Penguins Back In The Win Column – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Back In The Win Column

The Penguins rewarded their fans that stayed up to watch their tilt against the Los Angeles Kings with a victory. The story of last night’s game was slightly improved defense, solid goaltending, bad referees, stupid Kings’ Penalties and pretty much just one line of forwards.

The Defense
No, the Penguins defense wasn’t spectacular. They did cut down on the number of breakaways and funneled most of the shots to the perimeter but it was hardly a tour de force effort from the Penguins’ “D”. The Penguins did manage to out shoot their opponent, in no small part to some stupid penalties but at even strength Los Angeles held a land slide advantage in shot attempts. It was still a question of the usual suspects.

Kris Letang once again got himself caught out of position with a bad decision to join the attack. His decision left partner Brian Dumoulin holding the bag. With Letang deep in the zone, Kings’ Defenseman and former Penguins’ 5th round draft choice cleared the puck up passed Phil Kessel to Anze Kopitar to break out of their defensive zone. Kopitar then found Adrian Kempe in behind Dumoulin who had stepped up to support Kessel. Kempe then had a clean break toward DeSmith and beat the Rookie Goaltender. As the puck tickled the twine at the back of the net, Letang was finally visible at the extreme edge of the camera view trying to get back into the play.

Letang and Dumoulin finished the game -1, dropping Letang to a -16, worst on the team. Letang also finished the night with a -10 even strength CORSI.

Matt Hunwick was the big loser among Penguins “D” last night when it comes to CORSI numbers. After finally climbing into the positive numbers in his even strength CORSI, last night, Hunwick’s -11 in his CORSI dropped him back down to -10 for the season.

Fortunately, Casey DeSmith was equal to the task.

Solid Goaltending
Last night was rookie Casey DeSmith’s first start and he was able to skate away with the win. He didn’t have to make many of the spectacular saves that Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry have had to make all season, but he got the job done. DeSmith displayed good positioning, giving King’s shooters little at which to shoot (17 missed shots for the Kings). DeSmith also showed good rebound control, smothering, catching and holding on to pucks, not giving Kings’ shooters second opportunities. All-in-all a good first NHL start for DeSmith.

Stupid Penalties
The Kings didn’t really help their own cause with a triad of stupid penalties in the third period, playing 9 minutes of the final 15 minutes short-handed. Dustin Brown started off the stupidity with very dangerous boarding penalty when he drove a defenseless, already on his knees on the ice, Justin Schultz head first into the boards with a cross-check to the back of the neck (apparently Schultz passed the concussion protocol). That gave the Penguins a 5 minute major power play to work on, during which Hornqvist cashed in to seal the game.

Tyler Toffoli then took a tripping penalty about 4 minutes after the Major Penalty to Brown expired. Toffoli was visibly upset at getting tossed in the box as it appeared that the trip was precipitated by some interference by a Penguins’ defender (I didn’t catch the number). Considering some of the dangerous play that the referees let go earlier, I can understand why Toffoli was upset.

Only one second after the Tofolli was released from the Penalty Box, Kopitar was sent packing, after a blatant slash right in front of the referee, on Carl Hagelin’s stick. That pretty much ended any chances of the Kings’ breaking their losing streak.

Poor Officiating
Before Dustin Brown decided to try and injure Justin Schultz, Christian Folin tried to injure Jamie Oleksiak. He hit the “Big Rig” up high at the same time kicking the Penguins’ defenseman’s skate out from under him. Nothing at all was going to get called on the play by the referees until Evgeni Malkin took matters into his own hands and took a shot at Folin. The scrum between the 2 was actually less dangerous than the play that participated it but the referees only handed out roughing penalties. Maybe had the Referees made the call on Folin, Brown may not have been emboldened enough to attack Schultz.

It will be interesting to see if there will be a Players Safety review on either play. After handing out a 2 game suspension to Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano, ending Cogliano’s games played streak, it would seem that both of those Kings should be getting serious suspensions.

