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Road Warrior Penguins Muzzle Canucks – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Road Warrior Penguins Muzzle Canucks

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Not according to my admittedly flawed crystal ball.

Starting with a physical clash with the revenge-minded Winnipeg Jets, the Penguins by all rights should be struggling on this road trip. Not thriving.

Road weary, rather than road warriors.

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Instead, they’ve won five in a row to pull within a point of the slumping Washington Capitals in the Metro Division race. Not to mention the top spot in the overall NHL standings.

Shows you how much I know.

The Pens shook off more grim news on the injury front (Carl Hagelin will miss four weeks) and a stubborn effort in goal by Vancouver’s Ryan Miller to shut out the Canucks, 3-0, at Rogers Arena last night.

Like Timex watches, our guys take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.

“The will our team showed was huge,” said Pens defenseman Ian Cole, who broke a scoreless tie with a long-range wrister late in the second period. A timely tally that proved to be the game winner.

Indeed, the black and gold hardly seemed fazed by the latest health setback. Playing their second of back-to-back games, the Pens appeared to be the fresher of the two teams, rather than the one that jetted into town following a 500-mile flight from Edmonton.

They started well and got progressively stronger as the game unfolded, piling up a 36-16 edge in shots on goal over the final 40 minutes and 48-27 for the evening.

Go figure.

While Miller did his best to frustrate our guys, flashing the form that earned him a Vezina Trophy back in 2009-10, Matt Murray did a pretty fair imitation of a brick wall. The Pens’ goalie shook off recent troubles with a redemptive 27-save performance. Including a big-time glove save on Henrik Sedin early in the third period to preserve his fourth shutout of the season.

“You see how dominating (Murray) can be,” noted Cole.

Mighty mite Conor Sheary continued to play a large role. The diminutive winger fired off eight shots while collecting a goal and an assist. The latter on a nifty backhand feed off the end boards to set up Jake Guentzel’s insurance tally with three minutes left.

Linemates Guentzel and Sidney Crosby also contributed with two-point games. Powering the Pens’ gritty effort, the trio combined for 21 shots on goal, including a game-high nine by Sid.

Mike Sullivan seemed pleased.

“We’re playing back to back, we’re a little depleted, we have to make sure we play a smart, efficient game,” the Pens’ coach said. “Sometimes when you go through these adversities it can galvanize a group.”

Ice Chips

Ron Hainsey paced the locals with a plus-3. Cole finished the game a plus-2, with four hits and two blocked shots. Justin Schultz was tops in ice time (24:01).

Sheary’s scoring rate of 3.39 points per 60 minutes ranks third on the Pens, behind only Evgeni Malkin (3.82) and Crosby (3.58). Sixth in the league among players who’ve appeared in a minimum of 10 games.

Tom Kuhnhackl assisted on Cole’s goal—his 10th point of the season. Scott Wilson has an assist in each game on the road trip.

Hagelin’s lower-body injury resulted from blocking a shot against the Oilers on Friday night. He was replaced by defenseman Cameron Gaunce.

Matt Cullen missed his second-straight game with an undisclosed injury. His spot was filled by Oskar Sundqvist (three shots on goal, plus-1).

The Pens won 56 percent of the draws.

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9 Comments

  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    March 13, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,
    A win is a win.
    We are 7-3 in our last 10 games winning 5 in a row as you mentioned. The Caps are are 5- 5 in their last 10 games and have lost 4 in a row. Pressure ?
    Columbus are 6-3-1, Rangers are 6-4, Montreal and Ottawa are both 8-2 with Ottawa winning 6 in a row.Boston are 7-3. Tampa, just 3 points out of a playoff spot are 7-2-1. They are starting to play now. Stamkos is reported coming back for the play offs. Let us all hope he never gets the chance to play.
    In the West, the Wild have hit a slump and are 5-5 while Chicago are 8-2 just 1 point behind the Wild.San Jose are 7-3,Ducks are 6-4. Calgary in 5th place are now 9-1 and have won a league 9 straight. They have found their game.
    The rest are struggling to keep pace,
    The only reason I mention the above Rick is that with 15- 16 games left in the regular season,less than 20 % to go, you can see the teams you need to be worried about. Many are playing REAL hockey now ! $$$
    As I posted back in early January I was concerned with injuries come April and how that would impact our team. With Hagelin gone with a broken foot and all the rest of the walking wounded we are a depleted group.
    We need this win against Calgary because they are not a physical team and play a very similar style as ours. Fast hockey relying on a good goalie. Do not laugh old friend, we have become the same way.
    Coach keeps correctly blasting about shots on net,blocked shots, missed shots…We all look at Sid, Geno and Phil but really our team has become just like Calgary and many others. ( Montreal ?). If our goalies play well, we win, and if they happen to take a night off….unless it is a week team where we can score 6 goals against them, we lose. So I am hoping we get our wounded back soon and we can tighten up defensively and start executing play off hockey.
    On a positive note,if we win tonight we are Tops of the league,if only for a brief moment. Good place to be.
    Cheers 🙂

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      March 13, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      You mention both my pet peeve, total shots against as well as injuries. Jus jumping in again to to wave my favorite banner.

      No, I haven’t really gone and tried to correlate it yet, but it would seem to me that the number of shots our skaters are having to block because the team just can’t seem to clear their own zone is a contributing factor in the number of players now missing games. This is one of the reasons I am still harping on the shot totals against. the Pens may be reduced to 1/2 or more of their roster being Baby Penguins rather than their NHL counter-parts. This is also why I advocated trading MAF for more skaters, preferably good skaters/D-men, but skaters regardless. Sick call is getting almost as long as roll call.

