One Down…

horny

Last night, the Penguins beat the best team in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3 in a shootout.  The Canadiens were without all-star goalie Carey Price, but backup goalie Mike Condon has been spectacular in his absence.

What is the more impressive thing about this win?

For the first time since January 5th of 2014, the Penguins won a hockey game when trailing after 2 periods of play.  Before last night, the Penguins were 0-31-6 in their last 37 games when trailing after 2 periods.

Well, make that 1-31-6 in their last 38, and the first win when down after 2 under Mike Johnston.

It’s nice to get that monkey off the back, but it can’t stop there.

One down, but plenty more to go.

If the Penguins plan on making a playoff run, or, dare I say it, win a Stanley Cup, this record needs to keep improving.  I understand the Penguins cannot win every game when they’re losing after 2 periods.

Heck, they won’t win the majority of them.

But they need to be a team that is able to come back in games and be a third period threat, especially considering how good the Penguins’ offense is.

Ideally, they should be winning 20-30% of these games, which would be easily top 10 in the NHL.  They did it under Bylsma with a less potent offense, and so there is no reason that they cannot win 20-30% of those games with Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist, Sprong, and company.

Let’s just hope this is the start of a Penguins team that shows some resilience and starts to win more of these types of games.

Anyways, let’s get into the recap from last night’s 4-3 shootout win over the Habs.  Here we go:

Recap

First Period:

PENS GOAL (00:13) – Dupuis (2) assisted by Crosby (6) and Bennett (2)

It took the Pens just 13 seconds to get on the board.  Beau Bennett carried the puck into the zone along the left side of the ice and dropped a pass to Dupuis while getting pressured.  Dupuis sent a pass around the back of the net that ended up on the stick of Crosby on the other side of the ice.  Dupuis followed his pass, drove straight to the net, and deflected in a pass from Crosby to give the Pens an early lead.

Just about 3 minutes into the period, Phil Kessel walked out in front of the net and put a shot on goal.  Condon made the save, but Kessel found his own rebound and put on another shot on goal.  It was a great chance, but Condon denied it.

HABS PP GOAL (04:12) – Markov (2) assisted by Subban (14) and Plekanec (9)

Plekanec had the puck down low on the power play and swung a pass up to PK Subban.  Subban then fed a pass that was put on a platter for Markov who blasted one home past Fleury to tie the game.  The puck just snuck through Fleury’s armpit area, and Fleury should have stopped it,  but it did look like the shot was deflected slightly by something in front.

10 minutes into the period, Hornqvist had a great opportunity.  Nick Bonino had the puck behind the goal in the offensive zone and found a wide open Hornqvist just a few feet in front of Condon.  Hornqvist got a good shot off, but Condon stood tall and kept the game tied.

With about 7 minutes left in the period, the Penguins were on the power play.  Kessel put a shot on goal that was partially blocked, but found Malkin behind the defense who put a quick low shot on Condon.  Unfortunately, once again, Condon was ready for it.

PENS GOAL (19:16) – Maatta (2) assisted by Kessel (5) and Malkin (8)

This goal originally looked like it was Kessel’s, but upon further review, the goal went to Maatta.  Maatta carried the puck into the offensive zone in a 3 on 2 situation.  He dropped a pass off to Kessel and immediately drove to the net.  Kessel then ripped a quick wrist shot on goal that deflected off of Maatta and past Condon to give the Pens the lead.  Both goals for the Pens came in the first minute and last minute of the period respectively.

After 1: Pens 2 Habs 1

Second Period:

6 minutes in, Crosby made a very bad blind behind the back pass that turned into a odd man rush for the Canadiens.  Eller came up the left wing with the puck, gave a pass to Galchenyuk, who one touched a pass right back to Eller who put a quick one-timer on Fleury, but Fleury denied it.

