Thoughts: Game 44 – Penguins vs Bruins

Pens 3  Bruins 2

Jokinen (10) from Niskanen, Glass
Iginla (12) (PP) from Jokinen, Bennett
Letang (5) (PP) from Jokinen, Kunitz

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Stat Leaders

Shots: Kunitz (5)
Blocks: Letang & Murray (3)
Hits: Morrow (5)
Takeaways: Bennett (2)
Giveaways: Kennedy & Sutter (2)
Ice Time: Letang (24:24) … Glass (7:43)
Faceoffs: Sutter (10/20) … Dupuis (4/12)

The Good

Jussi Jokinen fight Marchand

Jokinen has no problem sticking up for his teammates in the rare moments he's not scoring. (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

Jussi Jokinen: Jokinen had been impressive on offense. He had been impressive on defense. He had been impressive on special teams. Now, Jokinen has demonstrated he is an impressive team player as well.  During another ho-hum 3 point game, Jussi got under the skin of Boston when he went to protect Kris Letang after a late hit.  Jokinen received the only penalty, but he was in Boston’s head afterwards and drew a penalty later in the game on Marchand, who wanted to fight Jokinen.  Jokinen set up a powerplay goal on the ensuing chance and has cemented his ability to contribute in EVERY facet of the game.  It is simply unbelievable that the Penguins were able to pick him up for a draft pick AND at a discount.

Tomas Vokoun: Vokoun came up big for the Pens in a game where the team was badly outskated and outhit through the first 2 periods.  He ended up with 38 saves, catching a piece of both shots that managed to roll past him.  Though he wasn’t tested with difficult shots early on, the Bruins fired everything possible as they tried to use the crowd’s momentum in the first period.  The second period then shifted to odd man breaks for Boston and some big saves by Vokoun.  Finally, he capped off his performance with a big breakaway save on Marchand and stopped the rebound as well.  On an emotional day, Vokoun was as steady as he could be.

Beau Bennett: Bennett had a rough time handling the Bruins’ size and physicality in the first 10 minutes but then made some wonderful adjustments as the game progressed.  He shied away from the hitting game and focused on more on his finesse abilities, which are far more impressive than his physical game.  Bennett made some Bruins look downright foolish with smooth skating and some nice dekes as he found his way to the scoresheet with an assist.  Even more impressive, he led the team with 2 takeaways and played 16:05, one of the higher totals he has played.  Bennett has really put himself into a “must play” position in the playoffs.


Kris Letang: Letang had a very inconsistent game, but his bright spots mostly made up for his failures.  The bad was very bad – he got burned on 2 poke check attempts that both turned into goals for the Bruins.  The good led to goals though.  He made some great keeps at the offensive blue line, including a diving one on the powerplay before Iginla’s goal, and scored a powerplay goal of his own as well.  Letang looked distracted at times but perfect at others.  It will be decades before I understand what happens in Kris Letang’s head.

Matt Niskanen: It was nice to see Niskanen finally get a payoff from his always stellar shots from the point, but he had quite a few problems on the powerplay as well.  He was simply awful at getting the Penguins into the offensive zone, committing a giveaway and also an icing on the powerplay.  He also took an interference penalty as he tried to set a pick while the Pens were moving the puck around.  For his PP troubles though, Niskanen was solid in the defensive end.  He stepped up at the right times and kept the Bruins to the outside well.  The Niskanen-Murray pair has enormous potential to contribute at both sides of the ice.

The Bad

Tyler Kennedy: Tyler Kennedy may actually be on the verge of playing himself out of the lineup finally.  As if it wasn’t enough that the Penguins will have three all-star forwards coming back soon, TK is starting to play some of his worst hockey of the season at the wrong time.  As I mentioned after the last game, he looks awful on the 3rd line and that trend continued against Boston.  He took a slashing penalty, had a defensive zone giveaway, and simply skated past the puck a couple of times.  After he put a few good weeks of improvement together, the fall off seems to correlate with his placement on the 3rd line.  For that matter, Cooke and Sutter played iffy games as well.

Pascal Dupuis: While Dupuis may be the best option in the lineup at center, it certainly takes away from his game at times.  He was 4/12 in faceoffs, which makes perfect sense against Boston.  However, his defensive play took a notable dive in this game.  It appeared that Dupuis had some difficulties determining who his assignments were as a center and it led to Orpik visibly getting upset with him at one point in the 3rd period.  He also had 2 failed clears early in the game when Boston was really dominating the Pens.  Not only does he likely miss Sid, but I’m guessing he misses his wing position too.

Misc. Thoughts

Tanner Glass fight McQuaid

Glass foreshadowed what would be a very rough game. (Brian Babineau/Getty Images)

#1 Seed: The Pens have officially clinched the #1 seed in the East and are playing to stay healthy and get into some good habits going into the playoffs.  Some habits I would like to see: more shots, more help from the wingers in the D zone.  At this point, it looks likely that the Pens will face the Isles, Sens, or Rangers in the first round.  In order, I would want the Isles, then Sens, then Rangers.  Much of that is based off of goaltending alone.

Final Week: Hopefully a player or two will return by the end of the week to play against NJ or Carolina so the lines can return somewhat back to normal.  Fleury is going to start 3 of the last 4 games (expect his day off to be Tuesday) to get into a good rhythm before the playoffs.  I would love to see guys like Eaton, Orpik, Kunitz, and Dupuis get a game off before the playoffs, but it sounds like Bylsma will leave it up to them and I can’t see anyone requesting a day off.

Playoff Lineup: Today pretty much cemented it: Beau Bennett really should be in the lineup for the playoffs, there is no question about it.  TK has moved himself into healthy scratch territory.  If everyone was ever healthy, I would go Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis, Iginla-Malkin-Neal, Morrow-Sutter-Cooke, Bennett-Jokinen-Adams.  On D, I would go Martin-Orpik, Letang-Niskanen, Eaton-Murray.  Now, everyone just needs to get healthy.  Also, wow this is a deep roster.  Just think about who all we are scratching if this team is healthy.

Random Notes:

  • Both Glass and Iginla had game-changing fights that benefitted the Penguins.  They were at ideal times to stop/shift momentum and they were both smart fights.  Good on both of them.
  • The Pens missed a LOT of defensive assignments and were lucky to only allow 2 goals. Eaton-Engelland had a rough time together.
  • The Bruins almost looked like the Pens of last April.  I wonder if they’ll settle down in time for the playoffs.
  • Matt Cooke has fully returned to his agitator status after being quiet for quite a while.  I’m not sure if this is good or not, honestly.
  • As I put in my notes, “these teams hate each other.”  This would be a crazy playoff series if it happens.

Get the full Goal Assessment at CrosbyFTW.