The Penguins split their back to back games, ending a 4 game road trip to western Canada.
The Penguins were able to sneak by the Oilers on Friday night, but their fatigue showed early in their game Saturday against the Flames.
The Penguins had a decent game against the Oilers. They came out flying and seemed like the better team early on. Then Edmonton got a goal, and I couldn’t help but think “here we go again…”
That being said, the Penguins were able to battle back on goals by Daniel Sprong and Phil Kessel to win 2-1, although Edmonton did give it their all. They hit about 3-4 posts in the game, but Zatkoff only let 1 puck in behind him.
Wasn’t the prettiest performance, but the Pens got the job done.
Against Calgary, the Penguins dug themselves into a hole. They took 3 penalties in the first period, and 2 resulted in goals. One of the goals was not a power play goal, but it came about 20 seconds after the power play while Calgary was still possessing the puck in the zone.
Calgary took a 3-1 lead into the 1st intermission and the tired Penguins, after playing their 3rd game in 4 nights all on the road, just did not have enough gas in the tank to come back, even though Calgary has some of the worst defensive stats in the NHL this season AND have blown 3 leads in the third period so far.
It would have been nice for the Penguins to win that game and make a comeback, but you can’t win them all.
Here’s to hoping they can bounce back against the Canadiens at home on Wednesday night.
Despite all the excitement in these 2 games, the biggest news came about 2 hours before face-off against the Oilers on Friday night. Pascal Dupuis was sent to the hospital due to symptoms that may or may not have been related to his blood clot issues. Although, I would bet this was the case.
Everyone in Pittsburgh was holding their breath, and I give the Penguins serious props for winning that game on Friday. I am sure Dupuis was on their minds, and I’m sure it was extremely hard to focus.
That being said, Dupuis was tested negative and was able to return to the locker room to celebrate the victory with everyone else after the game. He was taken to Pittsburgh to be evaluated further, but this was at least some positive news.
After the game, Nick Bonino decided to give the gladiator helmet to Dupuis, which was just so fitting. Here is the link for the video here from the Penguins Instagram account:
To those of you that do not know, the gladiator helmet is given to a new player after each game who was the “team MVP” for the game. Nick Bonino was given the helmet after the game against Vancouver, and so he had the power to give the helmet to anyone that night. And trust me, there were plenty of other candidates, but it just seemed right to give it to Duper.
Anyways, let’s get into the recap of these hockey games, as well as some of my impressions from both of them. I’ll just stick to recapping goals this time. Here we go:
Pens @ Oilers
After 1: Pens 0 Oilers 0
Oilers goal (00:45) – Oscar Klefbom (2) assisted by Benoit Pouliot (5) and Nail Yakupov (9)
Eric Fehr had the puck in the offensive zone, but the puck was poke-checked off of his stick. Yakupov made a nice pass off the boards to Pouliot who passed the puck cross-ice to a streaking Oscar Klefbom. Klefbom carried the puck in and rifled a hard slap shot past Jeff Zatkoff to give the Oilers the lead. Yes, his name is Oscar Klefbom. Just an awesome hockey player name.
Pens goal (09:06) – Daniel Sprong (2) assisted by Matt Cullen (4) and Sergei Plotnikov (2)
The puck was dumped into the Penguins offensive zone, and Plotnikov was battling against 2 Oilers for the puck. Cullen came behind the net to help him. Plotnikov eventually shoveled the puck loose to Cullen, who gave a pass to Sprong who had his stick cocked right in the slot, and he made not mistake. Sprong has such a quick release, and just so much skill. More on him later, but what a huge goal for the Pens.
After 2: Pens 1 Oilers 1
Pens PP goal (9:45) Phil Kessel (5) assisted by Kris Letang (5) and Sidney Crosby (5)
This sure looked like a vintage Kessel goal, but in a sense, Kessel got some help. The Penguins were on the power play and Crosby had the puck behind the net. He fed the puck up the boards to Letang, who maneuvered towards the center of the ice and then dropped a pass off to Kessel. Kessel let one rip that hit the glove of an Edmonton defender and just fluttered in past goalie Nilsson. It was quite the change-up, but it still counts.
Final Score: Pens 2 Oilers 1
Pens @ Flames
Flames goal (07:37) – Joe Colborne (3) assisted by Sam Bennett (6) and Mikael Backlund (2)
The Flames had a power play that had just ended, and the Penguins had tired bodies on the ice. They just could not clear the puck. The Flames were able to make a one man change, which resulted in the goal. Colborne came flying off of the bench right down the middle of the ice, Bennett found him, and he wristed a shot by Fleury who did not have much of a chance to stop it.
Pens goal (13:06) – Phil Kessel (6) assisted by Evgeni Malkin (7)
This goal happened because of David Perron. His name doesn’t go on the score sheet, but give the guy some credit. He out-hustled 2 Flames to the puck, and forced a turnover along the boards where Malkin took possession. He fed Kessel a pass who was right on the goal line, and Kessel just found a way to stuff it in and tie the game. At the time, it was a big goal, but it wouldn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.
