Thoughts: Game 27 – Penguins vs Bruins

Published on March 13th, 2013
Pens 3  Bruins 2

Goals
Kunitz (18) from Letang, Engelland
Sutter (7) from Neal, Bennett
Sutter (8) unassisted

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Stats

  • Kris Letang led the team with 8 shots, Pascal Dupuis was next with 5
  • Brooks Orpik had 3 blocked shots
  • Dupuis had 6 hits
  • James Neal had 2 recorded takeaways
  • Joe Vitale had the least playing time (7:42), Letang had the most (27:49)
  • Brandon Sutter was the only positive faceoff guy (9/15)

The Good

Brandon Sutter Sidney Crosby hug

Pure Emotion. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Brandon Sutter: Here is your Pittsburgh Penguins moment, BRANDON Sutter. After being robbed of a shining moment against Philly earlier this season at home, Sutter gave us a new goal to remember and then added an exclamation point to it with the game-winner just a couple of minutes later. Despite Root Sports and Paul Steigerwald ruining this one by calling him Brent at the end of the game, nothing could really tarnish Sutter’s game against the Bruins, especially in the 3rd period. After a quiet first 2 periods, Sutter made his mark late in the 3rd with a perfect shot to beat Khudobin and tie the game, a perfect pass interception to give him a 2 on 1 with Crosby, and another perfect shot, this time for the game-winner. Just as impressive, Sutter looked shot the whole way instead of even considering a forced pass to Crosby. Welcome to Pittsburgh BRANDON, it’s safe to say everyone loves you now.

Pascal Dupuis: While other players are known for their dramatic results, give Dupuis all of the praise possible for his behind the scenes action. He was dominant on both sides of the ice, making several great coverage plays in front of Fleury when the defense was out of position and throwing huge hits in the offensive zone (even toppling Chara). He finished with 5 shots, 2 blocks, and 6 hits in an unusually high 19 minutes of ice time. Duper earned every single second through hard work and dedication against the Bruins.

Chris Kunitz: Another night, another great game from Chris Kunitz. He got the Penguins on the board with yet another perfect one-timer goal and even ensured they would win with a blocked shot in the final minute. Much like Dupuis, Kunitz also played well all over the ice in terms of defensive coverage and hitting. His only blemish was a tripping penalty shortly after he had drawn a high-sticking penalty on the Bruins.

James Neal: At first glance, Neal’s best play of the game was his pass to Brandon Sutter to set up the tying goal. However, a deeper look into his game would show major adjustments and an increase in puck support after the first period. While he may not have had a steady dose of pressure in the offensive zone, Neal had a superb game in the neutral zone while recording 2 takeaways and giving the defense more puck support on breakouts. Sometimes, the best parts of his game don’t show up on the scoresheet. Tonight was one of those nights.

Mark Eaton: Slow and steady, slow and steady, slow and steady. I don’t even know how else to describe Eaton anymore. Whether it was clearing the puck, drawing a tripping penalty, or keeping the puck in the offensive zone, Eaton made all the proper decisions and executed them well in another solid performance. It makes you wonder what the Islanders were thinking when they decided he wasn’t good enough for them.

Noteworthy

Beau Bennett: Bennett faced his first “playoff-type” game (Philly games are just weird, not playoff-type) and came away with highs, lows, and some valuable lessons. In some ways, he reverted back to the player we saw in his first 2 games that couldn’t handle the puck well and looked nervous to have it. At the same time, he was solid with his positioning, deflected a couple of passes, and earned an assist on the game-tying goal. All in all, this was a very valuable game for Bennett to get immersed in, especially for when May arrives.

Kris Letang: Defensive coverage be damned, Letang was great with the puck and in the offensive zone. He recorded 8 of the team’s 34 shots, had a hit, a takeaway, and recorded ZERO giveaways. The reason he stays in this section though is still because of his defensive coverage. The Seguin goal aside, Letang’s offensive rushes often lead to potential missed assignments back on defense. See where Dupuis and Kunitz received so much praise for their defensive coverage? Every single time that I noted it, they were covering for Letang in the defensive end as he got back late. One of the most underrated things about this team’s wingers is that Letang can go all freestyle on the team and those wingers will almost always get back and cover for him. It still isn’t a trend I like to see though.

The Bad

Tyler Kennedy: TK started the game strong with a takeaway, got thrown in front of a bus for the Seguin goal, and then subsided into nothing as the game wore on. The Seguin goal wasn’t completely Kennedy’s fault (Cooke and Letang played their parts in it as well), but that’s still a play he should approach better. After that, he had trouble controlling the puck and really added nothing else. At this point, I’m really curious to see how TK would do if he was lined up next to Vitale and Adams when Malkin returns. He could provide a little bit of a talent boost to that line and it may be where he actually belongs on this team.

Misc. Thoughts

Paul Martin Bruins

Paul Martin causes chaos as he tries to drive the puck to the net. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Defense Options: The scratches as usual were eye-opening, mainly because Simon Despres was on that list. I’m not sure if Despres was scratched because of his gaffe against the Islanders, in an effort to protect him against the Bruins, or just because the team felt Engelland-Eaton was a better matchup against Boston. Regardless, I think it’s important to give Despres these types of games in the regular season rather than have him learn on the fly in the playoffs (whether it’s due to injury, necessity, etc). It was a great opportunity for Bennett; it should have been one for Despres too. Who would I have scratched? I understand Engo and Eaton in the lineup…are we that far away from having 7 defensemen dressed?

Game Adjustments: As the first period came to an end, my first thought was we recently saw the team make adjustments and succeed against Philly so maybe this one isn’t over yet (I have the tweet to prove it). Give the coaching staff and the team credit again; they pretty much controlled the game after being out-played in the first period. Puck support improved drastically, turnovers decreased, and even the faceoff numbers improved significantly. It’s an obvious statement, but this team is built around puck possession and they are dominant when that number increases. After the first period, they found ways to both get and keep the puck. The adjustments even continued through the 3rd as Sutter found himself with the top 2 lines for a reason.

Steigy Called It: Give Steigerwald credit, he was wishing, hoping, almost praying on live television for a Penguins goal to open up the flood gates as the 3rd period wore on. Once Kunitz scored, that’s exactly what happened (and he made sure you knew it). As much as I mock his broadcasts, that must have felt great after preaching it all period – good for him.  Unfortunately, the “Brent Sutter” moment ruined it shortly thereafter.

Depth Forwards: The Penguins as a team get enough production from lines 1 and 2 that they don’t need scorers on the 3rd and 4th lines. However, they do need players that can play a solid defensive game, get the puck out of the defensive zone, and put on a strong forecheck in the offensive zone. The 3rd and 4th lines have been very hit or miss in those roles and this might turn into priority #1 for the Penguins as we approach the deadline.

Crease Issues: Yet again, we watched Brooks Orpik hang out idly at the crease. This time it was as Chara’s shot whizzed past Fleury, who was screened by Bergeron, to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Seth from the PG (@emptynetters) brought up a good point about the crease argument – players can’t just bulldoze a guy in front without getting an interference penalty. While this is true, Orpik seems hesitant to even jostle with a player in front and hasn’t even attempted to lay claim to any space in that area. I would love to hear Orpik’s thoughts on whether he is doing this for a specific reason or not. Regardless, it’s not working.

Powerplay: The powerplay went 0 for 4 against the best PK in the league. Get over it.

Get the full Goal Assessment at CrosbyFTW.


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