HABS GOAL (7:47) – Gallagher (7) assisted by Pacioretty (7)

Pacioretty had the puck in the defensive zone, and noticed that 2 of his guys were up the ice behind the Penguins defense.  He flipped a weak backhand pass that squirted through the skates of Ian Cole, and turned into a 2 on 0 rush.  Gallagher did not need to other man however, as he fired the puck past Fleury’s glove side.  Cole needed to stop that puck, even if it meant going down to a knee or whatever.  He had 2 opposing players behind him, and he cannot let that happen.

HABS GOAL (14:12) – Flynn (2) assisted by Mitchell (5) and Subban (15)

Torrey Mitchell had the puck in the neutral zone.  He passed the puck to Matt Flynn who was absolutely flying into the offensive zone.  He came down the right side and put a shot on Fleury that snuck right between his right arm and his body and found the back of the net.  This was a tough goal for Fleury to give up, and one that he normally stops.

The Habs outshot the Penguins 13-1 in the period, and the Penguins one shot was actually an attempted pass that ended up being on goal.  It was a rough period for the Pens, and a comeback seemed unlikely, especially with their recent history in that department.

After 2: Pens 2 Habs 3

Third Period:

4 minutes into the period, Kessel nearly tied the game.  Malkin found Kessel streaking up the ice and was in a one on one with Markov.  He made a slick move around Markov, deking forehand to backhand, but Condon made the stop once again.  It was a huge save.

With just 8 minutes to go, Kunitz was behind the net in the offensive zone, skated to the front, and let a quick low wrist shot go.  Condon made a save, but the puck found the stick on Bonino.  He beat Condon, but did not beat the post, and the Habs maintained their lead.

PENS GOAL (13:35) – Hornqvist (3) assisted by Crosby (7) and Letang (6)

This play happened because Sidney Crosby is Sidney Crosby.  Letang had the puck in the Penguins zone and fired a puck off the boards to get the puck out.  The puck came to Crosby with some speed, who deflected the puck with his skate/stick to an in-flight Patric Hornqvist, who skated the puck into the zone and went thin mints on Condon to tie the game at 3.  The pass by Crosby was absolutely ridiculous.

The Penguins had a power play for basically the last 2 minutes of regulation, but they were not able to capitalize.  This game needed extra time.

After 3: Pens 3 Habs 3

Overtime:

Once again, the Penguins had a power play chance in what was basically the last 2 minutes of overtime.  Except this one was a 4 on 3.  Kessel had the puck in the zone, skated it to the right circle, and fired a low shot on Condon.  The shot was saved, and the rebound came to the stick on Kris Letang, who beat Condon, but did not beat the post behind him.  This must have been the same post Zatkoff used to help him in his last outing.  Perron also hit it earlier in the game, as did Bonino.

After OT: Pens 3 Habs 3

Shootout:

The Penguins, as the home team, elected to “defer” and let the Habs shoot first.

Galchenyuk – Save

Galchenyuk came in on Fleury and looked like he wanted to pull off a backhand deke, but he came in too close, and Fleury got him with the poke-check.

Perron – GOAL

David Perron with his vintage move.  He skates up the left side of the ice moving ever so slightly to his right.  He fakes a wrist shot and goes backhand.  It sure worked for him this time.

Desharnais – Save

Desharnais made an interesting move, as he faked a shot by waving his stick over the puck.  Fleury fell to his side reaching out for the poke-check.  Although he missed, Desharnais could not beat the sprawling Fleury.

Crosby – GOAL

Crosby skated in slow on Condon, and simply just out-deked him.  He faked out Condon, went backhand, and beat him to give the Penguins the win in the shootout.

Final Score (SO): Pens 4 Habs 3

Impressions

Letang and Cole

Although Ian Cole looked good last year, he has been looking anything but good for the Pens this year.

Him and Letang are currently 2 of the worst 3 defensemen in the NHL in plus/minus, and it is not a coincidence that him and Letang are paired together.

I never understoood this pairing to be honest.  Cole is a good bottom 6 guy, but he should not be logging Kris Letang type minutes.

