Okay, this article is being published a few days too late, and I am sorry about that.
Although I am only 20, I had a very busy weekend on top of being a little under the weather, but I am absolutely keeping my commitment to the site. So yeah, it might be a few days late, but here we go: Let’s talk about the Penguins vs. Coyotes game that occurred this past Saturday night.
Well, the Penguins are now 0-2, but they have their home opener this week (tomorrow, actually) against the Montreal Canadiens. Hopefully, they can start to turn things around. I still would not worry too much about an 0-2 start, but at the same time, the Penguins cannot let this pattern continue, or they may be in trouble.
Here is my recap of the game, followed by my impressions. Here we go:
Early in the first period, the Penguins looked very sluggish. They were stuck in their own zone for almost the entire first 2 minutes of the period, and Fleury needed to make a few big saves. Luckily, shortly thereafter, Arizona player Stefan Elliott took a holding penalty against Evgeni Malkin, and the Penguins had a chance to convert early on the power play.
Only 20 seconds into the power play, it was Arizona that had a brilliant chance to open the scoring, but Marc-Andre Fleury robbed Martin Hanzal of a stuff-in attempt to keep the game tied 0-0.
With a little over 3:30 left to play in the first period, Plotnikov fed a pass to Daniel Sprong who was absolutely flying while coming fresh off the bench. His shot beat Mike Smith, but his shot hit the post and stayed out.
The Penguins had another power play late in the period. During the power play, Phil Kessel possessed the puck and finessed his way right into the slot, after stick-handling around multiple Coyotes defenders. Smith saved Kessel’s wrist shot, and then had to react quickly after Perron corralled the rebound and put another shot on goal. Right after the Penguins had this glorious chance, the Coyotes came down in a 2 on 1 with Letang as the lone defeneseman, but Letang made the play defensively and both teams were kept off of the board.
Going into the second period, the game was tied 0-0, and the Penguins had not scored a goal this season during 4 periods of hockey.
Just 5 minutes into the second, the Coyotes came in on a 3 on 3 rush. The puck circled around the net and was controlled by young Arizona forward Anthony Duclair. He then fed a pass right in front to an essentially wide open Tobias Rieder who ripped a quick shot past Fleury and put Arizona up 1-0.
Just 17 seconds later, Penguins fans finally had a reason to cheer. The first goal for the Penguins in the 2015-2016 season.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Phil Kessel:
Kessel did it all himself here. He takes the puck away from Doan, skates into the Coyotes zone, and absolutely rifles a shot past Smith. It gives you the chills a little bit. Just listen to Bob Errey’s reaction in that video between the 21 and 24 second mark in that video. What a player this guy is going to be with the Penguins.
Later in the second, the Coyotes were possessing the puck in the zone well. The puck came to the front of the net, and a ton of players crashed Fleury’s crease. I had no idea where the puck was watching on TV for a good 5 seconds, until I heard the Coyotes’ goal horn go off and saw Coyotes’ forward Jordan Martinook celebrating his goal. That’s a tough goal to give up, but a goal is a goal, and it put Arizona up 2-1.
Just over 11:00 to go in the third, Plotnikov breaks into the zone and sets up Nick Bonino with a beautiful pass. Bonino got all of it, but somehow Mike Smith made the stop. It just seems like the Penguins can’t get a break.
Unfortunately, that break would not come in this game, as the Penguins dropped this game 2-1 and were unable to comeback in the 3rd period. This is something they were terrible at last season. I do not know their exact record, but I can tell you this: last season, the Penguins had 0 wins when trailing after 2 periods. Although you never would expect that record to be good, a good hockey team should be able to scrape out a few wins here and there in that situation. But the Penguins have not been able to do that under Mike Johnston.
Plotnikov Isn’t Ready
Although Plotnikov made a few decent plays here and there, he is still adjusting to the NHL after playing in the KHL (Russian hockey league) for a few years. To back up my argument, today at the Penguins’ practice, Johnston moved Plotnikov down to the 3rd line and moved Perron up to the 2nd.
I still think Plotnikov can be effective and he maybe even could be a second line player. However, at this point, I do not think he is ready. He should be playing 3rd or 4th line until Johnston and the coaching staff feels that he has fully adjusted to the NHL. Then they can consider playing him on the 2nd line with fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin.
Crosby STILL Has No Shots
Okay, I think he at least attempted a shot in this game, but he did not register one. The Penguins now have 65 shots through 2 games, and Crosby does not have a single one of them. Despite this team having a ton of offensive talent, the guys like Crosby and Malkin need to step up and play well. This team still depends on their success.
Sid, you gotta shoot the puck.
Where Are The Goals?
As I stated above, the Penguins have 65 shots through 2 games. They have scored only once. Their defense has looked fine throughout the first 2 games. Not spectacular, but who would have expected that? Their defense is playing well enough for this Penguins team to win games, especially with their offensive talent.
So, where are the goals?
Are you going to buy the “well, we ran into a hot goaltender tonight” argument? To me, that’s just making an excuse as to why a team isn’t scoring. Get ready for Tuesday, when the Penguins face a stout Canadiens defense and a goalie who will probably win the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender after the NHL regular season) in Carey Price.
“Oh, well, Carey Price is at the top of his game right now.”
Well guess what? He always is. You have to focus on how to beat him and how to get inside his head. Shooting the puck is important, but some of those shots need to be quality shots, and the Penguins are going to need plenty of those on Tuesday if they want to avoid starting 0-3
Maybe the Penguins will get some goals coming up. Maybe the Penguins just need a few lucky bounces. That happens too. Only time will tell.
Remember Daniel Sprong?
Daniel Sprong logged only 7:57 of ice time, which was by far the lowest on the Penguins.
So, why in the world did Johnston keep him here again?
Oh yeah, he scores goals. So why not give him a chance?
Sprong was arguably the best Penguins forward in training camp, and he has earned his spot on the roster. Sprong had 3 goals this preseason, tied for Beau Bennett for tops on the Penguins during the preseason.
I understand he is a young player, and I know he has a lot to learn. That being said, give him a chance to do what he did in the preseason: score. I would have him at least on the third line, if not the second line, but it looks like he will be stuck on the fourth line where he will likely log less than 10 minutes again versus Montreal.
The Penguins are stuck with 1 goal in 2 games. Playing Sprong minimally on the fourth line is not going to help that goal total climb, just saying…
Once again, thanks for those who follow me and keep up with me. I am sorry this article was a bit late, but I will make a promise that I will write and publish my next article directly after the Tuesday night game concludes against the Canadiens. Hopefully that one will be written in high spirits.