Pens lose to Toronto, 4-3
Goals: Cooke (4) from Asham, Lovejoy
Kunitz (4) (PP) from Malkin, Letang
Malkin (2) (PP) from Letang, Neal
1) Ben Lovejoy. Aside from one bad turnover where Brent Johnson bailed him out, Lovejoy played a great overall game. He was a +1 on the night for the Pens and was not on for a goal against. He stopped three 2 on 1 chances (why on earth did he face 3 of them), and did a good job of stepping up into the offensive zone to get shots on net. For his good play, he was rewarded with the least playing time for defensemen… Regardless, Lovejoy played the most complete game of anyone on the team tonight.
2) Chris Kunitz. Kunitz showed his value in front of the net, scoring on the powerplay off of a Malkin rebound and also providing a great screen for Malkin's goal. He led the team with 5 shots (and actually had another 4 that he missed) as he continues to slowly adopt Neal’s style of play. He also led the team with 4 hits, mostly in forechecking situations. Kunitz is starting to warm up it appears, which might be perfectly timed with 87’s return. Interestingly enough, Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) did a little comparison of Kunitz with and without Crosby: http://blogs.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports/empty-netters/30642-with-or-without-you-10-28-11 Results: no difference.
|Finally, someone that actually does something in front of the net.|
3) Arron Asham. Though Asham continues to receive a limited amount of shifts, he made the most of them in Toronto. He led the team with 3 takeaways, had 3 shots on goal, and added an assist on Cooke’s goal. Asham played much like Kunitz and had a very strong forechecking effort against a quick Maple Leafs team. He forced turnovers well and created chances for the offense. For as quickly as Toronto was moving around the Pens in the neutral zone, I would have liked to see Asham out there more to force their mistakes.
1) Forwards. As a group, the forwards played their worst defensive game of the season. The 2 penalty kills aside, both of the Leafs 5 on 5 goals were on account of odd man matchups in the defensive zone where the leafs had 3 forwards on our 2 defenseman. The Sullivan-Malkin-Neal line was guilty on one of the goals, and the Dupuis-Park-Asham line was on for the other. I have spent the season praising the forwards for their defensive coverage, but they provided absolutely no help to Johnson and the defense in this game.
|Hey BJ, can you just tie up the guy on the crease and play goalie too?|
2) Evgeni Malkin. It is incredibly difficult on a game by game basis to decide if I want to praise Malkin or smack him on the nose like puppy that can’t be housebroken. The good: he scored a goal, set up another, and drew a penalty. The bad: He took 2 penalties, both of which lead to Leafs goals, he led the team in giveaways, he was slow to backcheck, and he was very careless with the puck in the defensive zone at times. Malkin is a very polarizing player – he either demonstrates unbelievable skill or frustrates you with unbelievably poor decisions. This needs to change if he ever wants to return to his Conn Smythe status.
3) Brooks Orpik. Orpik had another tough game, though it wasn’t completely all his fault. He was on for 3 goals against (2 on the PP) and received little help from the forwards in odd man situations. The main reason I’m putting Orpik here is because he seems to have lost some of his decisiveness from last season. This could very well be because he is still getting back to speed from his injury, but I think some quicker decision making will go a long way for helping his game, especially in odd man rushes so he can force teams to make a move rather than give them options.
- Kennedy (concussion), Crosby (concussion), Strait (hyperextended elbow), and Michalek (finger) all remain out.
- Jordan Staal missed the game with a lower body injury sustained against the Islanders and is day to day.
1) Hustle, Hustle, Hustle. This was the first game that I felt the Pens were outskated and outworked in. Even then, they still had plenty of chances to tie the game and they were dominating at times, but this was a necessary lesson for the Pens. Without top players in the lineup, every guy on this team has to skate their hardest every game to get complete wins. Luckily, that was the last game of a very packed October. Now the Pens get to rest, get healthy, and have only 2 games in the next 10 days. A period of refreshing is well earned and seems quite necessary.
|Kessel took a step ahead of Neal in the goal scoring race.|
2) Keys to the Penalty Kill. Arguably the 2 biggest penalty killers on the team were out against Toronto, and the PK quickly went 0 for 2. Who are those 2? Fleury and Staal. Not that Brent Johnson had much help, but Johnson is a stud backup because of his calm demeanor and his strong positioning. Fleury’s game is his athleticism and recovery ability. On the PK, it’s Fleury’s strengths that save a team moreso than Johnson’s. Meanwhile, Staal and his “pterodactyl” body are a big key to intercepting passes and deterring the opponents PP from moving the puck quickly. Toronto scored 2 PP goals…in 28 seconds total. Yikes.
3) Forwards should Play Defense too. Staal is going to get a lot of credit here too because of his defensive work and how much we missed it tonight. The forwards were just downright awful in the defensive zone in this game. I’m not sure if it was just an off game, or Toronto’s speed/effort kept them on their heels, but the Leafs consistently had a 3rd guy open down low that all of the forwards were missing. Plain and simple, if their guys are not covered, we’re going to lose.
Pens Record: 8-3-2, 18 pts.
Goals For: 39
Goals Against: 28
PP %: 22% (12 for 54)
PK %: 92% (36 for 39)
Next Game: 11/3 @ SJ, 10:30pm LET’S GO PENS!!!