In addition, these 2 have not looked good as a pair.  At all.  Letang even admitted that he feels as though he and Cole are never quite on the same page, which is a cause of concern.

For the third period, Johnston FINALLY put Cole with Scuderi on the bottom pair and reunited Maatta and Letang.  It’s about time.

Although I would like these 2 to stay together, Johnston says that they will see more time together in games, but they will not be a lock for a defensive pair.  Why?

Because Maatta is apparently not in good enough shape after his rough offseason to log minutes with Kris Letang, who leads the Pens in ice time.

Let’s hope they put Maatta with Letang for the majority of the time, also considering that both Maatta and Letang had new life after being put together as a defensive pair.

Crosby

Everyone needs to chill out about Crosby.  He had 2 assists tonight, and looked absolutely fantastic.

Yeah, his game isn’t perfect, and he can make some adjustments, but he is Sidney Crosby for crying out loud.  He is going to be fine, just watch.

In the words of Evgeni Malkin, relax.

Fleury

Scary moment for Fleury in this game.  He took a stick to the face that went through his mask.

Fleury said he lost sight in his one eye for a few seconds, but he ended up okay.  He went and got stitches in the cut right above his eye, but he ended up okay.

As always, Fleury is all smiles, even with the cut below his left eye.

Photo 4 (7)

Thanks, as always, to those who keep up with me!

I want to start writing more posts/blogs not necessarily related to game action, but rather just about my opinions on some stuff every once in a while, so I will try to get that going as the season goes on.

The Penguins go from playing the best to the worst, as they face the Columbus Blue Jackets tomorrow at 7.

One Down…

Habs Spoil Pens’ Home Opener

pac

Well, after starting the season 0-1, it was no big deal.

Even after going 0-2, the Penguins had a chance to get a win at home tonight against the Canadiens.

Now the Penguins are 0-3 after dropping their season opener at home 3-2 to Montreal.  Yes, it is still very early in the season, but this is the first 0-3 start the Penguins have had since 2005, when they began the season with 9 straight losses in Sidney Crosby’s first year in the NHL.  The Penguins have 4 more home games in a row before going back on the road, and it would be big to win at least 3 of 4, but we will just have to see.

By the way, remember how I mentioned putting Kessel with Malkin and Hornqvist with Crosby?  There were only 2 Penguins’ assists tonight, and both came on the second goal by Letang.  Who had the assists?  Malkin and Kessel.  Not that this means anything significant, but I just want to put that out there…

Anyways, here is the recap and my impressions from tonight.

Recap

1st Period

Just under 6 minutes to go in the third, the Canadiens opened the scoring.  (Just a side note that the Habs are now 4-0 and have scored first in all 4 of their games, AND all 4 have been on the road.  Very impressive)  Andrei Markov flipped one into the Penguins zone right in the middle of 2 defensemen.  Forward Brendan Gallagher outworked the 2 Penguins defensemen to get to the puck and took control.  Gallagher spun around quickly and fed a pass to Max Pacioretty, who one-timed a hard low shot on Fleury that went in for his 3rd of the season.

Letang and Fleury talked for a few seconds after this goal was scored.  Letang and another Montreal player was right in front of the net, and my guess is that Fleury never saw that puck.  If he did, it was one he should have stopped.

Just under 5 minutes left in the first, the Habs were controlling the puck in the zone.  the puck came up to defenseman PK Subban who ripped a shot that dinged right off the crossbar and stayed out of the net.

Not long after, Crosby and Kunitz came down the other way in a 2 on 1.  Crosby did decide to shoot the puck, but Carey Price made the save.

After 1 period: Habs 1 Pens 0

2nd Period

With about 14:30 to go in the 2nd period, Montreal was once again possessing the puck in the zone.  A rebound came out to Montreal defensemen Nathan Beaulieu, but Beau Bennet stole the puck and took it the other way.  The Penguins had a 2 on 1, but Beau didn’t use his partner, as he sniped his 5th shot of the game right past Carey Price’s blocker to tie the game at 1.

