Thoughts: Game 28 – Penguins vs Maple Leafs

Pens 3 Maple Leafs 1

Dupuis (12) from Crosby, Kunitz
Dupuis (13) from Kunitz, Crosby
Adams (3) (SH) (EN)

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  • Pascal Dupuis led the team with 7 shots (and 3 misses)
  • Paul Martin had 3 blocked shots
  • Brooks Orpik had all 3 of the team’s penalties
  • Beau Bennett had 2 takeaways
  • Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby had 2 giveaways each
  • Joe Vitale only took 8 shifts for 5:58

The Good

Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz

The first line continues to show no sign of slowing down. (Graig Abel/Getty Images)

First Line: For the sake of brevity, it’s time to condense Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis into one heading that will seemingly always be in this section. Dupuis led the way with a team-high 7 shots, 2 goals, and he crossed the 20 minute mark for ice time. Kunitz added in his usual strong forecheck and assisted on both Dupuis goals. Crosby went 16 for 27 on faceoffs and assisted on both goals as well, including a downright absurd backhanded spin pass to Dupuis for the tying goal. All 3 players made their mark in the defensive end as well, highlighted by Crosby’s pass breakup in front of Fleury that turned into an assist on the game-winning goal seconds later. In my notes, Dupuis and Kunitz actually had more positives in the defensive end than offensive end despite the 2 goals for the line.

Craig Adams: While the 4th line continues to struggle, Adams had the strongest game we have seen from him in a while. Most of his good work came on the penalty kill and he finished with a shorthanded goal, 2 blocked shots, and 3 hits in just 10 minutes of ice time. He was very aggressive at the points on the penalty kill and that helped him get in the way of shots and passes much more than usual.

Marc-Andre Fleury: MAF stopped 28 of 29 shots and made several key saves on point-blank chances and a breakaway to keep the Penguins in the game. He challenged Toronto shooters well and really gave them very little net to look at all game. He was also one of the reasons that the penalty kill looked better as well.

Simon Despres: Against Toronto, Despres demonstrated in 7 or 8 different ways why he should be in the lineup every single game. He showed solid defensive awareness in covering for Letang on multiple odd man breaks and broken plays. It also looks like he has learned when to step up for a hit and when to back away and use a poke check – he made the right decision every chance he had. Finally, towards the end of the game he showed strong offensive prowess in his ability to keep the puck in at the blue line and distribute it. He played over 18 minutes, so it’s clear Bylsma realizes how much Despres is improving as well…(or are they putting him on display?)


Kris Letang: This might just be Kris Letang’s section forever at this point. Whenever I do my positives and negatives through the game, Letang usually ends up with roughly an equal amount or one mark in either direction. In the Toronto game, he showed off a great poke check, a strong PK presence, and of course solid puck movement in the offensive zone. On the negative side, he did get caught behind the play coming back into the defensive zone 3 times (covered for very well by Despres, Dupuis, and Kunitz though), and he did give the puck away on the powerplay with a forced pass. It was pretty much the typical Letang game minus the points.

Tyler Kennedy: In trying to describe a sequence Kennedy went through where he backchecked, forechecked, and then made a bad puck decision, I wrote down “great effort, bad execution.” In retrospect, that is TK’s season right now. The effort is there; he’s making some great defensive plays, looks better with the puck in the neutral zone, and is in the right places. However, his passes, shots, and decisions regarding where to take the puck have been suspect at best. His recent takeaways have really given me the firm belief that he would be a great fit and boost on the 4th line once Malkin returns.

The Bad

Brooks Orpik Maple Leafs

Orpik skates away from yet another goal against. (Chris Young/AP Photo)

Brooks Orpik: Orpik’s visor experiment went well…if you’re assessing it by his lack of eye injuries and not his play. He took all 3 of the Penguins penalties (and the PK went 3 for 3 with him off the ice…). His overall play wasn’t bad, but the penalties were enough to put him in this section. One has to wonder if Orpik is starting to wear down like he did late last season. He’s not one to take maintenance days usually and his play has fallen off in recent weeks. Is Orpik hitting the point where he just needs a day or game off here and there to keep him fresh?

Misc. Thoughts

Penalty Kill: Hooray for a perfect penalty kill! Orpik was not on the PK though since he was always in the box, so that has to make everyone think a little bit. Overall the PK was much more aggressive and the defense collapsed on the crease very quickly. The unit as a whole was much quicker to get to loose pucks as well and there were very few failed clears. We need to see this type of success this weekend before it’s time to get hopeful, but that was a good step in the right direction. One question though – why was Tanner Glass in for another faceoff??

4th Line: The 4th line seems to get worse and worse. At the start of the season, they were great on the forecheck, created momentum, but couldn’t score. Midway through, they were average, not creating but not hurting the team either. Now, they get stuck in their own zone for extended periods of time, usually against top lines. The way this is trending, goals against will start flowing in pretty quickly. This might be my biggest concern on the team right now.

View from the Other Side: Half of my miscellaneous notes from this game talk about how amazing Toronto played. They were phenomenal in taking away passing lanes, blocking shots, and stifling the Penguins in the offensive zone. They played 52 minutes of almost perfect hockey against the Penguins, but couldn’t hold on in the final 8 as they lost 3-1. Ben Scrivens also had a great game in net. My take away from that game is Toronto can be very impressive as a smart, disciplined team. The potential is there and that makes them a scary match up at any point.

Get the full Goal Assessment at CrosbyFTW.