Flames PP goal (16:21) – Johnny Gaudreau (3) assisted by Sean Monahan (7) and Mikael Backlund (3)
I really am not sure if this goal was a result of bad defense or just terrific passing (or both). Either way, the Flames were on the power play and the puck was shuffled down behind the net to Backlund. Two Penguins converged, Backlund passed it to the front of the net, and Sean Monahan was wide open with the puck right in front of Fleury. Fleury had to respect the shot, so Monahan slid the puck across the crease to a wide open Gaudreau who made no mistake and gave Calgary the lead back.
Flames goal (17:11) – Sam Bennett (3) assisted by Michael Frolik (8) and Mikael Backlund (4)
This goal was just an absolutely terrific goal by Bennett. It was a highlight reel type of goal, it really was. Although as a Penguins fan it was hard to appreciate, as a hockey fan, it was a sweet goal. The play began in Calgary’s defensive zone. Backlund won a draw that was picked up by Frolik and handed onto Bennett, and Bennett did the rest. He carried the puck into the zone, curled the puck around Ian Cole, triple deked Fleury, and buried it short side not even a minute after the Flames took the lead.
After 1: Pens 1 Flames 3
Flames goal (09:05) – Sean Monahan (3) assisted by Johnny Gaudreau (13) and Dougie Hamilton (2)
This goal was just ridiculous. It was that kind of night for the Penguins. It started with a slap shot taken from the point by Hamilton. The puck hit Fleury and went into the air. Gaudreau then knocked the puck out of mid-air to Monahan, who then knocked the puck out of the air and into the net. The puck never touched the ice between Hamilton’s shot and after it entered the goal. Crazy hand-eye coordination, and just a ridiculous goal.
Pens PP goal (14:17) – Nick Bonino (3) assisted by David Perron (3) and Ian Cole (1)
The Penguins were in the waning seconds of the power play. Cole carried the puck up the ice and just before crossing the blue line, he dropped a pass off to Perron, who skated to the puck into the zone. The Flames gravitated towards Perron, who then fed a pass to the left wing to Nick Bonino who was wide open. Ramo was playing deep in the net, and Nick Bonino shot it short side and scored.
After 2: Pens 2 Flames 4
Flames EN goal (17:41) – Johnny Gaudreau (4) unassisted
Simple. Cole turned the puck over in the defensive zone, and Gaudreau shot the puck into the empty net.
Final score: Pens 2 Flames 5
Switch up the D pairings
Letang has great potential, and I know he is going to rebound, but he has looked pretty bad for the Penguins early on this season. He was a -4 against Calgary and has not been looking like the normal Kris Letang. Then again, his defensive partner Ian Cole hasn’t looked so good either.
You catching my drift?
I think the Penguins need to switch their defensive pairs. That being said, I love Dumoulin and Lovejoy. How about that combo being the shutdown pair for the Pens? Who would have thought?
Anyways, I would put Maatta with Letang to try to jump start both of them and let Scuderi play with Cole. I do not think this solves all the problems, but Cole and Letang have just looked terrible as a D pair. Two good players, but not good together. That’s how it works sometimes.
Give Sprong a Chance!
I can preach about this all I want, and I am going to keep saying it until it happens: give this guy a chance.
Case and point? Artemi Panarin of the Blackhawks. He is a rookie who has been playing among Chicago’s top 2 lines, and currently leads all rookies in scoring, and he had 2 goals and an assist tonight.
I think Sprong can be that guy. He has elevated his play, he has been much better defensively, and I think he can be a serious threat, especially if Pascal Dupuis is out long term.
Eric Fehr played on the top unit with Crosby and Hornqvist because Johnston did not want to “mess with his line combinations.” Although I do love Eric Fehr in a Penguins uniform, I did not like him on the top line, and he is not a natural left winger.
Just give Daniel Sprong a chance to do what he can do. You won’t regret it, Penguins.
After the early power play struggles, the power play has now scored in 5 games straight. Let’s hope this continues to be a trend.
As mentioned earlier, Dupuis did not play in either of these back to back games.
Since 2013-2014, the Penguins have a 44-15-2 record when Dupuis is in the lineup, which is a .738 win percentage. Also, during these 61 games, the Penguins have 3.16 goals for per game and allow 2.20 goals against per game.
When Dupuis is not in the lineup, the Penguins are 58-40-17, which is only .578 win percentage. During these 115 games, the Penguins have 2.55 goals for per game and 2.57 goals against per game.
Yeah, this guy is important.
Thanks to everyone for keeping up with me, and I am sorry for the delay. Keep in mind, I am a college student and I often have a lot on my plate.
Anyways, my next article will be up late Wednesday or Thursday recapping and discussing the Penguins vs. Canadiens. Puck drop at 7:30 on ROOT Sports.