The Penguins seemed to have a ton of momentum after this goal.  They were really buzzing.

But then the Penguins took a penalty for too many men on the ice.

This is one of those penalties that almost always comes back to bite, and it did once again tonight.  Montreal went on the power play and were passing the puck around the zone.  After around 30 seconds of passing and skating with the puck, Pacioretty skated away from the boards towards the middle of the ice and scored on a quick and hard wrist shot that beat Fleury on his glove side.

However, not long after the Canadiens retook the lead, Letang tied the game up once again.  Kessel brought the puck into the zone and put a shot on goal that was sticked away by Price.  Malkin found the rebound and fed the puck behind the net for Kessel.  He then attempted to feed a pass to Letang that was tipped by a Montreal player.  The pass lost some gas, but it did get to Letang, who fired a knuckling puck past the glove of Carey Price.

After 2 periods: Habs 2 Pens 2

3rd Period

The Canadiens came out in the 3rd period ready to play, and it showed early.

Just over 4 minutes in, the Canadiens forced a turnover in the Penguins’ offensive zone.  It is noted, however, that Plotnikov was severely interfered with, but the referee made no call on the play.  The Canadiens went the other way with the puck, and Penguin killer Tomas Fleischmann shot the puck past Fleury on his blocker side.

Although the goal should have never happened (since there should have been an interference penalty drawn by Plotnikov), Fleury should have made this stop.  He made some great saves throughout this game, but he also let in some bad ones, and this was one of them.

With just over 2 minutes to go in the game, the Penguins put out Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel in the same line.  The Penguins had the puck in the zone.  Letang one-timed a shot on goal that was stopped by Price.  The rebound squirted out to Malkin who fed a perfect pass to Crosby.  Crosby one-timed the puck and got all of it, but he did not elevate the puck, and Price’s pad got over to make the save.

This was one of the Penguins’ best chances all game, and had Crosby got about a foot of elevation on the shot, it was going in.

Final Score: Habs 3 Pens 2

Impressions

3rd Line

I’m not even going to talk too much about this.

The 3rd line of Plotnikov, Bonino, and Bennett was outstanding tonight.  It was easily the Penguins most consistent line, and it had a ton of scoring opportunities.

Seeing production from this line is a bright spot for the Penguins, but Crosby and Malkin need to start stepping up, espeically Sid who still does not have a point.

Also, I want to note that Plotnikov looked far more comfortable on this line than he did on Malkin’s line.  I think Plotnikov feels less pressure on the 3rd line and is able to play his game.

Beau Bennett

Bennett, by far, was my favorite Penguin on the ice tonight.

Not only did he have a goal tonight, but he just looked dominant.

I mentioned that I think he can have a breakout season even if its in a 3rd or 4th line role.  If Bennett stays healthy, he is going to be a big part of this team going forward.  That is, if they can start stringing together some wins!

Transition Game

This is where my real hockey analysis comes into play.

Mike Johnston puts a heavy emphasis on moving the puck as a team, and sticking together.  Although I see that at time, I do not see it all the time.  I do not see it a lot of the time actually.

Most of the time, a Penguins defenseman will have the puck in the defensive zone, and all 3 forwards will be skating right around the other teams blue line. Now, unless a long stretch pass gets through, this will not work.  Additionally, you need speed getting into the zone.  By having forwards stand near the blue line, they have no time to gain speed going into the zone, so if a defenseman were to dump the puck into the offensive zone, none of the Penguins forwards will recover it since they have no speed going into the zone.

Anyways, I’ll leave it at that for tonight.  As always, thanks to those who read my blog.  I appreciate your support!

I’ll be posting another article on Thursday night after the Penguins take on the Ottawa Senators at home.

If the Penguins are 0-4 after that one, the article probably won’t be pretty…

Habs Spoil Pens’ Home Opener