Thoughts: Game 40 – Penguins vs Hurricanes

Pens 5 Hurricanes 3

Bortuzzo (2) from Dupuis, Adams
Morrow (7) from Jokinen, Dupuis
Bennett (3) from Adams, Engelland
Malkin (7) from Iginla
Dupuis (19) unassisted

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Stat Leaders

  • Shots: Malkin (6)
  • Blocks: Murray & Orpik (4)
  • Hits: Adams & Murray (5)
  • Takeaways: Dupuis, Malkin, & Morrow (2)
  • Giveaways: Kunitz (2)
  • Faceoffs: Jokinen (6/12)… Malkin (4/15)
  • Ice Time: Orpik (24:30)… Glass (7:58)

The Good

Brenden Morrow goal celebration

Morrow showed he still has some game with a beautiful shot that beat Peters. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Brenden Morrow: Two games after I thought he was the slowest man alive…well, he’s still the slowest man alive. But much like Douglas Murray, Morrow has learned how to use his limited speed within the Penguins’ system.  He had two great plays in the defensive zone to completely shut down chances (a poke check and a complete steal) and was much better with his positioning.  To celebrate, he added his first goal as a Penguin on a laser of a wrist shot.  Overall, Morrow looked great with Jokinen and Dupuis.

Jussi Jokinen: Speaking of, Jussi Jokinen put together another great effort all over the ice.  His faceoff numbers dropped (to be expected) to 6 for 12, but he made a great pass to set up Morrow and had that 2nd line buzzing all night.  One of the understated aspects of Jokinen’s game is simply how versatile he is in every zone and every position.  It certainly didn’t hurt that he knew the opponents quite well.


Robert Bortuzzo: Honestly, the only thing keeping Bortuzzo from being a section lower is his goal.  The goal was fantastic, especially since he started the whole sequence by clearing the puck from the defensive zone and then raced to the net to finish off a perfect pass from Dupuis.  However, his work in the defensive zone was iffy and his puck movement was awful.  Bortuzzo was at fault for two unnecessary icings, one of which led to a goal on the ensuing faceoff.  He also completely fanned on a puck in the slot that ended up in the net thanks to Riley Nash.  The goal was nice, but Bortuzzo needs to get the puck out of the zone more efficiently to stay in the lineup.

Brandon Sutter: Sutter has had a rough time lately on key defensive zone faceoffs and it’s hurting his overall defensive game.  This was the 4th game in a row I’ve had him in the minus column, which is more than the previous 36 games combined (only 3 times).  Most notably, he lost a faceoff cleanly that led to the first goal of the game and also lost track of Chad LaRose behind the net on the 3rd goal for the Canes.  His backcheck is still great and he plays above average in the D zone, but his mistakes have turned into goals recently.

The Bad

Brooks Orpik puck

Will the real Brooks Orpik please stand up? (Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images)

Chris Kunitz: Kunitz didn’t mesh with Malkin quite like people expected and it looked like he had an overall off night, especially in the 3rd period.  He had 2 blatant giveaways in the defensive zone, another one on a powerplay, and also took a tripping penalty that eventually led to the first Canes goal.  He also had only 1 shot and 1 hit, very unusual numbers for Kunitz.  It’s just one game, but it’s easy to question whether putting Kunitz with a cold Malkin might just cool Kunitz down.

Brooks Orpik: Orpik might want to consider helping Martin rehab at this point, or maybe even buy him designer drugs to heal faster.  His game has really fallen apart, especially without Martin there to help him move the puck around.  I had Orpik marked down for a bad icing, 2 defensive zone giveaways, and a bad clearing attempt.  He also got away with a couple of BLATANT penalties in the 3rd period, which I guess is a credit to him, but certainly is a risky maneuver late in a close game.  It might be time to pair him up with another puck moving defenseman because he can’t get the job done lately.

Misc. Thoughts

New Guys: Morrow and Jokinen are covered above.  Both played very well and I think Jokinen may end up being the best addition of the in-season acquisitions.  His versatility and abilities fit perfectly with what this team needs now and will need in the playoffs.  Iginla had a decent, but relatively quiet night.  He looked great with Malkin on what turned out to be the game winning goal, but he was invisible at times as well.  The whole line of Kunitz-Malkin-Iginla seemed pretty quiet.  Murray had another strong game and continues to provide a great crease presence that the Pens needed.

New Lines: The top line of Kunitz-Malkin-Iginla was average but hopefully can mesh with a couple of games together.  Morrow-Jokinen-Dupuis looked fantastic all night and each player seems to have a well-defined role on that line.  It looked like the most cohesive line by far for the Pens.  I’m not sure why Bylsma is so insistent on Cooke-Sutter-Kennedy.  The line sounds great in theory but they have struggled to put together a stretch of good games all season.  Glass-Adams-Bennett had some great chances and seemed to mesh pretty well as the game wore on.  While Bennett doesn’t make sense as a 4th line winger, he played his role very well.

Scratches: I have no problem with the Jeffrey and Vitale scratches; their places in the lineup are likely gone for the season at this point.  Despres should be in over Bortuzzo and Engelland though, and I daresay Orpik if he keeps playing this badly.  Despres has certainly had his ups and downs, but the Penguins are in need of a defenseman that can handle the puck decently and there is no reason for him to not be in the lineup.  Basically, his abilities match something the team is missing right now, but for some reason that’s not being used.

Faceoff Losses: Twice in this game, and a couple times in the last few games, clean faceoff losses are turning into goals against.  I hardly expect the Pens to win every faceoff, or even a majority with Crosby out of the lineup.  Losing faceoffs as cleanly as Adams and Sutter did against Carolina though is a quick way to put everyone on the ice at a disadvantage immediately.  Simply put, the centers need to do a better job of at least tying up opposing centers rather than just losing cleanly.  An eventual loss at least gives everyone time to get in position or help out with a puck battle.  Clean losses = goals against.

Random Notes:

  • Niskanen’s shot from the point is everything you can possibly want out of a defenseman. It’s surprising he doesn’t score more/get more assists on it.
  • Tyler Kennedy looks better in the defensive zone than the offensive zone lately; that will come in handy when the playoffs start – mark it down now.
  • With the new lines, the forwards had all kinds of problems figuring out who was covering the 3rd guy in for the Hurricanes.  The next couple games are less about winning and more about learning and adjusting to new assignments and schemes.

Get the full Goal Assessment at CrosbyFTW.