Thoughts: Preseason Game 5 – Greiss Outshines Zatkoff in 4-1 Loss to Minnesota

By: Meesh Shanmugam

*Preseason Intro*
Welcome back everyone! With a new season, new coach, new GM, and new hope (at least temporarily), I’ll be working on some new formats for the postgame thoughts before the regular season arrives. Ideas and suggestions are very much encouraged; let me know what you want to see and read about! Goal assessments and descriptions will return when the regular season starts.
*End Preseason Intro*

Wild 4  Penguins 1

Preseason Record: 2-3

Goals
Downie (1) from Letang, Comeau

Penalties
Sundqvist (Holding) – Inconsequential (Veilleux also went off for holding)
Martin (Tripping) – Bad (trips Brodziak after losing the puck in the neutral zone to him)
Letang (Cross-checking) – Stupid (cross-checks Koivu in his lower back to knock him front-first into the boards)
Dupuis (High-sticking) – Careless (tried to lift the stick of Vanek and hit his face)
Dupuis (Boarding) – Bad Call (pushed Bickel down to the ice from the side, but was called for boarding)

Pre Gm 5 Goals

Notable Players

Forwards

Pre Gm 5 Forwards

Patric Hornqvist – Hornqivst had another solid game, leading the team with six shots and disrupting the Wild in the neutral zone at any opportunity available. He also played a part in Downie’s goal as the Penguins moved the puck into Minnesota’s zone. While he has been fun to watch this preseason, just wait until he’s playing with the best roster (read: Crosby, Malkin) that this team has to offer.

Andrew Ebbett – Ebbett is a journeyman, fringe NHLer. Don’t mistake that for not being valuable though. He had a very solid game against Minnesota, playing especially well on the PK and in the defensive zone. I marked him down for a takeaway, a pass interception, a forced turnover, and two broken up plays defensively without making a mistake on the night. I don’t know if he necessarily makes the roster, but he will be valuable at some point as injuries generally terrorize this team.

Daniel Carcillo – Carcillo’s preseason debut was generally a wash overall. He intercepted a couple of passes, passed the puck away a couple of times, and had a couple of failed clearing attempts. On the very-plus side, he drew a penalty for being himself, which is to say he jabbed Bickel and then refused to drop the gloves after Bickel threw his to the ground. I personally don’t see much of a need for him on the NHL team, but it would be nice to sign him to an AHL deal if possible.

Oskar Sundqvist – Sundqvist had a rough game with the puck, turning it over twice in the offensive zone (both of which led to rushes and good chances for the Wild) and also failing to clear it from the defensive zone once. I also marked him down for being partially at fault for the second goal against because he followed a player (who was skating into the coverage of two Penguins) too deep into the zone, which left Parise wide open at the point. On a non-performance note, Sundqvist had a good-person moment when he went to hit a player facing the boards in the back and instead made sure to turn and get his side to make it a safer hit. It would be nice to see the Pens give him at least a few games at the NHL level over some of the other fringe veterans to see what he could do.

Defensemen/Goalies

Pre Gm 5 Defense

Brian Dumoulin – It was a pretty messy performance by the defense overall, especially in the corners of the defensive zone. Dumoulin stood out though with mistake-free hockey as he kept his game simple and took exactly what Minnesota showed. He had a takeaway, a forced turnover, and a pass interception in what was a quiet, but smart night. With Bortuzzo’s injury opening up a potential spot, Dumoulin may have just given himself an edge in the defensive competition.

Taylor Chorney – While Chorney’s play has been a pleasant surprise so far this preseason, there wasn’t much that went right for him against the Wild. He still showed his willingness to throw the puck to the net, but that was tarnished by a couple of misses. It was also tarnished with a bad turnover in the offensive zone and also a giveaway in the neutral zone. To top it all off, he was partially at fault for both goals that got past Zatkoff. On the first one that beat Zatkoff, Chorney ended up deflecting the puck. On the second one, Chorney committed the turnover that kept the puck in the zone and eventually led to the goal. After a strong start, it’s back down to Earth for him.

Thomas Greiss – In his final test for the backup goalie spot, Greiss played very well, just like he has all preseason. He only allowed one goal, which was a redirect in front while the Penguins were on the PK. He finished with 8 saves on 9 shots, including a couple of nice saves from the slot. Greiss has been calm and steady in all of his appearances.

