Penguins Tame Predators 4-2 – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Tame Predators 4-2

Sidney Crosby had a choice. He could’ve taken the day off after jetting from Los Angeles, where he helped pace the Metropolitan Division to victory in last weekend’s NHL All-Star game. Standard procedure for most participants. Or he could join his teammates for a Monday afternoon practice.

Sid chose the latter.

His black-and-gold teammates had a choice, too. Continue with the hot-and-cold play that produced an indifferent January. Or strive to regain the form that led to a Stanley Cup last spring.


Fortunately, the Pens followed their captain’s lead. Riding an impassioned two-goal effort by Patric Hornqvist and a strong 37-save performance by Matt Murray, the Pens tamed the Nashville Predators last night before a capacity crowd at PPG Paints Arena.

No easy feat, given that Peter Laviolette’s crew was 7-1-1 in their past nine.

Displaying improved attention to detail, the black and gold rallied to even the score at 1-1 late in the first period on a hustle goal by Chris Kunitz. Trevor Daley smoked Preds goalie Pekka Renne with a wicked slap shot high to the glove side three minutes into the second period to open the floodgates.

Then Hornqvist took charge. Reunited with Crosby, the game’s No. 1 star struck twice against his former team within a five-minute span, including a power-play goal at 16:12 of the second frame. Murray stopped 14 of 15 shots in the final period to seal the 4-2 victory.

Not that the Pens were perfect. They yielded 39 shots on goal and blocked 20 more. They were trounced in the faceoff circle, losing a staggering 63 percent of the draws. And the penalty kill—seventh worst in the league at 78.6 percent—remains a sore spot.

While acknowledging the game was “a little bit of a mixed bag,” Pens coach Mike Sullivan seemed pleased.

“Halfway through the game, I think we gave up 12 shots,” he noted. “So I think that aspect of the game we really liked. … The chances we gave up, they seemed to come in flurries. But a lot of the game, we certainly made a step in the right direction.”

The Pens were feisty, too, battling the Predators tooth and nail. When hulking Mattias Ekholm crosschecked Nick Bonino in front of the Nashville net, “Bones” was quick to respond. Kris Letang, playing his first game in two weeks, waded into Calle Jarnkrok after absorbing a gloved punch to the face, igniting a late-game scrum.

Hopefully our guys can bottle some of that snarl. On Friday night they clash with Columbus on home ice in what figures to be a passionate Metro Division tussle. The Blue Jackets embarrassed us, 7-1, back in December.

The following night the Pens travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues, a club that recently ground us into dust.

Still, if the Pens can duplicate last night’s effort, I like our chances.

Ice Chips

Recent call up Carter Rowney made his NHL debut last night. Opening the game in Evgeni Malkin’s spot on the second line, the 27-year-old rookie played a shade over nine minutes and registered two hits and a minus-1.

In 26 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Sexsmith, Alberta native had 10 goals and 11 assists.

Letang returned to the lineup after missing the past six games with a left-knee injury. Revealing no lingering effects, “Tanger” logged a team high 23:45 of ice time and was a plus-2.

Murray started in his eighth straight game in net.

Sheary Hurt

Conor Sheary will be out four-to-six weeks, the Penguins announced today. The spunky forward suffered an upper-body injury against the Predators last night.

“That’s a tough one for us,” Sullivan said. “He’s been a real good player for us.”

Sheary is third on the team in goals (17) and tied for fourth in points (35). He leads all Pens with an impressive average of 3.13 points per 60 minutes.

In related news, Matt Cullen practiced with the team today. He’s missed the past six games with a foot injury. Malkin continues to skate on his own, but did not participate in today’s practice.

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  1. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    February 3, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Just gonna’ toss this on the pile. But I wouldn’t mind seeing the Pens reacquire Robert Bortuzzo from St. Louis.

    Skates pretty well for a big guy, right-handed shot, (more than) a touch of nasty to his game. Decent Corsi (52.9%), 42 hits, 34 blocked shots in 19 games with the Blues.

    Affordable, too, at $1 million per season.


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      February 3, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Hey RIck,

      Interesting toss out there. Despres was the player I really liked. I won’t beat that dead horse again. However talking about Bortz. I do think the pens got the better end of that trade. I really like Cole and he is really having a great season, but I was never all that down on Bortz. Like Despres, I think he was one of those players that was mismanaged while he was here. Bylsma and MJ were horrible with young players and kept giving mixed signals on rough play. So, if the Pens did bring him back, I wouldn’t complain.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        February 3, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        Hey Coach,
        You raise,once again my friend a very good point.Rick touched on the subject briefly a while back….That is really, the Pen’s organization has done a terrible job in developing young talent since we first won the cup in 2009. There were many players who we had under contract, floundered here mainly because we would not play them at the NHL level, or the few exceptions when we did let them play we used the players in an incorrect manner but went elsewhere and flourished.
        The others will jump all over me for the latest call ups last year, ( Rust, Tommy K., Connor Sheary, ect.) , but I am referring to the last 8 years. Many players left us to enjoy a fine career elsewhere !
        Why was that ?? Any thoughts…

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          February 3, 2017 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

          Hey JIm,

          I think the big problem that the Pens faced in those years was fear. Bylsma and MJ were afraid of losing so instead of giving the kids their due, they thought playing the grizzled old veteran was the ticket.