The Forwards
The Penguins offense was pretty much limited to just the line of Hornqvist – Malkin – Hagelin. Hornqvist bookended Malkin’s goal with two extremely well placed shots. The first goal snuck under Jonathan Quick’s leg pads, only 43 seconds into the game. On the second goal, Quick must have been remembering the opening goal and moved to cut away the low shot. When he did Hornqvist climbed the ladder over his shoulder, after showing great patience to get Quick to move first.

Malkin notched the middle and game winning goal just 26 seconds into the third frame. Off of an offense zone face off the Schultz got the puck at the right point and passed quickly over to Olli Maatta at the left point. Pausing just a second to look the net over Maatta wristed the puck toward the net. The shot was blocked in front but Malkin chipped the bouncing puck past the Kings’ Goalie.

After starting the month off on fire, Sidney Crosby was relatively silent last night; not getting on the score sheet until Hornqvist’s power play goal. Crosby was a -1 for the evening with a -4 on his CORSI. Yes, Kopitar had a good game blanketing Crosby, often times stepping across the line with interference that wasn’t called (Mario Lemieux could certainly relate to that) but Mike Sullivan’s line-up juggling may have had something to do with it too.

In a post-game interview Sullivan explained that he inserted Jean-Sebastien Dea (a Center) into the line-up to free-up Jake Guentzel to return to the Wing. In the line-up switch, Daniel Sprong was ticketed for the odd man out. Sullivan then reunited diminutive Conor Sheary with the Captain. That may have been the real head scratcher of the night. Although moving Guentzel back to Wing would seem the right step but Sheary should be the player getting press-box time. Sheary is a -12 on the season while Sprong is a +2. Sheary was CORSI nightmare playing Crosby’s line and only recently clawed his way to a positive CORSI while Sprong not only invigorated Crosby, has a better CORSI differential in raw numbers despite only playing 8 games.

There was a note on a fantasy hockey site yesterday suggesting that the Penguins will be sending Sprong back down to Wilkes Barre – Scranton. Please Mr. Sullivan don’t make that mistake. Put Sprong back in on Crosby’s Right Wing and give Sheary that much needed press box time. Show Sprong the same patience you have shown Riley Sheahan, Sheary, Letang, and Hunwick. He is doing everything right. Since he has far more scoring talent than Sheary, it will really start falling for him. He will be a regular on the score sheet and the much needed wins to make the play-offs will happen.

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  1. 55 on Point's Gravatar 55 on Point
    January 20, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Hey tOR,

    I wasn’t happy about Sprong being shown the viewing booth either. I thought perhaps he was injured since he didn’t get on the ice in the third against Anaheim.

    One thing I will note, though, is he’s not shooting the puck enough. I think he’s had something like five shots in his last four games. I’d assume that’s why he’s sitting, or one of the reasons.

    As to his defensive play, watching on TV it’s often difficult to guage a players defensive play as much of it may happen off camera. From what I have seen, I don’t think he’s been as bad defensively as I thought he was going to be based on everything we’ve heard. He’s had a few lapses while seeming to get lost out there, but if everyone who’s been guilty of that this season had to take a seat in the peanut gallery, we’d have a few more WBS guys skating regular shifts. I can’t mention any names. I promised.

    I am more bewildered about Cole. Or, maybe I’m not. In any event, it is one of my pet peeves that this team eschews defense unless it’s flinging the puck up ice, off the glass, or trying to skate it through the neutral zone, while not being too concerned with the other team coming the other way. Having one or two defensive-minded defensemen on the bench never hurt anyone. That is one of the reasons why, at the halfway point, they are hovering near .500 and having to claw and scrape to get back into the playoff picture. They’re defense stunk and the only guys moving the puck were the opponents firing it at our goalies heads. Without decent goal tending they’d have lost another half dozen games.

    But, I digress. Cole is a defense first player (and this team has been better for it). Regardless, I’m pretty sure that’s why he isn’t playing and that’s been the rub between him and Sullivan – he doesn’t play Sully’s style. Well, I think Sullivan is wrong, and maybe a bit petty, and maybe a bit arrogant. Play him or trade him. He’s too good to be watching from the rafters.

