Thoughts: Game 41 – Penguins vs Lightning

Pens 6 Lightning 3

Jokinen (8) from Morrow, Dupuis
Dupuis (20) (PP) from Kennedy, Niskanen
Kunitz (21) (PP) from Iginla, Letang
Malkin (8) unassisted
Jokinen (9) from Murray, Dupuis
Glass (1) (PP) from Jokinen, Iginla

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Stat Leaders

Shots: Malkin (8)
Blocks: Niskanen (3)
Hits: Glass (6)
Giveaways: Niskanen (3)
Ice Time: Niskanen (24:17) … Glass (9:27)
Faceoffs: Adams (5/7) … Sutter (6/19)

The Good

Jussi Jokinen goal

This section will soon be named after Jussi Jokinen. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

Powerplay: After slumping over the last two weeks, the powerplay kicked everything back into high gear and went 3 for 6 against the Lightning.  The powerplay goals came from some unlikely sources too: Kunitz (hadn’t scored a PP goal in quite a while), Dupuis (new to the PP), and Glass (wtf?).  With one goal off of a deflection and two from rebounds, the key to the powerplay was just getting the puck on net at every chance.  The big question will be if this was just an anomaly against a very bad defensive team or if it can be sustained.

Kris Letang: Letang played a great game in his return, logging 23:31 of ice time with 6:42 of that being on the powerplay.  The first half of his game was exceptional as he stayed controlled in his positioning and played a very safe game.  Once he was comfortable, he started taking a few more chances and got caught up in the offensive zone a bit, but nothing bad came of it.  He also made a huge difference on the powerplay with his passing ability and he provided the team with a quarterback it sorely needed.  If Letang can play more games like this where he reins in his skating a bit for defensive purposes, he’ll get my Norris consideration quickly.  However….let’s see it first.

Tyler Kennedy: All jokes aside, if you’re seriously upset with Tyler Kennedy in the lineup then you aren’t watching him play at all.  Under my notes, Kennedy was second to only Letang in positive plays made for the team and he has really picked up his game over the past few weeks.  He had 2 great plays in the defensive zone, including a steal that led to the Lightning taking an interference penalty on him.  He also had some shots that Bishop really had to fight off, one of which led to Duper’s goal.  TK is really putting together a strong game all over the ice.  Even if the goals don’t come, he’s making the team better right now.

Jussi Jokinen: What an acquisition.  Jokinen continues to tear it up with Pittsburgh, adding another 3 points while only playing 14:35.  While the first goal was a lucky bounce off of his skate, his second goal was just a mind-boggling deflection that Crosby would even gasp at.  When the team celebrated that goal, Morrow skated directly to Jokinen and exclaimed, “I saw you do that!!”  The *second line* of Morrow-Jokinen-Dupuis has been by far the best line for the team and Jokinen really seems capable of doing just about anything.  The only blemish in his game against Tampa was he looked awfully lost in the Pens’ PK system and was partially at fault for a goal against there.


Evgeni Malkin: With a goal in his second straight game, hopefully Malkin is starting to “feel” it a little more.  He looked rather blah in the first two periods but seemed to play with a much bigger edge after he scored in the 3rd period.  His puck possession improved; as did his compete level in the corners.  Aside from his usual bad penalty, Malkin didn’t really have a bad game.  He just doesn’t seem to be himself right now.

Tanner Glass: The man finally has his first point and first goal as a Penguin.  Glass has steadily improved over the past 2 weeks (ever since switching to #15 actually), and was rewarded with a gift of a powerplay goal.  It was a gift because Bylsma put him on a 5 on 3 powerplay to get that goal and the puck landed right in front of him.  Will it be enough to keep Glass in the lineup if this team ever gets completely healthy?

The Bad

Penguins and Lightning pile up

Guys, we already tried this strategy. It didn't work. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

Penalty Kill: The PK struggled with a 1 for 4 effort that kept Tampa in the game early on.  Some credit definitely goes to the Lightning because they have quite a talented powerplay, but the Penguins certainly didn’t make it tough for them.  As Jesse Marshall has pointed out on, the PK almost always fails when the forwards can’t cover the points tightly.  That was much of the problem against TB, and it was combined with some new personnel looking awkward.  Murray had trouble closing gaps and it didn’t look like his forwards were prepared to help him out.  Also, Jokinen received a short shift on the PK, which was only short because it ended with a goal about 20 seconds later.  He looked lost in the Penguins’ PK scheme.  While the new guys will find their way quickly, the coverage at the points is an ongoing problem for some unknown reason.

Brandon Sutter: Sutter has disappeared lately in terms of his impact on the game.  He was awful in the faceoff circle (6/19) and had a defensive giveaway as well.  Throughout this season, I don’t believe playing with Cooke and Kennedy has brought out the best in him, so hopefully he gets through this until he has new linemates in a couple of weeks.  His defensive zone faceoffs definitely need work asap too.

Misc. Thoughts

Shot Total: The Pens finally put a barrage of shots on net and were rewarded with deflections, rebounds, and some questionable goals against Bishop.  This is the type of offensive effort the Pens have usually given when Crosby is out of the lineup and they will win quite a few games just by exhausting goalies and opposing defenses in this manner.  After having a string of games with low goal totals and low shot totals, it was nice to see the offense come to life.

Defensive Pairings: Giving credit where credit is due: Orpik-Letang played a very strong game together despite my concerns.  When Letang corralled his play, Orpik looked comfortable in his own zone and had Letang to move the puck around.  There was only one 2 on 1 play against Orpik and he broke it up as it entered the zone.  Both guys did a solid job complementing each other.  The Murray-Niskanen pair also looked pretty good with Niskanen moving the puck and Murray staying at home.  The pair seems to be comfortable together and though Niskanen led the team in minutes, he looked much calmer and forced less with Letang’s presence in the lineup.  The third pair of Engelland and Eaton didn’t really draw any notes or thoughts from me because they were broken up frequently by special teams.

A Penguins Rink: If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out The Pensblog’s version of a Penguins rink.  It is a great stroll down memory lane and very well done.

Random Notes:

  • Douglas Murray looks so awkward fighting, no wonder he doesn’t do it that frequently
  • The team did a wonderful job clearing rebounds from in front of Vokoun. It short-circuited a lot of Lightning chances.
  • As Ken mentioned on the radio show today, it’s slightly bizarre but Malkin plays his best when he really lets loose and doesn’t think as much.  Meanwhile, Letang plays his best when he’s uncomfortable, hesitant, and unsure of how much to push it.
  • Malkin and Iginla have a significant amount of chemistry, even moreso than Kunitz and Malkin.  I would love to see Iginla stay with Malkin moving into the playoffs.  Forget him with Crosby.

Get the full Goal Assessment at CrosbyFTW.