      Too late to worry about that ship though, it sailed. However, there may still be time to draw up new break-out schemes to keep the puck out of the D-zone to get some bodies back before more go on the injury list. At this rate of players are getting hurt faster than injured ones are recovering, there will be none left to play. Murray and Fleury will have the entire locker room to themselves. The best thing the Pens can do right now is try and play keep away with their opponents at least long enough for bodies to get back.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        March 13, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        Hahaha…. It hurts to stop laughing but again you seem to be prophetic in your posts Coach. Yes we are winning, thank the good Lord but it is only a matter of time before either Sid, Geno or Phil gets hurt,(again) and we are really screwed.I am not going to list all the injuries but it seems to me that the players who do the dirty work, Patrik, Olli, Carl,Kris,Matt, Rusty and others…. are getting seriously injured. Is it just the time of year or the style we play ??
        Plus your point Coach about WBS Pens is absolutely correct. You will not win a cup again with 50% of WBS playing in Pittsburgh come mid April. We need our big boys back.
        The point of my post was that we are in the final LAP of the big race and all the contenders are starting to really RUN. Before many were just jogging ! ( To use a poor sports metaphor).
        Jim

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          March 13, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

          Your 100% right Jim, the Pens are in the final turn. They need to to be hitting on all cylinders. Several teams may be hitting the wal but as you mentioned others are starting to hit their stride. The Pens need to find their stride.

          Winning is the name of the game, but winning a battle and losing the war isn’t. They need to get the big boys back and they need to figure out how to clean up their zone. I doubt if even Georges Vezina could stand-up to the punshment in store for Murray and Fleury if the D doesn’t find their game.

          • Jim's Gravatar Jim
            March 13, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

            Hey coach,
            I also worry that because the TEAM DEFENSE is really a 5 man unit playing as one with a lot of pressure on the Center man coming back, that has to be having a negative long term affect on all our Centers. It is very punishing indeed. We really need to get the puck out of our end quickly and with as little effort as possible.
            Easily said, but very hard to do. That is why I thought the play of the HBK line was so important last year because the line chewed up valuable minutes and were not scored upon often, yet contributed timely goals when needed.
            Lets go Pen’s .

            • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
              March 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

              Agreed Jim,

              I think I saw that Geno had 4 BkS last game or maybe it was the game before. I love to see that level of dedication to winning from superstars but I also fear that level of dedication. As you mention the Pens Centers are picking up a bulk of the load from our weakened yet still vunlnerable at full strength D-Corps.

              It is especially worrisome when you have nearly $20mil in talent tied up in 2 of those Cs and a 4th Center almost as old as me. covering for the suspect D. Maybe that is why Cullen is injured.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 13, 2017 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Jim,

      I’ve been in scramble mode all day. But great stuff … 🙂

      Rick

  2. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    March 12, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    I have been transformed into my stat geek mode.

    You quote Cole saying, “You see how Dominating Murray can be.”
    The average Pts% of teams Murray has faced is 56.0%, but Murray has picked up 74.3% of all the possible points he could have picked up. Those teams have scored 2.71 goals per game yet Murray has only ceded 2.33 goals. The average S% of teams he has faced would come out to a Sv% of 0.910 however Murray has a Sv% of 0.925.

    I know Laine and several other rookies are having good seasons and there is a bias to giving trophies to forwards, but I am not sure any of them are really dominating their opponents the way Murray is.

    That brings me to the other stats I was looking at.

    I have read some people comparing the current incarnation of our Penguins to last year, suggesting this years team is better than last years so I looked at the March stats from last year vs this March stats. We are less than half way through the month so things could change but here goes;

    Last year in March the team was scoring on 10.1% of its shots and getting 35.19 shots per game, this year they are scoring on 9.7% of their shots and getting 37.83 shots per game. So Offensively, I would say that is pretty much a wash, this years O is just as last years O or vice versa. However, at this point the team is picking up 83.3% of the possible points while last year they picked up only 75% of the points. So although the O seems equal the results seem better.

    On the surface, some one may want to tell me that these data that I have just quoted should tell me the D isn’t as bad as I have been complaining about. However, the story doesn’t end there. Although the team over all D is better really is due to 2 men, Matt Murray and Marc Andre Fleury; Matt Murray’s consistent stellar play and the resurgence of MAF.

    Looking at the defense that backed the team last year, they only ceded 26.0 shots per game throughout the month of March, this year they are giving up 35.17 shots per game. The team Sv% this year is 0.929 vs last years 0.916.

    Final two points, this is why I am still unconvinced that this team has what it takes. With the injuries, waning play, and choke histories, I would not be too surprised should the Pens make the conference finals. However, I can see why Vegas has Chicago and Minnesota with better odds at winning the Cup right now.

    Last point, I am a former goalie and I bleed black and gold, so there is a bias, however, should the season end with all Rookies playing just as they are now, I say Murray gets the Calder!

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      March 12, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      Wow, Other Rick.

      Some really great stuff. Especially like the point you make about the goalies. Murray’s played well all season long. Subtract a porous November and a rough outing here and there, and Fleury has, too.

      They’ve certainly helped to mask our defensive deficiencies.

      One good stat turn deserves another. Our 5-on-5 shot attempts percentage is presently 50.66%, which puts us pretty much smack dab in the middle of the pack (14th).

      Last season? We ranked 4th at 53.11%.

      As a general rule, the higher the percentage, the more successful the team. However, Chicago is only one notch ahead of us, and Minnesota, Ottawa and the Rangers are actually below 50%.

      So while our decline is moderately disturbing, it’s hardly a cause for panic.

      Rick


            

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