Thoughts: Game 23 – Penguins vs. Lightning

Published on March 5th, 2013

Main Storylines:

  • Marc-Andre Fleury is back in net after Vokoun started Saturday
  • Paul Martin is still out with a lower-body injury
  • Evgeni Malkin is returning to the lineup after missing 4 games with a concussion
  • Zach Boychuk has been placed on waivers and Beau Bennett was sent down to WBS

Pens 4  Lightning 3

Goals:

Kunitz (12) from Crosby
Malkin (5) unassisted
Crosby (11) from Letang
Neal (14) from Malkin, Letang

TPN RecapESPN Recap |

Stats
  • Evgeni Malkin led the team with 5 shots
  • Brooks Orpik led the team with 4 blocks (Eaton was 2nd with 3)
  • Joe Vitale only played 8 shifts for 6:49
  • Kris Letang led the team with 28:19 of ice time, over 5 minutes more than the next player (Orpik – 22:53)
  • Brandon Sutter was a dismal 5 for 18 on faceoffs

The Good

Chris Kunitz: It’s hard to suggest that anyone on this team is doing more with his talent than Chris Kunitz right now. He now has goals in 4 straight games and is doing all of the little things right when it comes to forechecking, puck support, and getting shots on net. He even had a blocked shot against Tampa Bay. Is anyone’s value more understated right now?

Evgeni Malkin Lightning

Malkin sidesteps through 2 defensemen during his highlight reel goal. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Evgeni Malkin: Concussion? What concussion? Malkin came out with his ears pinned back and showed great speed, aggressiveness, and desire on every shift. He read the play beautifully all night, causing numerous neutral zone and offensive zone takeaways, one of which resulted in his exclamation point goal. More than anything, Malkin demonstrated focus beyond anything we have seen this season for a full 60 minutes. No matter what his previous offensive outputs have been, this was his best all-around game of the year.

Sidney Crosby: Crosby welcomed Geno back by elevating his own play as well. Aside from a couple of powerplay issues, Sid looked very creative and took the simple (and smart) option most of the time with the puck. It led him to a 2 point night as he kept first in the scoring race from Stamkos. The biggest plus from Sid’s game – a huge drop in errant passes and giveaways from forced passes.

Marc-Andre Fleury: Fleury made sure the Pens were still in the game in the 2nd period when they had no right to be. He made several spectacular saves on defensive lapses and finished with 26 saves on 29 shots. His stats don’t reflect it, but Fleury played a very strong game. It was also another game without letting up a bad goal.

Simon Despres: Despres quietly put together a very solid game, maybe his best all-around of the season as well. He recorded a blocked shot, 3 hits, and a takeaway and was pretty much in the right position all night. He had no problem with puck-handling, stepped up at the right times, and just kept his game simple and smart. He also made 2 outstanding stretch passes to break out of the zone. Despres can’t sit at this point.

Noteworthy

Kris Letang: My favorite defensive whipping boy proved he is still very solid in the offensive zone. His decision to take Crosby’s pass behind the net and just wait patiently before feeding the puck back over was perfectly played. He also had several good keeps at the blue line and looked much more confident with the puck in the offensive zone than last week. However, he had 2 awful turnovers in the defensive zone and also got caught in the offensive zone on rushes the other way twice. You have to take the good with the bad with Letang, but I would be in a murderous rage as his defensive partner night in and night out.

The Bad

Deryk Engelland fight

Engelland should be fighting for a lineup spot too with his play. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Deryk Engelland: Engelland generally had a rough night as he picked on smaller players. I will give him props for going to the box with St. Louis because that is a fantastic tradeoff for the Pens. His fight was ill-advised, even if he was being challenged, because Malkin’s line was entering the zone on the rush. Luckily, a goal was scored just after anyways. Beyond that, he shared the blame on both 2nd period goals against. He failed to slide to Stamkos (how do you fail to slide to Stamkos) on the 1st goal and he couldn’t keep up with Palat on the 2nd one. It was just a forgettable game for Engelland in general.

Matt Niskanen: Niskanen seems to have taken a step back lately. I had him marked down for 2 failed clears, a giveaway, and of course his interference penalty. He also had trouble with the puck on the powerplay as he failed to enter the zone (but so did everyone else). First month Niskanen was very strong on the puck and positionally sound. Now he looks like a big hitter who is struggling with other facets of his game. Come back, first month Niskanen.

Misc. Thoughts

Roster Moves: Zach Boychuk was placed on waivers to eventually create room for Malkin, but Beau Bennett was sent down to immediately create room for Malkin in the Tampa game. Once Boychuk is claimed (it’s expected at least Carolina placed a claim), Bennett should have room to come back up. Do we want him back up though? I would like to see Bennett in the top 6, but I don’t believe he’ll get a spot there. I don’t mind seeing him on the 3rd line because he is smart and can still learn from that position. I do have an issue if he’s ever a healthy scratch due to roster size, not because of bad play. He should be in the AHL if he’s going to be a healthy scratch.

Discipline: I’m not sure anything about the team made me happier last night than seeing how disciplined they were. Aside from one minor penalty, the Pens did not take bad penalties retaliating, instigating, or generally being stupid. Even when Lecavalier and St. Louis were getting under the skin of some players, nothing came of it. That is a great sign going into Philly and the Pens better hold on to that demeanor.

Mark Eaton: I have to give all the credit in the world to Mark Eaton. I hated the signing because it would force younger defensemen out of the lineup, but he looks like he belongs. He played smart, not doing anything incredibly noticeable, but not doing anything wrong either. It’s hard to not want that in your lineup. Touche Bylsma and Shero, I bow down to your move.

Tyler Kennedy: TK played a better game than usual and put on a good forecheck, even stealing the puck deep in the zone. He ALMOST had a goal as the puck just sat on the goal line, but that is TK’s life right now – a bunch of almosts. The problem is – does he add more than Bennett? My vote would be no, not even due to offensive potential, but Bennett has better overall awareness on the ice. That being said, I would actually put TK in the lineup and probably scratch Glass instead for a game. Ideally in this situation, I would take the bottom 4 or 5 forwards and just sit whoever plays the worst after every game (unless everyone plays great).  I’m sure it would be TK on most nights, but not after this one at least.

Random: Is there anyone that stick checks the puck into the offensive zone and/or to negate icing quite like Chris Kunitz? It’s a part of his game no one speaks about, but he is seriously amazing with those one handed stick checks to keep the puck moving forward. | For a brief moment, we saw Tampa fall into a perfectly placed 1-3-1 while the Pens sat in their own zone for a few seconds. The Pens had no problem breaking through it though with dump ins that were stick checked to negate icing. | I don’t understand how the Consol crowd boos Stamkos so much. The kid is smart, respectful, and fun to watch. I was a little bit in awe of getting to see Crosby, Malkin, and Stamkos all score in this game.

For the full goal assessment, visit CrosbyFTW.

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