Thoughts: Game 46 – Penguins @ Oilers

Published on January 11th, 2014

Oilers 4  Penguins 3 (OT)

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Goals
Neal (17) from Malkin
Crosby (25) from Gibbons, Niskanen
Letang (8) (PP) from Crosby

Goal Assessment

First Goal For (Neal)
Sidney Crosby dumps the puck into the Edmonton zone with Evgeni Malkin roughly 15 feet offside. Malkin goes back to tag up as Devan Dubnyk stops the puck behind the net. Dubnyk passes the puck to Jeff Petry, who starts to skate the puck up ice but turns away as Malkin comes in on the forecheck. Malkin follows Petry behind the net and pokes the puck away from him, taking it away. Malkin passes the puck to Jokinen at the outside edge of the right faceoff circle, but then Jokinen weakly throws it behind the net directly to Petry. Malkin again steps up on Petry and takes the puck from him, then passes the puck to himself off of the back of the net as Petry loses his positioning. Finally, Malkin makes a little backhand pass to James Neal, who is skating down to the bottom of the left faceoff circle and one-times the puck over Dubnyk’s glove.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Malkin (53), Neal (40)

Second Goal For (Crosby)
In a scramble for the puck behind the Penguins net, Matt Niskanen gets the puck and throws it up the boards. Brian Gibbons races to the puck as Andrew Ference tries to pinch in to stop it from clearing the zone. Gibbons gets to the puck just before Ference does and he pokes the puck past Ference, who gets caught flat-footed in the zone. Gibbons picks up the puck in the neutral zone and skates it up the right side boards, entering the offensive zone on a 3-on-2 with Kunitz at his left and Crosby behind him. Gibbons drops the puck off to Crosby trailing him as Kunitz skates towards the net. Crosby gets to the top of the right faceoff circle and attempts a pass to Kunitz across the slot. Sam Gagner blocks the pass though with his right skate and ends up redirecting the puck through Dubnyk’s five hole into the net.
Players contributing to the second goal for: Niskanen (30), Gibbons (7), Kunitz (64), Crosby (75)

 

First Goal Against (Nugent-Hopkins)
Evgeni Malkin is in the penalty box for his interference penalty. The Oilers dump the puck into the Penguins zone and Craig Adams chases the puck down. Adams weakly backhands the puck up the right side boards, receiving no clearing help from Brooks Orpik, and Jordan Eberle gets the puck next to the right faceoff circle. Eberle passes the puck back to the right point for Justin Schultz as the Oilers establish possession and set up their powerplay. Schultz passes the puck to Taylor Hall at the outside edge of the left faceoff circle. Hall then passes the puck across the middle of the zone towards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the right faceoff circle. Nugent-Hopkins tests a lane to the net, but is stood up by Orpik, so he passes the puck back to Schultz at the right point. Schultz moves the puck along to Eberle at the left faceoff dot. Eberle takes a stride towards the net, causing everyone to forget about Nugent-Hopkins at the right faceoff circle. Brandon Sutter is caught too high because he chased Schultz too far to the blue line. Meanwhile, Orpik is caught too low as he closed the gap on Taylor Hall at the crease. Eberle proceeds to pass the puck across the middle of the ice to Nugent-Hopkins at the right faceoff circle. Nugent-Hopkins has the time and space to glide in and just pick his spot as he wrists the puck past Zatkoff’s blocker through a screen of Hall and Orpik.
Players at fault for the first goal against: Malkin (15), Orpik (18), Sutter (7)

Second Goal Against (Hall)
Deryk Engelland can’t control a stretch pass as he skates into the offensive zone and he loses the puck to Justin Schultz, who pokes it back into the neutral zone. Taylor Hall picks up the loose puck and skates it down the right side boards with Craig Adams backchecking on him hard. Hall gets the puck into the Penguins zone and passes it to Sam Gagner just a couple of feet to his left. Gagner pulls in front of Hall to the right side as Hall heads towards the net, pulling Adams with him. Meanwhile, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins enters the zone from the middle of the ice and cuts to the right to follow both players up. As Gagner takes the puck into the right corner, he passes the puck up to Nugent-Hopkins uncovered at the top of the right faceoff circle. Adams releases on Hall and Orpik leaves the slot area to try to step up on Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins skates the puck down to the right faceoff dot and tries to take a shot, which goes off of both Orpik’s stick, then the stick of Adams, as it gets deflected to the front of the crease. Since both players left Hall/the slot/the crease, Hall is left there wide open to grab the loose puck and swing it around Zatkoff’s right pad into the net.
Players at fault for the second goal against: Engelland (12), Orpik (19), Adams (9)

