted above, Lapierre’s game has improved over the past week and that may pay dividends in playoff-style hockey. Hornqvist has been playing fantastic hockey and his game translates perfectly to the playoffs, which should help greatly against the Rangers. Malkin’s injury/health is something to watch. He’s clearly not at 100% and the Penguins need him to be healthy for any chance of an upset. Pouliot is expected to return for the playoffs and the status of Ehrhoff is unknown. The return of either player would be a huge boost to the defense, regardless of who gets called up. Oh yeah, and don’t expect Craig Adams to touch the ice…like he didn’t in this game despite being dressed.

Next Game: Game 1 @ NYR, Thursday 4/16, 7pm

East schedule

Thanks for reading!