Thoughts: Game 2 – Penguins vs Sabres

Published on October 6th, 2013

Pens 4  Sabres 1

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Goals
Crosby (2) from Dupuis, Niskanen
Kobasew (2) from Sutter, Niskanen
Kunitz (1) unassisted
Adams (2) from Martin

Goal Assessment

“Loud Noises!”
First Goal For (Crosby)
Pascal Dupuis retrieves the loose puck along the boards in the offensive zone, skates up towards the blue line and drops the puck deeper into the zone back to Sidney Crosby. Dupuis then circles back towards the high slot and Crosby passes the puck to him. Dupuis loses the puck in his skates but swats it towards the net where Crosby picks it up and takes a shot that’s saved by Enroth. Crosby recovers his own rebound and beats Enroth on his blocker side.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Dupuis (2), Crosby (2)

Not only can Kobasew score, but he also embarrasses Steve Ott. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Not only can Kobasew score, but he also embarrasses Steve Ott. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Second Goal For (Kobasew)
Matt Niskanen retrieves a loose puck in the offensive zone off of a shot block by the Sabres. As Niskanen is retrieving the puck, Brandon Sutter leaves the slot to give him a passing option at the blue line while Chuck Kobasew goes to the front of the net. Niskanen passes the puck to Sutter, who takes a one-timer. Kobasew redirects Sutter’s shot on the crease and puts the puck in between Enroth’s pad and glove on the ice.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Niskanen (3), Sutter (2), Kobasew (2)

Third Goal For (Kunitz)
Sidney Crosby corralled the puck in the defensive zone and passed it up to Chris Kunitz beyond center ice, sending him in on a breakaway. Kunitz was held by Weber on the breakaway and received a penalty shot. Kunitz scored on his penalty shot as he deked to his backhand and snuck the puck over Enroth’s pad and under his glove.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Crosby (3), Kunitz (2)

First Goal Against (Vanek)
Paul Martin fails to clear the puck off of a faceoff and it ends up on Cody Hodgson’s stick against the boards. Hodgson passes the puck towards the slot and Tomas Vanek knocks it out of mid-air past Fleury.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Martin (1)

Fourth Goal For (Adams)
Paul Martin breaks up a centering pass in the defensive zone and knocks the puck towards Craig Adams. Adams skates the puck up to the neutral zone and shoot it into an empty net.
Players contributing to the fourth goal for: Martin (1), Adams (2)

Penalty Assessment

“I’m in a glass case of emotion!”
Sutter (delay of game): Bad, had plenty of room around him and no direct pressure, but chipped the puck over the glass.
Crosby (tripping): Careless, swung his stick wildly trying to knock a puck loose and hit Porter in the skates instead.

Player Assessment

Good

“You’re so wise. You’re like a miniature Buddha, covered in hair.”
Chuck Kobasew – It’s possible that Kobasew has already earned the full value of his contract after two games with this team. The redirection goal was nice, but he deserves praise for much more than that. Kobasew was a force all over the ice. Whether it was throwing a body check, supporting the defense in the corners, or stealing the puck on offense, there was hardly a shift where Kobasew wasn’t positioned well and contributing to the team’s strong effort. All of a sudden, the Pens have more depth than we realized thanks to Kobasew.

The man even had a Pirates flag! What more do you want!?! (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

The man even had a Pirates flag! What more do you want!?! (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

“I love lamp.”
Marc-Andre Fleury – Fleury didn’t face as many tough shots as he did against New Jersey, but he still looked good while making 20 saves on 21 shots. The only shot to beat him came from Tomas Vanek batting a puck out of mid-air, certainly a worthy goal. For the second game in a row, Fleury looked very quick with his pads and did a good job of staying square to the puck when it was in close. More random thoughts on Fleury later on.

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.”
Pascal Dupuis – Dupuis had an odd start to the game as he was short-shifted so Malkin could join the Crosby line very early in the game. Dupuis followed that up with a strong shift with Bennett and Jokinen, then continued on to have a strong game overall all over the ice. Whether it was on purpose or through some luck, he set up Crosby for the first goal of the game. He also had several strong backchecking efforts, poking the puck off of Sabres forwards three times. He wasn’t able to score a goal himself despite having a couple of prime chance on the crease, but his work around the net throughout the game at least drew a penalty on Tyler Myers. It was a strong game on many levels for Dupuis.