Third Goal For (Letang)
On a 4-on-3 powerplay, Sidney Crosby wins a faceoff in the offensive zone at the left faceoff dot. Kris Letang, who starts off at the edge of the faceoff circle, skates in to pick up the puck and continues towards the middle of the ice as he stares down Evgeni Malkin for a one-timer. Instead of making the pass to Malkin, Letang quickly throws a wrist shot at the net before he even looks up. Letang’s wrister catches Dubnyk cheating towards the potential of Malkin’s shot and easily beats him past his blocker.
Players contributing to the third goal for: Malkin (54), Crosby (76), Letang (22)

Third Goal Against (Belov)
After a Penguins dump-in, both teams change lines and Justin Schultz picks up the puck behind his own net. Schultz passes the puck along to David Perron in the Oilers zone and Perron skates it up to center ice before passing it to the left for Mark Arcobello in the neutral zone. Arcobello skates into the Penguins zone along the left side boards and takes a weak backhand shot when he reaches the outside of the left faceoff circle. Though the shot is not on net, Zatkoff blockers the puck to the back boards, where Scuderi and Hemsky chase it down. Despite getting behind the net with a step on Hemsky, Scuderi loses a couple of steps and positioning on Hemsky, who emerges with the puck skating into the right corner of the zone. As Hemsky starts up the right side boards, Chris Kunitz slides down to help. Hemsky then passes the puck up the right side boards. The puck gets past Kunitz and makes it to Anton Belov, who is now wide open at the point since Kunitz slid down so far. Belov takes the puck towards the middle of the blue line and takes a wrist shot. Zatkoff is caught leaning to his left and can’t seem to find the puck on its way to the net as it beats his blocker before he can react.
Players at fault for the third goal against: Scuderi (10), Kunitz (11), Zatkoff (5)

 

Fourth Goal Against (Nugent-Hopkins)
Brandon Sutter is in the penalty box for slashing and the powerplay is a 4-on-3 since it’s in overtime. Taylor Hall takes a slapshot from above the right faceoff circle in the Penguins zone and Zatkoff makes a save that produces a rebound. The rebound bounces out directly to Craig Adams in the slot. Adams partially fans on a clearing attempt, allowing Hall to keep the puck in the zone. The puck bounces off of Hall’s stick to Justin Schultz at the left point. Schultz passes the puck down to the left faceoff dot for Jordan Eberle. Eberle holds the puck as Orpik places his stick down to block the passing lane across the slot, but Eberle makes a saucer pass over Orpik’s stick to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the back side of the crease. Nugent-Hopkins immediately one-times the puck past Zatkoff before he can get post to post.
Players at fault for the fourth goal against: Sutter (8), Adams (10)

Penalty Assessment

Pyatt (hooking): Bad, is skating towards the crease in the offensive zone for a rebound and pulls his stick up into Yakupov’s midsection to tie him up at the puck.
Letang (contact with the head): Bad, skates back to the defensive zone to knock Arcobello off the puck while the Penguins are on the powerplay. Lifts himself into the hit a little too much and appears to make initial contact between his glove and Arcobello’s head.
Malkin (interference): Bad-Stupid, knocks Dubnyk’s stick further away from him on the powerplay with a ref standing three feet away from him.
Malkin (roughing): Inconsequential, got into a shoving match with Dubnyk after the stick incident and they both received two minutes for roughing.
Neal (unsportsmanlike conduct-diving): Bad Call, Neal gets cross-checked in the back and goes to the ground but gets called for diving for some unknown reason. However, he did slash Marincin right after the cross-check, so unsportsmanlike conduct would have been understandable, not for diving though.
Sutter (slashing): Bad-Stupid, with less than a minute left in the game, Sutter two-hands Justin Schultz’s right hand in the offensive zone and keeps him from getting his hand back on his stick to play the puck.

Player Assessment

Good
"I'm going to win the faceoff." "Okay, I'll either score or turn the puck over for a breakaway after that." (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

“I’m going to win the faceoff.”
“Okay, I’ll either score or turn the puck over for a breakaway after that.”
(Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

Sidney Crosby – Well, one guy is generally dependable in all situations and he happens to be the best player in the world (with or without a baton). Crosby had a very strong game against Edmonton, racking up a happy accident goal and earning an assist on Letang’s goal via a faceoff win. I marked him down for two neutral zone takeaways, a defensive zone pass interception, and a forced turnover in the defensive zone due to a stick lift. He also drew a hooking penalty on a rush into the offensive zone. On the downside, he had one neutral zone giveaway. It was a far cry from his usual three or four offensive zone giveaways per game as Crosby appeared to be the only Penguin who wasn’t turning the puck over.

