Penguins Update: Loose-Leaf Ramblings – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: Loose-Leaf Ramblings

Heading into tonight’s Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena, I thought I’d empty the ol’ brain-pan with some observations about the Penguins and the first-round series in general. Loose-leaf ramblings from a loose-leaf mind.


•  It’s only natural our guys would relax a little—and experience a dip in intensity—after going up 3-games-to-nil. Still, as late Pens coaching legend “Badger” Bob Johnson famously noted, you gotta’ win four to advance. Hopefully, we’ll get our focus back for Game 5.

•  Lest we forget, Columbus is a darn good hockey team. You don’t win 50 regular-season games (or 16 straight) by accident.

•  Although Marc-Andre Fleury’s been decent in goal (.923 SV%), I’m always a little nervous when he plays—especially when No. 29 handles the puck or attempts a poke check. However, if Matt Murray’s nursing a groin injury as rumored, it’s “Flower” or bust for now.

•  Despite being heavily outhit (160-119), the Pens haven’t suffered any serious injuries, Murray aside. Thank goodness.

•  While it’s tough to get a read on our team, we’ve been more volatile than last season’s Cup winners…at both ends of the ice. Thus far, the Pens have averaged 3.79 goals per 60 minutes, well above our average of 2.97 last spring. The same holds true for our goals against/60 (2.61 vs. 2.24 in 2016).

•  Shooting-wise, we’ve averaged 32.9 shots on goal per 60 minutes, down a bit from our average of 34.1 in ‘16. We’ve yielded an average of 33.9 per 60, well above the mark of 27.4 recorded during last year’s Cup run. A disturbing trend, for sure.

•  Speaking of 60-minute hockey, I’m waiting for the Pens to author their first true playoff-style effort. A week into the postseason, the contests still resemble on-ice track meets.

•  Love the Ian ColeJustin Schultz tandem. And I’m pleased with the Brian DumoulinRon Hainsey combo (two big bodies). While Olli Maatta’s skating and overall play has improved and Trevor Daley’s betrayed no ill-effects from knee surgery, I wish we had a more physical option for the third pairing.

•  Is Jake Guentzel ever on a tear! Every time he touches the puck, it seems to go in (a playoff leading five goals on 15 shots). The kid’s always in position—at least in the offensive zone. Smart, slick and surprisingly gritty. Fearless in the corners as well.

•  Evgeni Malkin’s quietly off to a hot start in the postseason. He leads all scorers with six assists and eight points. Can’t wait ‘til “Geno” shifts into top gear. Phil Kessel’s piling up the points, too. Would love to see him score a little more.

•  On the flip side, Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson (a combined minus-4) have had a tough go. In Conor’s case, it’s the first instance in recent memory where his diminutive frame has worked against him. Usually, he’s remarkably good along the wall.

•  Likewise, Wilson’s been overmatched in the dirty areas. Still wonder if it makes sense for Mike Sullivan to insert Tom Sestito in “Willy’s” slot. Counterintuitive, perhaps, given the mobility of the Blue Jackets’ defense. But I’d love to see the Pens to dish out a little punishment for a change.

•  Columbus welcomed back Lukas Sedlak with open arms in Game 4. His numbers are hardly imposing, but he’s a sticky player who wins faceoffs (52.4 %) and is always around the puck (52.1 Corsi/60). More important, the Blue Jackets have a 41-15-7 record with Sedlak in the lineup (including the playoffs), as opposed to 10-12-1 without him. A potential burr in the Pens’ saddle. Ditto Matt Calvert.

•  The Blue Jackets wisely dialed back their physical play on Tuesday (a comparatively mild 27 hits). As a result, they had more gas in the tank in the third period. Anticipate that trend to continue.

•  Hate to write anything nice about Brandon Dubinsky. But he’s done a solid job against Sidney Crosby thus far.

•  Markus Nutivaara and Kyle Quincey boosted the Jackets’ defense in Game 4, the former with his speed and puck movement and the latter with his shot blocking and physical play.

•  Expect the Pens to keep things simple tonight, especially in the early going. Look for them to employ a dump-and-chase style in an effort to turn the Blue Jackets’ defense. They got hung up trying to make plays at the Columbus blue line in Game 4.

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  1. April 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m just going to go right ahead and stick up for Maatta again. I know I’ve stated it before that I sit on the side of the rink where the Pens are on defense for two periods per game. I get to watch the Maatta that isn’t seen on tv. He is a relentless worker behind the scenes. He clears guys out of the goalies viewing lanes using a low center of gravity, not the cross check you see most defenders use. He also always has someone tied up, the way Goligoski used to do.