          Before I found out Rick was on this site and started comment war with some fans who had the same mentality. Every time I posted a comment suggesting bringing up and playing the stud kid instead of the aging warhorse the hate comments came out suggesting that I was insane for such suggestions. There was a lot of pressure and fear of taking a step backwards if the team turned the reins over to the kids and that the only way to full fill Cup expectations was with the veterans. A perfect example was the stike shortened year. The Pens went out and Brought in Inginla, Murray, Morrow, and Jokinnen. During the season kids like Despres and Bortuzzo out played many veterans but Bylsma didn’t let their skates touch the ice in the play-offs

          DB and MJ were so afraid of not losing they had forgot how to win. So not only did the kids suffer, the team suffered.

          • Jim's Gravatar Jim
            February 3, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

            Amen !! Well said Coach.

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      February 3, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,
      Hockey Writers daily post I receive had a sober discussion on a player that I was very high on when we resigned him for 6 more years last year.
      Olli Maatta ! I am afraid their assessment may be correct. Briefly, they conclude that part of Maatta’s problem is the new style the Pen’s are playing under Mike S. and maybe he should be traded to a more defensive team….
      With that in mind …Here goes a real crazy idea.
      MAF, Olli Maatta, Derrick P for Shattenkirk, Bortuzzo and J. Allen 🙂
      ( Shattenkirk to replace Olli, Bortuzzo, to replace Derrick and Allen, to replace MAF ). ?? Numbers work .
      What do you think about that one Rick ?
      Anybody else as well ?

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        February 3, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim,

        Very intriguing, to say the least … 🙂

        Sounds like a deal that could benefit both teams.


      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        February 3, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim and Rick,

        That is an interesting trade. I wouldn’t complain if that was pulled off.

  2. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    February 1, 2017 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    ‘Twas a good game. Much better than expected.

    This weekend will be a daunting task. Back-to-back bruisers does not make for an easy weekend. I’m dreading Columbus. I thought they’d have begun to fade by now, along with Minnesota. Not looking like that will happen. Tortorella is feeding them raw meat, I think.

    Sheary will be hard to replace. His scoring has become quite important. And, no one else does what he does with Sid. I would assume Rust will move back to Sid’s line. He’ll have to step up in a big way. I might consider recalling Sestito for this weekend, at least for Friday, just to provide Sid a body guard, but who do you sit? The fourth line’s been killing it lately. That would be a tough call.

    Borrowing a page from Errey, here are my 55 On Point tips to win:

    1. Speed, speed, then more speed.
    2. Pucks and bodies to the net all night long
    3. Responsible around your net.
    4. Trade for a big defenseman before Friday.

    Sorry, I couldn’t do it in three.

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      February 2, 2017 at 4:17 am | Permalink

      Hi 55 on Point,
      I agree with you.Especially your last statement
      plus I want add another one for consideration. It would be nice if WE were 60% plus on Face offs instead of always being on the losing side.

      Do you think all these injuries to different team members are a result of the style of play Sullivan wants us to execute? Small guys always trying to play big….It may catch up to us.

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        February 2, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        Hey Jim,

        A really interesting thought regarding the injuries.

        As we all know, hockey’s an ultra-demanding sport, and no team is immune from getting banged up.

        While I don’t have the numbers in front of me, I know the Pens went through a rough stretch, injury-wise, the last few seasons under Dan Bylsma and in 2014-15 under Mike Johnston. And while it seems they’ve been comparatively healthy with Mike Sullivan at the helm, there’s no denying he preaches a physically demanding style.

        You do wonder if the Pens’ lack of bulk—coupled with their aggressive, puck-retrieval approach—makes them more vulnerable to injury.

        It would be interesting to do a study comparing the average weight of NHL teams to man games lost over, say, a five-season stretch to see if there’s any correlation.


        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          February 2, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          Hey Jim,

          I worry a lot about that too. That is why I suggest that the Pens regularly give maintenance days off for some of their smaller players.Especially when they know they are about to go through a stretch off some of the bigger more physical teams, they may want to sit a Sheary and let his body heal a little before the goons come so he has a better chance of absorbing their hits.