Matt Niskanen – Niskanen quietly had a good game as all the attention went to Orpik, Scuderi, and Letang. He had two great takeaways at the defensive blue line by standing up players trying to enter the zone (Eberle and Hall), did a good job clearing the crease all night, and drew the holding penalty that led to Letang’s PP goal by patiently holding on to the puck through the neutral zone despite facing lots of pressure. On top of it all, he set the play in motion for Crosby’s goal by digging the puck out from behind his own net. The only mistake I marked down for Niskanen was a failed keep at the offensive zone blue line, barely a blemish in a very solid game.

Olli Maatta – Joining Niskanen with a strong game was his partner, Olli Maatta. This is the first time the two have put together solid games at the same time in several weeks, a huge bright spot that will be completely overlooked because of the loss. Maatta had two big shot blocks on the crease, two takeaways in the neutral zone, and looked very strong and confident with his gap coverage all night. The only mistake he made was a defensive zone turnover, which didn’t turn into a problem. Even if the team went awry elsewhere, it was great to see the 19-year-old take a big step in the right direction.

Brian Gibbons – Gibbons continues to somehow make himself worthy of the 1st line role that he basically fell into. Despite his lack of size, he gives himself great range with his speed and his poke check. He forced two turnovers (one defensive zone, one neutral zone) using that poke check and he added in his speed to take the puck to the offensive zone and set up Crosby on the first goal. He did have one offensive zone giveaway, but he seems to fit Crosby’s wing very well so far.

Noteworthy

Deryk Engelland – Engelland had an average mix of good and bad. One thing he has learned very well as a forward is how to hit opposing defensemen at the points to help clear the puck from the defensive zone. There were two instances where a Penguins defenseman made a weak clearing attempt, but Engelland used his body to help the puck leave the zone. The downside to his game, not so surprisingly, is his puck skills. He had a giveaway in the neutral zone and he couldn’t handle Letang’s stretch pass, which turned into a turnover and a goal against. He has made good strides as a forward and has been useful, but he’s still Deryk Engelland.

Malkin was great with the puck...not so smart without it. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

Malkin was great with the puck…not so smart without it. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

Evgeni Malkin – Malkin was part flashes of brilliance and part flashes of stupidity. He actually had a very strong game, but the stupidity knocks him down to this section. I marked him down for four takeaways (two offensive zone, two defensive zone), a forced turnover in the offensive zone, a neutral zone pass interception, an assist on Neal’s goal, and helping out on Letang’s goal by being enough of a threat that Dubnyk cheated towards him. There was a lot of good in Malkin’s game and he forced seemingly half of the turnovers that Edmonton had. However, he also had two neutral zone giveaways and a defensive zone giveaway to even out his puck management stats a bit. Finally, there’s the stupid part. Malkin ended up in the penalty box for four minutes (two for interference, two for roughing) because of a childish decision to knock Dubnyk’s stick away with the ref basically standing right next to him…while the Penguins were on a powerplay. It was unnecessary on several levels, cost the Penguins a powerplay, cost the Penguins having Malkin on the ice for almost four minutes, and then led to a goal as the Oilers scored on their powerplay. It’s only one incident, but that’s the type of incident that you see and question how much more the Penguins still need to grow up after their last few playoff exits.

 

Kris Letang – Letang faced a lot of criticism for this game and I don’t believe it was completely warranted. It was his usual mix of good and bad. He forced two turnovers in the defensive zone (one by hit, one by poke check), recovered very nicely on an almost-breakaway to prevent a scoring chance, and scored a nice goal on a brilliant look-off to Geno. Of course he had his faults – he gave the puck away three times (one defensive zone, two neutral zone) and also took a penalty while the Penguins were on the powerplay for illegal contact to the head. All in all though, Letang played decently.

Bad

Craig Adams – Adams has been trending down over the past few weeks and it certainly hit rock bottom against Edmonton. He had a defensive zone giveaway and three failed clearing attempts, two of which occurred on the penalty kill, both of which led to eventual goals by Nugent-Hopkins. Adams hasn’t played great 5-on-5 recently, but that was easy to overlook with some very strong penalty killing work. Once that shoe dropped, Adams became fair game for every criticism ever. It may be tough to admit, but Adams doesn’t produce anything to warrant defending him if he makes mistakes, and he’s making too many mistakes right now.

 

Orpik went for a hit and found himself in another arena. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

Orpik went for a hit and found himself in another arena. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

Brooks Orpik – Orpik hasn’t looked quite the same since returning from a concussion and he looked further off than usual against Edmonton. One of the most troubling things I noticed about his overall play was he began lunging for hits again like we saw two years ago before he improved his positioning drastically. I noted three missed hits that allowed the Oilers to have possession in the Penguins zone. He also had a defensive zone giveaway and communicated very poorly with Adams on two of the Oilers’ goals. On the plus side, he did break up a 2-on-1 and forced two turnovers, but the goals against weigh too heavily against him.