    Where he really shines is getting the puck out of the Pens end. There’s a reason he has led the entire team in plus minus since he’s been here and there is a reason he is leading the defense again in plus minus these playoffs. There’s no flash & dazzle, no punishing checks, he is simply a very good defenseman. I really don’t him to get a bad rap and chased out of town like Goligoski.

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      April 21, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Hi Phil
      How is his skating ? Any after affects of his injury that you notice live that does not become evident on the TV broadcast ?

      • April 22, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        I think his skating is fine, but tends to not look so good because he is paired with the speedsters all of the time. He gets caught in awkward situations a lot because he is usually paired with the defensemen that take the biggest chances.

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      April 21, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      I was a Gogo fan so your point is well taken. However, I still assert the D over-all stinks. The end result of now leading the league in shots against should be evidence of that. Maybe it is bad chemistry, maybe too many of the same exact player, I don’t know. So, in the end, the Pens may not need to jettison them all, but something has to be done to cut donw the opposing zone time. Something has to be done to get the puck out of the defensive zone.

      But, in defense of Maatta, MAF owes him a great debt of thanks for that home run swing of his batting that puck that was floating into the net back up the ice and preserving the game for him. Did the Jacket touch it too? Or was it just Maatta?

      • April 22, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        It’s definitely a different defense without Letang eating up the minutes. You lose a guy as fast as him for 25 minutes a game, it’s going to change things. Columbus seemed to throw everything at the net and hope for rebounds. They were boxed out pretty well most of the time.

        I think Maatta hit the puck and stick of the Columbus guy. I didn’t really catch that play during the game, didn’t see it until later.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 22, 2017 at 2:39 am | Permalink

      Hey Phil.

      I’m responding to your post a little late.

      I fully respect your opinion regarding Maatta. You make an excellent point about him having more elements to his game than meets the eye.

      Actually, I’ve been reasonably pleased with Maatta’s play thus far in the postseason. He definitely seems more mobile and, while I can’t speak to the details in his game as well as you, he makes crisp passes and generally sees the ice pretty well.

      My comment was more a lament regarding our lack of physicality than a poke at Olli. As you know, I’m kind of old school. I just feel we’d benefit from having a little aggression on the back line. Especially against a heavy foe like Columbus.


      • April 22, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        I agree, it would be nice to be more physical, to be honest, I hate watching the team get pounded like they’ve been. I would love if the Pens had an Ulf or Kaspairitis sort of guy that makes the other team keep their heads up when the come into the zone. At the same time, Columbus played themselves out of the series going for the punishing checks rather than playing hockey.

        I was watching the Capitals game the other night and saw Orpik lay out a punishing check at the blue line. I was thinking wow, he’s still got it.

        Then I looked at his numbers and Orpik has the 2nd worse +/- in the league at -5 with Shattenkirk right behind him at -4.

        Simple math tells you that Maatta’s +4 to Orpik’s -5 is a 9 goal difference. In a 5-6 game playoff series that is the difference between winning and losing a series.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          April 23, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

          Hey Phil,

          I hear you regarding Orpik. I loved Brooks when he was here. And he’s posted solid regular-season numbers for the Caps (+32 in ’16-17).

          But I’ve watched him a lot in the postseason the past couple of years and, frankly, he’s almost a liability, especially around his own net.

          Almost makes me wonder if he was part of the problem, rather than part of the solution during our string of early playoff exits.

          Oh, last night a hockey pal…totally unsolicited…started talking about how well Maatta’s playing.

          I wonder if Olli didn’t suffer some sort of anemia following his cancer surgery and follow-up treatment, similar to what Lemieux experienced following his radiation treatments for Hodgkins. Mario actually sat out the ’94-95 season–a full two years down the road–in an effort to recover.

          Anyway, it’s good to see Maatta playing the way he did as a rookie, when he wowed us all with his poise and promise.


  2. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    April 21, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Hey Coach..
    Pen’s in 5 !! You were right ..
    How about Rust’s second goal on the back hand Guys ?
    Let’s go Pen’s ….

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      April 21, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      I am taking it quietly. I am still worried. Fifty-one shots against in a close-out game?

      But Rust and Wilson both had great back-hand goals. Add to that Kessel’s laser beam that opened the scoring? And let’s not forget Crosby’s laser shot either.

      So does Was come back or does Tor bounce them. I should hope for the Caps, but I am pulling for the Leafs.