          Rick, 55 on point, I like Sestito and don’t really mind when they bring him up. My only complaint, as I have said before, is playing him on a handful of shifts and only against bigger teams. I think the way the Pens have used him just creates a distraction that takes the team off of their game. Yes, in this instance, I disagree with Sullivan on his manpower use. If you play Sestito, play him like any other player so that you don’t psyche your own team out. If you play him like a guard dog everybody will be expecting the worst and over-react.

          • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
            February 2, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

            Hey Other Rick,

            Really, really astute points, my friend.

            Very insightful look at the way Sullivan employs Sestito. Spot on, in terms of causes and effects.


            • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
              February 2, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

              Hey Rick,

              I know you will remember when the Pens had the Hammer. There was a game against LA that I remember that no sooner than Schultz’s skates touched the ice, the ref was whistling him to the penalty box. Schultz actually tried to develop a real game, but his reputation limited him not only with his team but in the end the refs. The refs didn’t even give him a chance to play.

            • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
              February 2, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

              Hey Other Rick,

              A really good comparison to Schultz.

              “The Hammer” actually scored 20 goals for Philly in ’73-74 … and nine for us in ’77-78 (to go with 34 points).

              Not a Ross Trophy candidate, by any stretch. But Schultzie had some game to go with his right cross.

              I think Sestito has some underrated skills, too. He made a play last spring against the Capitals that still sticks in my head.

              Sestito knocked Ovechkin off the puck in the Caps’ zone, lugged the puck through the neutral zone, and slipped a really pretty pass to Oskar Sundqvist, who scored.

              A really nice play.

              Judging by his (decent) numbers, it appears he’s had a few of those at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, too.


            • Jayelene's Gravatar Jayelene
              February 2, 2017 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

              Hi guys, I don’t see how it could hurt to have Sestito in the lineup, at least for these next couple games. Heck, I’d bring up Oleksy, too. I know, I know, it’s the girl who’s always instigating things. 😉

            • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
              February 3, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

              That’s okay, Jayelene. You’ve got to stir the pot to make a good stew. Or something like that … 🙂


            • Jim's Gravatar Jim
              February 3, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

              Hi Jayelene,
              As we said before….The more ideas the better the end result. Instigate away !
              Always enjoy your contributions. Thanks…

      • 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
        February 3, 2017 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Hello All!

        So much to reply to. I actually wrote this reply last night around 12:30, on the iPad, then accidentally hit the little x that closes the window and lost it. My aging, addled fingers just don’t work as they used to. Anyway…

        First of all, Jim, the pace this team wants to play at is impossible to maintain for 82 games, plus post-season. There are going to be games where some guys legs are going to turn into lead come the second and third periods with four-games-a-week scheduling and back-to-backs. A player with leaden legs is an injury waiting to happen. So, yes, I definitely believe Sullivan’s style of play can directly result in injuries. Also, this team tries to play big. As admirable as that is, it’s never a long-term replacement for actually being big. I don’t care how motivational Sullivan is as a coach, small isn’t big, ever, and small pretending to be big is a recipe for injuries. Small players who play big can only do so in limited measure no matter how dedicated they are and how hard they try. They’ve been quite lucky so far this season with respect to major injuries. But, you shouldn’t depend on that happening again. Maintenance days are a good idea going forward when and where practical.

        Second, Rick and the Other Jim, I agree re: Sestito. I’ve never viewed him as just an enforcer. He skates pretty well, has some scoring potential, and I love that he knocks people down. And while he’s no Sid with the puck on his stick, he ain’t terrible either. Also, he doesn’t have to overwork to play big, he is. And, as I’ve said here countless times, I love their speed, but… See paragraph one above.

        Et.Al.: Goalies. Early in the season this point was easy to think about. We had two number one goalies. How lucky we are/were. Now it just makes my head hurt to see Fleury languishing on the bench night after night while dreaming of a phantom big D-man clearing lanes and taking names. Now, Sheary’s down. Good time to look into it? Maybe. What’s the emphasis? Can team depth hold until Sheary’s back? Can Cullen, or others step up. While a year ago I’d never thought I’d find myself wondering how do you replace Sheary, I’m thinking it now. But, then, there’s that damned big D-man skating around in my dreams.

        And, last but not least, face offs. Thanks to whomever for reminding me that I’ve meant to mention this for some time. If your system is all about puck possession, and your special teams are merely so-so, it’s time to practice face offs, regularly. They are losing, what is it, 60 percent? That means they’re probably spending about 50 percent more time in their own zone than they’d like and missing lots of clearing opportunities on the PK, as well as controlling the puck and setting up on the PP rather than skating the 200 ft. marathon after every stoppage. That’s a lot of ground to give up. Sid was a wiz on the dots. Bonino and Cullen, too. Could this be one of the things that has fallen through the cracks with the coach’s emphasis on other facets of the game? It certainly looks that way.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 2, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Hey 55 on Point,

      Great to hear from you. I always enjoy reading your comments.