Misc. Thoughts

Other Player Notes – Brandon Sutter had an uncharacteristically bad game for the first time in a very long time. He drifted a little too much on the first PP goal against and took a surprisingly mindless penalty at the end of regulation. Taylor Pyatt took a bad penalty but improved as the game went on. It was probably his best game as a Penguin, but he still doesn’t provide more than say, Zach Sill. Chris Kunitz had a bad game turnover wise, giving the puck away twice in the defensive zone and once in the neutral zone. Finally, Jeff Zatkoff had an iffy game, allowing a very weak 3rd goal.

Defensive Lapses – The Penguins are finding new ways to make games interesting at an alarming rate, and most of those lapses are coming in the third period. Whether it’s through penalties, turnovers, or missed coverages, the Penguins are not sticking to their game plan in the third period at all. At first they seem to back off, then they seem to try and free wheel as the opposition does the same thing out of necessity. Then the opposition catches them playing extremely risky hockey. The Penguins don’t need to play high-risk hockey to win. In fact, with this much talent, they can take no risks and probably win most games. That idea is going to have to sink in at some point when this team is completely healthy if they want to reach their potential. Their abilities continue to blind them.

 

4-on-3 PK – I will freely admit this is second guessing, but that’s what postgame thoughts are for, right? I don’t even plan on just second guessing Dan Bylsma here either. The way the NHL has evolved over the past few decades is to have very specific PKers rather than just your best players doing everything. It makes sense; teams save their best players for situations where they can score. On a 4-on-3 though, that idea should go out the door for every team, not just the Penguins. The success rate on 4-on-3s is astronomical as is, so why not put your best players out there? With lots of ice to cover, you need fluid, mobile skaters moving around. The group of Glass, Adams, and Orpik is the exact opposite. I can’t blame Bylsma for using them, because why on earth would you think beforehand that you should change something that has been near the top of the NHL. Moving forward though, it’s something to learn from. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang were made for situations like that.

Scuderi’s Thoughts and PlayJosh Yohe of the Trib got some wonderful quotes from Rob Scuderi about how this team is starting to play.

“If you’re going to try and play hockey like the Harlem Globetrotters, you’re going to get burned. We continue to make the same mistakes, go for the same highlight reel plays. … That might look good on highlight reels every now and then, but it’s not a formula for winning.”

I love this quote and don’t care about it whatsoever all at once. First off, Scuderi is speaking from experience that he brought with him from LA. The Kings were not a flashy team in 2012 (or any of his 4 years there). They had a ton of talent, but that was a hard-working, grinding team that worked hard for every battle. Just think back to every time the Kings and Blues have played. The Penguins don’t win that way and they don’t want to. The Pens want to use all of their talent and show it off at all times. From that standpoint, I love that Scuderi brought a fresh perspective and called everyone out.

However, when the Penguins have faltered late in the season before, Brooks Orpik has called everyone out as well. It sounded nice, it may have even changed things for a little, but there was never a lasting effect. This won’t have a lasting effect either. It may straighten guys up for a bit, but I am confident bad habits will return. Simply put, the Penguins are so talented that they can win through bad habits, therefore they will continue winning and continue developing bad habits in the process. The AHL defense couldn’t afford to do that, so they didn’t. For all the crazy Bylsma lovers and haters in the world, this is one place where I get reasonably concerned. I question if he is strict enough to restrict these guys when they need to be slowed down.

The other reason I don’t care for this quote is because Scuderi has enough to worry about in his game right now. He has looked flat-footed and slow (losing two strides on Hemsky on the 3rd goal against despite having an angle on him at the start of the play). It’s odd to see that quote coming from a player who can’t keep up with the Harlem Globetrotters mentality. It would be much more meaningful to see a player like Letang, Malkin, or Crosby come out and say it and call themselves out at the same time (not that Crosby played poorly in any way this game).

In the end, it’s just a quote. As with all quotes, they sound wonderful but don’t matter without long-term change. I’m not betting on long-term change.

Reputations – This made me irrationally angry during the broadcast last night, so I must share it with the world. Nail Yakupov has more than his fair share of critics. Some criticism is earned for sure. But Bob Errey ripping him for a play that is more reputation-based and doesn’t speak to anything that actually happened was mind-numbing. Thanks to @TPBDerek for posting this…and you can just see the reactions that follow:

 

 

 

Just call and comment on the play that’s happening. Don’t give the general public your opinion on a play that doesn’t exist.

Pens Record: 32-12-2
Next Game: Saturday, 1/11 @ Calgary, 10pm

Thanks for reading!

Marc-Andre Fleury talks to Kelly Buchberger.  If you remember the connection, I like you. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

Marc-Andre Fleury talks to Kelly Buchberger. If you remember the connection, I like and respect you. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)