- This will be Sidney Crosby’s first visit to Winnipeg, where fans have always had his back with chants like “Crosby’s Better” to Ovechkin.
- Tomas Vokoun is starting. Ben Lovejoy will play in his first game of the season as Simon Despres sits this game out.
- Per @PensRadioNet, the Pens are 15-2 in their last 17 against the Thrashers/Jets. The only 2 losses have been 1 goal games on the road.
|Crosby wowed the fans...but still lost.|
Jets 4 Pens 2
Goals: Crosby (2) from Kunitz, Letang
Crosby (3) from Niskanen
- Crosby moves into 4th place on the Pens all-time scoring leaders list with 614 points. (Passing Ron Francis)
- Evgeni Malkin led the team with 8 shots
- Crosby led the team with 4 hits
- Kris Letang was the ice time leader with 26:01. Eric Tangradi was at the low end with 9:00. Ben Lovejoy played 13:44 in his season debut
- Brandon Sutter was 3 for 13 on faceoffs
- Tyler Kennedy: Give TK credit, he recorded 5 shots and drew a penalty (when he intercepted Neal’s pass to Malkin) on his 2nd line debut. He looked comfortable with Malkin and Neal and had quite a few chances in the offensive zone. It was a huge upgrade from Tangradi on Malkin’s wing.
- Tomas Vokoun: Vokoun did not deserve a loss tonight even if his numbers weren't gaudy. He made 28 saves on 31 shots and came up with clutch save after clutch save as the Penguins turned the puck over in the defensive zone. His puck handling was a little bit of a mess on a couple occasions, but you should be used to that from your goalies by now.
- Matt Niskanen: Nisky started the play that led to the first Crosby goal and had the primary assist on Crosby’s second goal. He played well on defense, mostly paired with Letang, and made strides in his play on the crease. I noted him clearing the crease at least three times to help Vokoun and that has been a major deficit in the Pens’ defensive game.
- Sidney Crosby: Crosby produced both goals to a loud chorus of boos and led the team in hits as he tried to lead by example. My only complaint with Sid in this game is that he passed up a couple of shooting chances to set up others, but it’s hard to complain with 2 goals on 3 shots. He also led the team with 2 blocked shots.
- Chris Kunitz: Although he made a nice pass to Crosby to set up the first goal, Kunitz had a dismal night with turnovers again. He looked smooth offensively with Sid and Dupuis, but had trouble clearing the puck from the defensive zone and provided poor support for the defense. His puck management has been less than ideal this season.
- Matt Cooke: Cooke also had problems clearing the zone and looked much less effective on the 3rd line with Sutter and Glass. His failed clearing attempt early in the 2nd period led to Winnipeg’s first goal as he couldn’t cover the 3rd man in the play either. He showed very little ability to forecheck or create tonight.
- Evgeni Malkin: Though Malkin led the team with 8 shots and was flat out robbed by Pavelec twice, his overall game left a lot to be desired. He made some abysmal turnovers, including a direct pass to an opposing forward entering the Penguins zone again. He also was visibly frustrated throughout the game, took an unnecessary hooking penalty that led to the 2nd goal against, and was slow/out of place on the 3rd goal against. More on Malkin down below…
- Brandon Sutter: Sutter had his worst game of his short Penguin career, getting crushed in the faceoff circle (3 for 13) and struggling with puck control all night. He fanned on multiple prime scoring chances and, just like everyone else, turned the puck over quite a few times. His defensive positioning was still solid, but his puck-handling was costly on a few shifts.
- Turnovers: The official stats say the Pens had 9 giveaways and the Jets had 10 takeaways. I’m pretty sure the Pens had over 30 giveaways in that game. Puck management was simply awful up and down the lineup as players couldn’t clear their own zone, passed to no one in the neutral zone, or sent the puck right out of the offensive zone. A win tonight would have been completely undeserved with how awful the Pens were with puck management.
- Overall Team Play: As the turnovers increased, the Penguins did nothing to adjust or change what was happening. There was no timeout as momentum and play shifted for the Jets. There was no attempt to switch to a simpler style or just get pucks to the net. The Penguins didn’t adjust at all as the Jets increased their forecheck, became more physical, and forced turnover after turnover. The Penguins played a very strong first period and then simply let Winnipeg dictate the rest of the game.