    That’s my two cents. I believe in good defense first, and especially when you have more offensive fire power than three quarters of the teams in the league. And, no one moves the puck if your goalie is catching it all night. I’m not advocating no puck moving defensemen, but you don’t need six of them. Someone has to mind the house.

    I hope Sprong is back tonight in San Jose.

    – 55

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      January 20, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Hey 55,

      I just read an article talking about if Malkin picks up 1 point tonight that the Penguins will have 3 players with 50 or more points this season and no other team has that many players like that. So your point about the Penguins “O” is well taken. Since Sprong and Simon showed up on Crosby’s wings he has been a terror. I really do think he is relishing the role of Mentor. They really do need D-men that can tighten down defensively.

      I was also talking with some friends today about the Pens chances of 3-peating. All three of us thought that a true 3rd line C, freeing Guentzel up to go back to wing and at least 1 more better D man. There was some discussion back and forth as to the best way to proceed though.

      Although we all agreed with you that Cole should really be considered to put back into the mix, we were all resigned to Sullivan – Cole irreconcilable rift. We also agreed that Hunwick has not really been an asset to the team. After that we broke down on how to shore it up. One guy wouldn’t even consider Pedan because of his reputation as a heavy weight saying that all the Penguins need is Oleksiak and Reaves. He didn’t even want to hear that the scouting reports say Pedan is a good skater has a good shot.

      Since I actually haven’t seen him play, I won’t go out on the limb and say he is the answer until I actually watch him, but I would like to see if he was a better fit. I would really wonder if he would be a good pairing for Letang, if we refuse to trade or can’t trade him. Pedan may be able to help cover Letang’s defensive lapses and just may keep some opposing forwards from trying to take runs at Letang.

      Like you I am hoping to see Sprong back in the line-up tonight. Although I may not have sat him, maybe he may would come out with even more fire after sitting out last game.

  2. January 19, 2018 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Hey tOR,

    I hear what you are saying about Sprong. I thought he had looked decent until Wednesday’s game that is. At the end of the first and Into the second period I thought he was injured he was skating so slow. At one point he had came into a play way late, it worked out and Crosby threw him a beautiful pass. He proceed to take a second or two then threw a really weak wrister at the net. He looked extremely sluggish.

    I don’t know if maybe he is out of shape or if maybe he has some sort of weird traveling problem, but he looked really awful out there. I don’t blame Sullivan for yanking him. I can’t believe he would go from flying to sluggish that fast without some sort of problem.

    I was also wondering if maybe he stayed out late or drank too much and got in the dog house when he couldn’t perform at the top level.

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      January 19, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Hey Phil,

      The Whole team looked sluggish in the second period on Wednesday. But, yes, Sprong didn’t look so strong against Ana. I would doubt that he isn’t in shape though. Maybe he did suffer from jet lag? I don’t know.

      I could see your thought of a 20 yr old possibly imbibing a little too much though. I wouldn’t discount it. And especially if that were the case, Sullivan would definitely nip that in the bud PDQ and lay the law down..

  3. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    January 19, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I was just reading through some comments around the web in the wake of the NHL Player’s Safety Joke. Dustin Brown was fined for his hit on Justin Schultz. Many Andrew Cogliano fans around the web were rightfully irate considering their favorite player was given a 2 game suspension for his incident while Brown a repeat offender got his slap on the wrist for his attempt to injure Schultz. Brown will probably have paid off the fine by the 2nd or 3rd shift of his next game

    • January 19, 2018 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

      Ridiculous! Brown even went out of his way to bend over to hit him into the boards.

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        January 19, 2018 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

        Amen Phil,

        That is why I fear Jim suggestion that the NHL may get sued in the near future over the concussion issue. Pathetic repercussions like this really open the door on to a large $$$$$ punitive phase of a law suite, as it could be evidence of criminal indifference to the problem.


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