Noteworthy
Adams is on pace to make this the highest scoring 4th line ever. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Adams is on pace to make this the highest scoring 4th line ever. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

“And you ate the whole…wheel of cheese? How’d you do that? Heck, I’m not even mad, that’s amazing.”
Fourth Line – The fourth line (Glass-Vitale-Adams) seemed to even out every good moment with a bad moment soon after. The biggest positive to their game was offensive zone time and pressure as they had several shifts where they kept the puck in Buffalo’s zone. We even saw Tanner Glass force a turnover in the offensive zone. For the good work in the offensive zone, the line negated it with several bad neutral zone and defensive zone plays. Joe Vitale turned the puck over twice in the neutral zone on one shift. Craig Adams, even with his 82 goal pace, had an uncharacteristically lazy turnover in the defensive zone. It didn’t hurt the Penguins in this one, but the 4th line can’t afford to turn the puck over as much as they did.

“Oh yeah? Well you’re about to be in…dead place.”
Brooks Orpik – Much like the 4th line, Orpik showed flashes of being perfect but then fell into shifts of getting careless. He looked especially good on the PK with a steal and subsequent clear. He also blocked 3 shots on the night. One aspect of his game that looked off at times was his positioning on the crease and his awareness of who was around him. I’m not counting the goal against, because that was just a solid play by Vanek, but in the first period Orpik lost his man in that area a couple of times. He also lost the puck once at the offensive blue line and also once at the defensive blue line. It wasn’t a bad game for Orpik, but he can be better.

Bad

None…again.

Misc Thoughts

Maatta has never heard the words "bad" and "positioning" together. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Maatta has never heard the words “bad” and “positioning” together. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Other Player Notes – Olli Maatta had a much smoother game and looks ready for his debut season instead of a debut 9-game stint. If Maatta puts together a couple more solid efforts, it may encourage Shero to trade away a defenseman for the sake of keeping Maatta in the NHL. That being said, it won’t hurt him to get sent back down. He’s ready to learn in the NHL though. After an iffy first game, Kunitz looked fine tonight. Matt Niskanen has looked great with the puck and has made all of the right decisions so far with it. Rob Scuderi clearly still knows what he’s doing in the defensive zone on odd man chances.

“Oh, uh, it’s the pleats, the pleats in the pants.”
Fleury Theories – Two random thoughts popped into my head as I watched Fleury in this game. Don’t read too much into them, but it’s something to think about and watch as the season progresses. First off, Fleury’s ability to flail his pads out has looked very impressive in the first two games. I wonder if the reduction in pad length/size has improved his ability to utilize his own quickness on the ice. Second, shallower nets don’t just give room to skaters, but also for Fleury to play the puck behind the net. If nothing else, there’s a smaller chance of him tripping over the back of the net or struggling to get back into his crease like we have seen in the past. For all I know, neither of these things makes any difference at all to MAF, but you never know.  PS – There’s no need to tell everyone his performance doesn’t matter until the playoffs. Everyone understands that. There are 80 more regular season games, try enjoying them.

Breakaway Looks – Throughout the preseason, the Penguins set up several breakaways and I assumed it was just a little bit of preseason nonsense. Through the first two games, the trend has continued and has given the team several great scoring chances. The new breakout scheme(s) have allowed defensemen to look for streaking forwards, or to look for forwards who can then set up streaking forwards instead of pushing the puck up the boards. So far the defense has made great decisions with these passes, but we’ll see how teams adjust to this trend and react to it.

“60% of the time, it works every time.”
Powerplay – The first powerplay line the Penguins sent on without Neal had Jussi Jokinen taking his place. I wasn’t a fan because it makes more sense to have a 2nd defenseman than Jokinen in my opinion – he doesn’t add nearly as much as Neal does. Luckily the coaching staff agreed and made that change towards the end of the powerplay. It’s still tough to judge the powerplay (only 2 attempts tonight, 3 on the season), but it didn’t look that great in general. There were several turnovers up high and the Penguins still seem to focus on keeping the puck near the blue line too much. Movement down low will free up the point guys up high. The Pens powerplay could learn a lesson or two from how their regular lines play.

“We need you. Hell, I need you. I’m a mess with you. I miss you so damn much. I miss being with you. I miss being *near* you. I miss your laugh!”
Injury Watch – Neal is week to week (shouldn’t have played in Game 1, that was just stupid), Letang is skating a little on his own, and D’Agostini is expected to return to practice in a couple of weeks. With this start, they can all take their time…at least until the Penguins start playing better teams.

Pens Record: 2-0
Next Game: Tuesday, 10/8 vs. Carolina, 7pm

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