- 1st GF (Crosby): + for Niskanen (initial pass), Letang, Kunitz, Crosby
- 2nd GF (Crosby): + for Dupuis (clears space), Niskanen, Crosby
- 1st GA (Kane): - for Cooke (turnover), Crosby (lazy backcheck), Letang (doesn’t step up on Kane)
- 2nd GA (Byfuglien): - for Malkin (in the box), Orpik (doesn’t engage Antropov screen), Letang (doesn’t engage Antropov screen)
- 3rd GA (Ladd): - for Neal (bad outlet pass), Malkin (weak reach for the puck), Engelland (out of position), Lovejoy (doesn’t cover Ladd)
- 4th GA (Wheeler): - for Letang (doesn’t control puck)
- Defensive Pairs: The first 2 pairs (Letang/Niskanen, Orpik/Martin) have proven themselves to be reliable and big TOI eaters early in the season. The third pair…is frightening. The Pens used Engelland and Lovejoy together tonight on their 3rd pair. They played 13 minutes together and actually did not look horrible for most of the game. Lovejoy actually contributed offensively with a couple of shots but everyone will remember his failure to cover Ladd on the 3rd goal. In all fairness, the 3rd pair played fine for a 3rd pair tonight. Malkin and Neal failed that pairing just as much as they failed themselves on that 3rd goal against. However, I would still like to see Bortuzzo over either Engelland or Lovejoy because of how sound he is positionally. The goal of the 3rd pair is not to add to the game, but to make sure they don’t subtract. We haven’t found a 3rd pairing that can handle that quite yet.
- Malkin’s Struggle: Through 4 games, it appears I completely underestimated how the KHL would alter Malkin’s game. It’s not that he’s tired, or lazy, or anything like that. Malkin’s problem right now is a COMPLETE difference in how much time/space he had in the KHL vs what he has now. The KHL not only had a bigger ice surface, but the style of play lent itself to more time with the puck and more time to make decisions. Malkin’s timing is now completely off as he has to make decisions much faster and that is clearly being shown with his turnovers and general frustration. He’s probably in better shape than most players, but he now has the opposite problem of what I felt Sid had. Sid had his brain at full speed, his skills lagging behind. Malkin’s skills are at full speed, but his brain is lagging behind. Give it a few games and he’ll be fine.
- New Lines: The first line looked very solid overall tonight and it looks like Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis are getting back onto the same page quickly. The second line looked decent, with TK actually looking the best. Malkin and Neal had an off game and will surely rebound nicely for that line. The third line took a dive with the loss of Kennedy. Cooke-Sutter-Glass never looked in sync as a cohesive unit and poor individual games from Cooke and Sutter did not help. The 4th line didn’t look bad, but didn’t have any cohesive jump to it either. Vitale and Adams had some strong individual efforts, and even Tangradi had a couple nice plays, but it wasn’t a strong line that could control the puck down low. The key in the Rangers game was the 3rd and 4th lines grinding the Rangers to death while the 1st and 2nd lines went to work with skill. If the bottom two lines don’t do that, the top two lines won’t get the same opportunities either. The jury is still out, but I think the TK line change hurts the team as a whole more than it helps the second line.
- Tangradi Thoughts: Honestly, I thought Tangradi looked OKAY tonight. He still looked a little lost and overskated some pucks, but he didn’t look as outmatched as in previous games. Though I would rather see Jeffrey in the lineup, I can deal with another game of Tangradi to see if he can develop some chemistry with Vitale and Adams.
- Jets Crowd: Finally, huge props to the Winnipeg fans for being amazing. That crowd sounded playoff-ready and honestly made me feel like the Pens just lost a playoff game. I hope Consol can one day sound like that during the regular season, but I don't expect it due to the sheer size of the building. Consol will probably never even match up to the igloo. Maybe it's time we accept that and just stay jealous of Winnipeg.
Pens Record: 2-2-0, 4 ptsNext Game: 1/27 @ Ott, 5pm