It's safe to say Greiss earned his spot. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP Photo)

It’s safe to say Greiss earned his spot. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP Photo)

Jeff Zatkoff – Zatkoff came away with a couple of flashier saves than Greiss in his half of the game, but he made a couple more mistakes too. He had two nice PK saves and a nice rebound save from the slot midway through the 3rd period to help his cause. However, he had a giveaway when he played the puck behind the net and also looked foolish on the 3rd goal against when he overplayed Pominville’s position in the corner, allowing Pominville to take the puck behind the net for a wrap-around goal as Zatkoff couldn’t stretch from post-to-post to cover it. It’s very likely that Zatkoff will get sent down and he will have to clear waivers. He may sneak through though; there are plenty of teams covered at goalie (or that think they’re covered at goalie).

Misc. Thoughts

Roster/Injury Updates – Not an injury, but Sidney Crosby missed this game due to the logistics of going to his grandmother’s funeral. One would assume he plays on Wednesday, but we have been teased by the “official lineups” before. Robert Bortuzzo will be out for roughly a month, which makes the defensive competition a lot more interesting. Despite the opening, Philip Samuelsson was sent down and we will find out if he clears waivers on Tuesday. P-L L-Leblond was also sent down and has to clear waivers. Finally, no one knows what Evgeni Malkin is doing aside from not skating. The timeframe is getting a little weird, don’t ya think?

UPDATE: Both Samuelsson and Leblond cleared waivers and will head to WBS.

One day, this man will look up and see Evgeni Malkin to pass to.  One day... (Ann Heisenfelt/AP Photo)

One day, this man will look up and see Evgeni Malkin to pass to. One day… (Ann Heisenfelt/AP Photo)

Return of Dupuis – Pascal Dupuis played in his first game since December and looked completely healthy in 16:28 of ice time. His skating was quick and smooth, he forechecked like normal, and he didn’t look like he was holding back or hesitating at all. He had 4 shots and a block to go along with two penalties (one careless and one bad call) on the night. Overall, it was a solid return for Dupuis and he showed no reason to think he won’t return to his previous form.

Penalty Kill, Part 2 – Yet again, the Penguins let up a powerplay goal. This was a nice one by Minnesota as they won a race to a deflected puck, moved it around the perimeter, and took a shot from the outside as Parise streaked in front of the crease for the redirect. All passing lanes were covered, Ehrhoff covered Parise and lifted his stick, but Parise still managed to get a piece of it. It was just a nice goal by the Wild. There are still no systematic flaws that I see.

Dump-Ins, Stretch Passes, Bylsma Terms – With the all-star broadcasting crew at Root Sports (you can decide what tone to read that in), the general disdain for Dan Bylsma, and the enthusiasm for a new coach, everyone is quick to make fun of the previous regime’s “key terms.” Just to temper the crowd a bit, remember that not all dump-ins are bad, not all stretch passes are bad, not all [anything the Penguins did in the past several years] is bad. Everything can work in moderation and with the right reads. The best part of Johnston’s system so far is that he wants players to read the play and decide rather than look for a specific thing. Ehrhoff made a fantastic stretch pass to Patric Hornqvist at the blue line in this game. The nice thing is – he won’t be looking for that all the time but he feels comfortable doing it when it’s there. The same goes for dump-ins depending on the positioning of players, everyone’s speed, and everyone’s energy level. Don’t throw these things away. They are useful still, just in the appropriate situations.

Any Concerns? – So far this preseason, there has only been one trend that has bothered me in how the Penguins are playing. It appears that opposing forwards are skating along the perimeter, going behind the goal line, and then passing the puck out towards the faceoff dots for one-timer opportunities. Think of the Brian Gibbons goal to a degree except 5-on-5 situations instead. Many of the Penguins (often a forward) have been slow to cover their man or put their stick in the right area to block off these passes and the opponents are getting these shots off easily. Luckily, the goalies have been up to the task and there have also been a seemingly-high percentage of missed shots on these chances. When it’s no longer preseason and full NHL lineups are in play, hopefully the Penguins cut off these opportunities. It’s something I’ll be looking for moving forward.

Preseason Finale: Wednesday, 10/1 @ Detroit, 7:30pm

Thanks for reading!!