Pens 6 Canadiens 4
Sutter (10) from Niskanen, Letang
Morrow (10) from Dupuis, Adams
Iginla (11) (PP) from Kunitz, Letang
Morrow (11) from Bennett, Niskanen
Sutter (11) (PP) from Morrow, Letang
Murray (1) from Iginla
Shots: Dupuis (4)
Blocks: Murray & Orpik (5)
Hits: Orpik (5)
Ice Time: Letang (28:55) … Jokinen (7:20, ill), Vitale (10:00)
Faceoffs: Sutter (11/19) … Adams (1/5)
Brenden Morrow: Has Brenden Morrow reached the folk hero status that Gary Roberts once held? As if his scoring output lately (another 3 points vs Mtl) wasn’t enough, Morrow took on the ultimate villain in PK Subban and made him look like a fool. He followed up the performance by terrorizing Subban verbally in the penalty box, essentially telling him that he had 5 minutes to think about what Morrow would do next. Morrow has it all right now: the scoring, the intensity, and the pure will to intimidate and frighten everyone in his path. Morrow has suddenly become the ultimate team player.
Brandon Sutter: After having quite a subpar week last week, Sutter found his game again (thought it wasn’t on the third line). He ended his goalless streak with 2 against Montreal, apparently his favorite team to play against. He also looked better in the faceoff circle, going 11 for 19. His work with the third line still leaves something to be desired (his goals came 4 on 4 and on the PP), but it’s clear Sutter still has the capability of being a game changer.
Kris Letang: Letang has played solid hockey since his return from a nagging lower body injury. He logged a whopping 28:55 of ice time (next was Sutter at 19:41) and added 3 assists as well. After the Penguins had a 4-0 lead, he relaxed a little bit and started skating a bit too much, but that’s to be expected with how the Penguins took control of this game. In general he has made Orpik a better player over the past week and he is doing everything the Pens want and need him to do right now.
Matt Niskanen: Niskanen continues to play extremely well when he gets less than 20 minutes. He had a 2 point game, drew a penalty in the offensive zone, and made some nice pinching decisions as well. When he’s paired with Murray, he’s able to utilize his skating abilities and let Murray focus on the defensive end more. It has turned out to be a very versatile pairing for the Penguins.
Simon Despres: Despres had a rocky game in his own end against Montreal. He had a giveaway in the D zone, missed on a few poke checks, and looked very unaware of his surroundings on Montreal’s 3rd goal. Much like Letang, Despres appeared to let loose after the Penguins took a 4 goal lead, but he wasn’t able to recover quite as well as Letang did when Montreal started pushing back. It was an important game for Despres to learn his limits and get ready against a conference contender, but I question if Bylsma will hold it against him or not. I would not be surprised if Despres is sitting against Boston on Friday.
Tyler Kennedy: I made the mistake of praising Tyler Kennedy for his defensive play and offensive prowess after the first period. He rewarded me with look awful on the 3rd and 4th goals against and playing subpar hockey the rest of the game. At this point, it’s clear Kennedy fits the 4th line mold far better than the 3rd line mold on this team. His game took significant strides after the trade deadline but seems to regress with Sutter and Cooke. He looked lost on who to cover for the 3rd goal against and just gave up too early on the play for the 4th goal against.
Injury Update: Jussi Jokinen left half way through the 2nd period because he wasn’t feeling well. Meanwhile, Joe Vitale left late in the 3rd period after blocking a shot. Neither is expected to miss any time. Elsewhere, the trio of Crosby, Martin, and Neal is skating with Mike Kadar before practices in full gear, but there is no true timetable for any of them quite yet. Evgeni Malkin practiced with the team but is still day to day with a nagging shoulder injury.
Goals Against: Taking a 4-0 lead was fun, but the fact that Montreal still scored 4 against the Penguins is slightly troublesome. That’s the type of comeback ability that the Pens need to shut down or they will face last year’s demons all over again (3 goal leads, remember?). Montreal is a down-ridden team right now despite their position near the top of the conference. They had been blown out in the previous two games and the Penguins really took advantage of that (and a horrible looking Peter Budaj) in the first period. They are going to have to remember not to relax though. It’s one thing in the regular season, it’s another in the playoffs. 4 goals allowed is too much no matter what.
Third Line: The third line as a unit still looks bad. For some reason, Kennedy-Sutter-Cooke look off on their defensive assignments and appear unable to work cohesively in the offensive zone. Sutter had his best shifts when he was slotted with other players, especially once Jokinen went out. Cooke has been a solid agitator over the past two weeks, but the rest of his game has been iffy. Kennedy…well, he belongs on the 4th line. This is the one line I’m not incredibly comfortable with going into the playoffs, which is odd since it’s supposed to be the “ideal” checking line.
- Jarome Iginla recorded his 1100th career point with a powerplay goal.
- The Penguins outhit Montreal 19-8 in the first period and seem to be developing a trend where they just physically maul teams to wear them out as the game goes on. This will be an important factor when the playoffs start, especially in the course of a 7 game series.
- Chris Kunitz ended up playing 1:06 of PK time while Tanner Glass only played 10 seconds on the PK. Are we seeing Bylsma slowly work Glass out of his specialties so Glass can be a “comfortable” healthy scratch when everyone returns?
- Speaking of players who may get scratched when everyone is back, Beau Bennett is really earning his stripes at the NHL level but may just be a numbers casualty. He certainly looks worthy of playing in the playoffs, but this team can also run 5 lines easily when they are healthy. The most popular question will probably be TK vs. Bennett. Experience vs. youthful exuberance. A player everyone hates vs. a player everyone loves. Just remember, Bennett has had a very sheltered life in the NHL so far. I’m not sure Bylsma will be ready to change that if he doesn’t have to yet.
Get the full Goal Assessment at CrosbyFTW.