      Especially love your three “55 On Point tips to win”, summed up in four … 🙂

      My knee-jerk reaction is to bulk up when facing Columbus (not to mention St. Louis). At the risk of sounding like a dope, Tom Sestito has played well for the Baby Pens (six goals, 14 points in 21 games). And his presence definitely seemed to reinforce the Pens when he was with us earlier this season.

      If I’m entering the hockey equivalent of a dark alley, I’d sure as heck like to have a guy who goes 6’5” and 228 by my side. It would make me a whole lot braver, too.

      The problem is, Columbus is such a tough team—they’ve got 215-220 pounders up and down the lineup. They’re not necessarily goony tough (although they can get ornery) as much as hockey tough. They just play a hard, straightforward game. I don’t know if one guy (Sestito) can really dissuade and/or neutralize them. Although having said that, I’d still rather have big Tom in uniform.

      I doubt if Mike Sullivan agrees. He kind of suggested as much after our recent loss to Boston when he said something to the effect of “the Bruins play rough…we skate.”

      I think he’s committed, 100%, to a speed game. He wants…expects…his guys to compete hard to the whistle. But when it comes to extracurriculars, I think he prefers his troops to skate away and avoid the nonsense.

      Easier said than done when you’ve got Brandon Dubinsky crosschecking you in the back of the head.


      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        February 2, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        Hey Rick

        I agree, I would prefer a little bigger of a team, like when we had Tocchet, Ulfie, Tags, Jennings, Loney, etc, but Sullivan does seem committed to the his smaller guys and until the league can knock the Pens off, I will give Sullie his due.

        Dubinsky will play his game regardless of opponent, but if the Pens were a little larger……..

    • February 2, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      I’m thinking the real interesting facet of Friday night’s game is who will be in net.

      Will Murray get to redeem himself after his dreadful outing against Columbus last time, or will Sullivan protect him and go with Fleury?

      The A-list of Penguins D-men should be on hand, so this would be a true test to see if the Pens are missing any key components gearing up for the trade deadline/playoffs. My thoughts are if Murray falls on his face again, it may be wise to keep Fleury on hand for the playoffs.

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        February 2, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Hey Phil,

        I’ve got to think Sullivan will go with his No. 1 guy, Murray, against Columbus.

        I can only imagine where Fleury’s head is these days, given what amounts to a demotion and all the trade speculation. I think it would be risky to give him the start against the Blue Jackets. Although having said that, my guess is he’ll get the nod on Saturday in St. Louis.

        Agree that Friday’s game will serve as a litmus test for Murray and the Pens, as well as a directional arrow for Rutherford concerning possible moves.

        I, too, will be curious to see how we fare against the Jackets with our full complement of defensemen. Letang and Daley were out the last time we played ‘em.


      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        February 2, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        Hey Phil, Rick,

        I don’t worry as much about Murray and Fleury as I do about the team D. Even though the Pens beat the Preds, they once again surrender around the 80 shot attempt range again between SOG, BkS, and MsS. The Pens goalies are getting assaulted. The D-men aren’t clearing the zone fast enough and opponents are getting too much zone time, even at the beginning of the year when everyone was healthy the D hasn’t been all that good with their break-outs.

        Rick I do agree with you, Fleury has had a history of breakdowns in his mental game when the pressure is on and with Murray’s rise, it has to be tough on Fleury. However, I still don’t even fault Fleury as much as some people like to. It doesn’t matter who is in net, the D is just not getting the job done with regards to shot totals. They just aren’t clearing the zone.

        So if they can’t start clearing the zone, I think D is where they need to start adding some size not O. If these smaller puck movers aren’t getting the job done, it may be time to get some big punishing D to start to try and limit shots.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          February 2, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

          Hey Other Rick,

          My comments weren’t meant to demean Fleury in any way. It would be more than understandable if he’s not in a great place, mentally, given his present circumstances.

          I wouldn’t be either. Nor would I be handling things as gracefully as Flower.


          • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
            February 2, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink


            I didn’t think you meant anything bad about Fleury. We’ve talked enough for me to know. I may be a little sensitive to attacks on the goalies after reading a comment by Ron Cooke elsewhere where he stated “it was time for Murray to step it up”. That comment sort of got me on my haunches. He didn’t say the D which is veteran compared to Murray and which giving up tons of chances needed to step it up, he said the rookie had to step it up, as if the Rookie needed to bail out the veterans.


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