      And how about the Rangers taking the lead in their series. Could the Pens still have to face the Rangers one more time?

      And let’s send some kudos to Nashville, Vegas had Chi as odds on favorite to win the Cup at the onset of the playoffs.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        April 21, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        They are like your ex mother in law.
        Always find away to come back to haunt you when you least expect it..
        I having been saying all along that Montreal – New York that unless Price outplays King Henrik that the Habs are done.
        Then the real question becomes can either Boston or Ottawa best New York in 7 games. I do not think they can Coach. So yes you could very well see a Pens- Rangers conference final.
        So you never know until it’s over.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        April 21, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Hey Guys,
        Really for us moving forward the best situation would be Toronto wins tonight,forcing Washington to a game 6 on Sunday in Toronto and a game seven on Tuesday in Washington. Then Wednesday the second round would start I believe and no matter who we play, the Penguins if healthy, can beat a tired Washington and or a young Toronto club.
        Personally I would prefer a Toronto match up because I think we can beat them much easier in that a Washington – Pens series will be much more physical and take a lot more out of our club before moving to the third round. I am still hoping that Price can steal the series back from New York and we would then probably face Montreal in the third round.
        As you both know we can do very well against Montreal. They have no offense to match against us.
        I had yet another great discussion with my local hockey buddies this morning and they are all saying with Chicago gone, Minnesota almost eliminated, and how easily the Pen’s took out CBJ, that road ahead for Pittsburgh to the Cup is actually quite easy for them now. Barring injuries and the fact that Toronto is not going away that easily for the Caps, that indeed I should be very happy.
        ( Toronto,Boston,Montreal,Ottawa are no match for us this year, maybe next year, and New York and a very tired Capitals team playing 6 or 7 games in an all out track meet against a young, fast Leaf team , is really not that much competition either.)
        Once again I ask that you guys to pray for Toronto tonight and for local hero Jake Allen to get a shut out against the Wild.
        That is good for the Pen’s chances to repeat as Cup champions.
        My father, a die hard Leaf fan would roll over in his grave to see his youngest son finally cheering for his beloved Leafs. My mother was an equally passionate Montreal fan, so when growing up it was best not to cheer for either team during the play offs if you wanted supper.
        Cheers, 🙂

  3. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    April 20, 2017 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Messed up on one of my observations. Apparently, it was William Karlsson who did such an effective job against Crosby in Game 4, not Dubinsky.

    Good. I can take back the good things I wrote about No. 17.


  4. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    April 20, 2017 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    As to ramblings

    · I too love Schultz – Cole, and admit that Domoulin, Hainsey, Maatta, and Daley have done things that on the surface look good, however, the results are abysmal. It sort of reminds me of in baseball scouts constantly pushing a prospect saying he has one of the technically best swings I ever saw, so the prospect sticks around and sticks around but never hits above .220. No matter how much I like those 6 D as well as Ruhwedel and Striet, their numbers are very telling; 33.9 S/60min (is that what you wrote?)

    · If you remember Sheary had brief slump around the mid point of the year. After getting a night off he came back on fire. Maybe giving him a night off might do the trick here too. He just may need a little longer rest.

    · As to Wilson, I am not so sure Sestito is needed just yet but I am still wondering why Rowney – Archibald – Wilson was broken up. Not sure whom I would sit, but I would love to see that line reunited. Maybe giving Sheary a rest could start it and work from there when Sheary comes back.

    · But getting back to Sheary, let’s face it, outside of Guentzel, the rest of that line, Crosby included has been struggling. It may not be anything on them. There are two teams on the ice and CBJ may just be expending all their energy on shutting down Crosby and Sheary. They may just be laying down a bunt right now.

    · Finely MAF; I love this guy and want the best for him, but let’s face it, it has been years since he has had any real success in closing out a playoff series. It is going to be really tough for him to blow 4 straight chances at closing out CBJ, so I am not in a panic just yet, but I am starting to wonder how Jarry would respond to a start. Usually MAF has to bottom out before he climbs back up. I am hoping this will not be the case.

    Let’s go Pens, close it out!!!

  5. bob bixby's Gravatar bob bixby
    April 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    any updates on injuries to:


    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 20, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Hello Bob,

      I don’t have any updates, sorry.

      Hagelin’s recovery time was expected to be 4-to-6 weeks. He went down on March 12, so he’s been on IR for about 5 weeks now. I’d certainly anticipate that he’d be ready soon.

      Although it was unclear how long Kunitz would be out, his injury definitely sounded long term. I wouldn’t expect him back any time soon.



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