Thoughts: Game 25 – Penguins vs Maple Leafs

Pens 5 Maple Leafs 4 (SO)

Neal (16) from Niskanen, Letang
Crosby (12) from Letang, Bennett
Martin (5) from Neal, Malkin
Dupuis (9) from Martin, Orpik
(Neal and Crosby in the shootout)

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  • The Pens had 41 shots, 13 missed shots, and 23 of their shots blocked
  • James Neal led the team with 7 shots, followed by Pascal Dupuis with 6
  • Dupuis also had 4 missed shots
  • Kris Letang had 5 recorded giveaways, followed by Malkin, Crosby, and Bennett with 2 each
  • Matt Niskanen, Tanner Glass, and Deryk Engelland each had 5 hits
  • No one had a winning faceoff record (Sutter was the worst at 4/14)
  • Letang led the team with 30:23 of ice time and Glass had the least amount of time with 7:25

The Good

Beau Bennett James Neal

Beau Bennett creates havoc in front of the net for Neal to shoot through. (Claus Andesen/Getty Images)

Beau Bennett: Bennett continues to do exactly what he needs to do to help the second line. His most impressive attribute against the Leafs was his ability, and willingness, to crash the crease and drive to the net. He also continues to play well in the defensive end, where he started the breakout that led to Crosby’s goal. As he continues to get 14-15 minutes a night with the 2nd line, the only question is will this style wear him down too quickly in his first pro season.

Sidney Crosby: He had a rough start in the first 10 minutes or so with a couple of bad giveaways, but turned his game up for the Hockey Night in Canada crowd with impressive tenacity and puck possession. Sid really showed off his game as the most talented grinder in the league with his work behind the net and in the corners of the offensive zone. He continues to fuel the most dominant line on the team by far with Kunitz and Dupuis as they spent a majority of their shifts completely in the offensive zone.

Deryk Engelland: Credit where credit is due, after back to back dismal games, Engelland played a very poised game and looked very strong next to Simon Despres. The two players read each other quite well and Engelland looked very comfortable getting to his physical game (5 hits) and staying in proper position (3 blocks) with Despres helping him out. Much like how Orpik plays quite differently based on pairing, the same might be said for Engelland and using him with Despres.

Simon Despres: Despres only played 12:20 but was much more visible on the ice in a good way. He was smart with his passes and did an incredible job of shedding hits and forecheckers while he had the puck in the defensive zone. He didn’t attack the Maple Leafs physically, but he was great on puck retrieval and used his frame to shield the puck at all times. It looks like his instinct is catching up to NHL speed now.


Kris Letang: Letang had a recorded 5 giveaways (more than I’ve ever seen on the stat sheet) but didn’t play a horrible game by any means. He was a key cog in the offense, often acting as the 3rd man into the zone instead of the 4th. Letang had 2 assists, 4 shots, and 2 blocked shots in over 30 minutes of ice time. One day, I would love to see him pull it back offensively and give Niskanen more support on defense, especially with the way the Penguins are trending on defense. I don’t expect that to happen any time soon though.

The Bad

Brooks Orpik: Orpik’s lack of physicality, especially on the PK, is getting to the point of frustrating beyond belief. His even strength positioning has been solid and I applaud him for not taking chances and leaping for hits, but it’s not working on the PK. The past two games, he has let a man just stand on the crease to do whatever he wants. Even worse in this game, he was so far away from JVR on the crease that he couldn’t even get a stick on him when the puck went towards the net. Orpik has pretty much been standing in useless positions on the PK and that’s something either he needs to adjust or the coaches need to fix.

Tannger Glass Maple Leafs

Tanner Glass waits for a rebound off of Reimer. (Claus Andesen/Getty Images)

Matt Niskanen: Though he racked up 3 blocks and 5 hits, Niskanen hasn’t looked quite right lately. He still appears to be leaning on a more physical game but is struggling with positioning and decision making. There also seems to be a real lack of communication when he’s on the ice, no matter who it is with (we’ve seen recent mistakes when he has been around the crease with Martin, Letang, and Crosby). It doesn’t appear that he’s able to safely predict what his defense is going to do around him right now.

4th Line: The 4th line as a whole needs to either add more or subtract less from the game. They were on for another goal against but were generally not noticeable in the offensive zone. The forecheck takes a severe dip when Jeffrey is in for Vitale, and if the line can’t keep the puck out of the net in the defensive end, then Jeffrey doesn’t really belong in the lineup on the 4th line. No matter how it’s calculated, the 4th line simply isn’t earning their keep right now.

Misc. Thoughts

Penalty Kill: As discussed with Orpik, the Penguins aren’t doing anything with the man on the crease anymore. This is a reversion to the first 2 weeks of the season in many ways. Over the first 2 weeks, the Pens lacked aggressiveness, didn’t pressure guys at the point, and didn’t put bodies on guys on the crease. After the Isles loss, all of those things and the PK improved temporarily. The team has fallen back to the old way though and is getting burned every game for it. The forwards need to be more aggressive and the defensemen need to actually put a body on the guys on the crease. They are not helping their goalies at all.  Also, why on earth was Tanner Glass taking a faceoff on the penalty kill?  That’s the equivalent of telling Toronto they can start with the puck.

Trade Needs: Building off of the previous note, forget the “need” for a winger. The Penguins top needs right now appear to be a depth forward (3rd or 4th line winger that can help those lines create more in the offensive zone), a PK specialist (ideally a faceoff guy that can play a lot of PK time), and a big, crease-clearing defenseman. I have no expectation that all of these needs will be filled at the trade deadline, but hopefully those are the things Shero is looking for. At this point, it looks like it would be best to trade Bortuzzo since he just doesn’t fit into the lineup anymore.

Check out the goal assessment at CrosbyFTW.