Thoughts: Game 35 – Penguins vs Jets

Published on March 29th, 2013

Pens 4 Jets 0

Goals
Kunitz (20) from Crosby, Martin
Malkin (6) from Neal, Niskanen
Dupuis (16) from Kunitz, Crosby
Dupuis (17) (SH) from Vokoun

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Stats

  • Tomas Vokoun stopped 20 shots to record his 50th career shutout. He’s the 26th goalie in NHL history to reach that mark.
  • Pascal Dupuis recorded his 200th point as a Penguin. He also recorded his 8th shorthanded goal in the past 3 years, the highest tally in the NHL.
  • Dupuis led the team with 7 shots, followed by Crosby (6) and Kennedy (5). Dupuis also had 4 missed shots
  • Crosby led the team with 3 blocked shots
  • Brooks Orpik led with 5 hits
  • Both Dupuis and Chris Kunitz had 2 takeaways each
  • Vitale was the low man on ice time (9:48) but went 7/8 in faceoffs.
  • The team had 7 takeaways and 4 giveaways, a rare event with more takeaways than giveaways

The Good

Tomas Vokoun Pascal Dupuis

Vokoun and Dupuis high 5 after a dominant, 4-0 win. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Pascal Dupuis: Dupuis had 2 goals, 7 shots, 2 blocked shots, 2 takeaways, and his 200th point as a Penguin.  I would say that’s a decent game.  The first line put on an emphatic display of why they should not be broken up against the Jets.  They played in complete harmony throughout the game and then had some fun in the 3rd period as the plan was clearly to get Dupuis a hat trick if possible.  Despite all of his chances, he couldn’t get the 3rd goal, but it was one hell of a game for Dupuis.

Chris Kunitz: As we watched Dustin Byfuglien clearly create 2 Penguins goals by losing the puck or giving up on the play, Chris Kunitz provided the complete opposite game.  Most notably, with 7 minutes left in a 4-0 game, Kunitz skated hard enough in the offensive zone from the goal line to make sure the puck didn’t get cleared across the blue line.  Seconds later, after the puck was cleared by the Jets, Kunitz laid a monster hit in the neutral zone to turn the puck over and head back into the offensive zone.  The amount of effort he puts into every situation regardless of the score is absurd.  He also had a 2 point night, scoring on a perfectly placed shot in the 1st period, and added 2 takeaways as well.

Sidney Crosby: It says a lot when the leading scorer in the NHL is also leading his team in blocked shots for the night.  Crosby was back to his magnificent self all over the ice, setting up Kunitz with a perfect blind pass on the 1st goal and recording 6 shots of his own.  Most importantly for Crosby, he recorded no giveaways in the NHL stats and had no giveaways in my notes either.  With that kind of puck protection, Crosby is perfection.

Tomas Vokoun: The man who recorded his 50th career shutout is somehow 4th on this list.  Vokoun stopped all 20 shots he faced in the game, dealing with some difficult saves in the first period when the Penguins had very poor coverage in the slot.  The rest of his night was pretty easy though and he was solid during the Jets 5 on 3 chance as well.  Vokoun even added to the offense with an assist on the short-handed goal (though on replay, I do not know where that assist comes from).

Penalty Kill: The 5 on 3 penalty kill looked absolutely perfect for the Penguins.  Matt Cooke and Craig Adams were brilliant with blocking shots and poke checking the puck when it was in range.  Both players were also big keys during the other two penalty kills and looked amazing on the PK.  Add in the short-handed goal by Dupuis and it was one hell of a performance by the penalty killing units.

Noteworthy

Evgeni Malkin: Malkin looked very slow and uncomfortable at the start of the game but clearly picked up his speed as the game went on.  He scored a goal (well, his skates did), recorded 4 shots, was 8/14 in faceoffs, and had a big shot block in the slot in the 2nd period.  It’s clear he will need some time to develop chemistry with Morrow when it comes to puck movement, but Malkin was already looking for him so that’s a plus.

Tanner Glass: Tanner Glass has worked his way out of the bad section finally with a decent performance against the Jets.  He had 2 shots on net, some big hits, and for a change of pace – made no defensive mistakes.  The 4th line as a whole looked strong last night in moving the puck to the offensive zone and creating pressure, so this might be a big step in the right direction for Glass.

The Bad

Eaton-Despres Pairing: Despite the Pens only allowing 20 shots and earning a shutout, this pairing struggled against the Jets and I would weigh it more against Eaton than Despres.  The pair was frequently trapped in the defensive zone, especially in the first period when the Jets had plenty of nice chances.  It appeared that neither player had enough foot speed to chase the puck to the perimeter, so they were bottled up into the middle of the zone.  Eaton didn’t help his case by shooting a puck that was blocked and went the other way for a breakaway.  Of course, nothing bad came of it, but I’m not sure this is a pairing to stick with moving forward.

Misc. Thoughts

Douglas Murray Penguins debut

Murray had a better than expected debut in Pittsburgh. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Murray Debut: Douglas Murray had a stronger debut than I was expecting.  He had some low, hard shots from the point and attempted an unexpectedly high 5 shots.  Don’t expect much of that moving forward.  He was good in his own end and looked slow as expected, but knows where to be positionally to make up for his deficient skating.  Expect more blocked shots and hits from him, less actual shots, and don’t be surprised if he gets burned a few times.

Martin Injury: As we found out after practice today, Paul Martin is day to day with an upper-body injury.  It does not sound like he will play on Saturday, but there was no clear indication either way.  Expect Niskanen to shine, especially on the powerplay, if Martin misses some time while Letang is out.  This would be a great opportunity for Niskanen to show off his ability as a top 4 defenseman.

In-Game Adjustments: The Penguins came out of the first period up 2-0 but didn’t play the greatest period.  They had problems getting stuck in their own zone, just like against Montreal, and were giving up far too many shots from ideal shooting angles around the slot.  In the second period, the team flat out dominated Winnipeg and showed no problems similar to the first.  I have no clue what was said in the locker room, but it was effective and the Pens did a great job of fixing their problems early and quickly.  Dan Bylsma, the assistant coaches, and the players themselves are doing an amazing job of fixing things during this 14 game winning streak.  That’s even more important than the winning and bodes very well for a 7 game series against anyone.

Lineup: Just about everyone played well against the Jets and I wouldn’t expect any lineup changes except Engelland in for Martin based on the injury.  Kennedy has really turned his game around and looked good last night, recording 5 shots on net.  With even Glass playing well and Vitale dominating in faceoffs, Jeffrey should be sitting in the press box at least until someone screws up badly.  With the pressure on to keep a lineup spot, that 4th line might be playing lights out hockey for a while.

Kicking the Puck rule: If a player can redirect a puck while stop or skating, why is kicking disallowed?  As I was thinking about it during the first intermission, the rule just seems stupid.  Let players kick the puck.  If pucks can go off skates in every way except for a “distinct kicking motion”, the rule seems ticky tacky. It’s naïve to think players can’t stop, turn, or angle their skates in ways that will redirect the puck into the net, so the NHL should just allow kicking as well at this point.

Get the full Goal Assessment at CrosbyFTW.

Also, check out the Iginla Trade Thoughts.