- Ben Lovejoy was traded to Anaheim for a 2014 5th round pick. Dylan Reese was recalled from WBS.
- Kris Letang will miss tonight due to an unknown ailment (I bet it’s a body injury, maybe even inner).
- Dylan Reese makes his Penguins debut, paired up with Simon Despres
Pens 5 Caps 2
Goals: Malkin (3) (PP) from Crosby, Martin
Dupuis (4) from Crosby, Kunitz
Neal (7) (PP) from Kunitz, Malkin
Cooke (2) from Sutter
Crosby (5) (PP) from Malkin, Neal
- Most playing time: 28:08 for Paul Martin followed by 23:14 for Brooks Orpik
- Least playing time: 11:07 for Tyler Kennedy and then 11:38 for Zach Boychuk
- The Pens went 36 for 62 on faceoffs (Big 3 - Crosby: 12/23, Malkin: 10/16, Sutter: 8/13)
- Robert Bortuzzo led the team in hits (3) and penalties (2)
- The powerplay went 3/4 to increase their season total to 12/41 (29.3%)
- Evgeni Malkin: Geno seems to have shaken his KHL rust off completely at this point. Aside from his top corner snipe on Neuvirth and 2 powerplay assists, he’s demonstrating an increasing level of comfort in his skating and willingness to attempt various moves. You can really tell when Malkin is feeling it based on his “swagger” on the ice, which tonight included a spin-o-rama shot (wide) and tape to tape passes. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the start of a goal streak for him.
- Powerplay: While many of us (myself included) had suggested put Martin on the point and [foolishly] take Kunitz off the powerplay or split Malkin and Crosby up, Martin finally got his chance due to Letang’s absence tonight. He ran the powerplay with poise and confidence and was certainly a factor in their 3 for 4 performance tonight. The powerplay was clicking all over tonight as everyone made tape to tape passes and retrieved rebounds and pucks on the boards. High skill + high effort + accuracy = lethal powerplay. The usage of Crosby and Malkin across from each other on the left and right half boards (both had turns on each side) gave the Capitals fits and should be a fixture moving forward.
- Sidney Crosby: All of a sudden, Crosby is tied for 3rd in points in the league and has put together a 6 game point streak. Not bad for a guy that “started slow”, “would never return to form”, and “passed the baton.” No matter what your feelings were going into the season, there is no doubt Crosby is playing at his elite level right now and wasn’t even slowed down by a puck to the face. Good luck finding many players that scored the way he did tonight. On a defensive note, his penalty killing has been quite strong too.
- Paul Martin: As mentioned under the powerplay, Martin continues to move the puck with poise and has just simplified his game to a point of mastery. He played a whopping 28:08 tonight, almost 5 minutes more than anyone else on the team. Odds are you didn’t even notice it because he played that well. I’m starting to run out of specifics to compliment Martin on because he has elevated his game that much.
- 2nd Line: While Neal and Malkin looked great on the powerplay, the 2nd line still needs some work. Neal was pass-happy, no wait, make that blind pass-happy and had issues turning the puck over. Boychuk still had great bursts of speed and looked very much in sync with Malkin but his puck control could use some help. The line as a whole seemed to make far too many short passes (we’ll say less than 3 ft) that were either unnecessary or too tough for someone to handle. This line still hasn’t found their rhythm yet and I still think Jeffrey will return to the lineup sooner than later.
- Brandon Sutter: This is certainly nitpicky because Sutter wasn’t bad; he just wasn’t up to par either. His flaws were masked by the 5-2 win and his perfect faceoff win on Cooke’s goal, but he has had trouble controlling the puck and getting it out of the zone. To a degree, I trust Sutter more without the puck than with the puck in the defensive and neutral zone right now. That being said, he is still a stud when it comes to covering guys and blocking shots. He just needs to be stronger on the puck on clears and passes.
- The Caps: I had nothing marked badly enough for the Pens to put in this section (heck, I nitpicked to make a “Bad” section), so let’s attack what was ugly – the Washington Capitals. Many fans had a bad feeling going into this game. The Caps always play the Pens well in Pittsburgh, they had a big point to prove, and they were looking for a revenge game. It started out strongly for Washington with the Ribeiro goal (don’t blame the refs, don’t blame the rules, Orpik got his stick under Fleury’s mask and knocked it off - lack of awareness on both of their parts). Then there were just bizarre moves. Pulling Neuvirth after the 2nd goal seemed foolish (and indeed did backfire) even if it was a soft goal. The Caps as a team looked disgruntled after that happened instead of showing a renewed energy. Why didn’t Oates use his timeout instead of going to Holtby who had gotten destroyed just days ago? Then, why didn’t he use it after Holtby got blitzed twice in 11 seconds? I thought Ovechkin played a strong game and looked awake again but the team as a whole just looked frazzled after the 2nd goal and had no rallying point. What is the identity of the Capitals? I don’t think anyone knows right now.
- 1st GA (Ribeiro): - for Sutter (knocked off puck), Cooke (too deep in D zone, not covering point), Orpik (gets under Fleury’s mask with his stick)
- 1st GF (Malkin): + for Martin (pass to Crosby), Crosby (pass to Malkin), Kunitz (interferes with Carlson), Malkin (goal)
- 2nd GF (Dupuis): + for Engelland (breakout pass), Kunitz (passes up to Sid), Crosby (pass to Dupuis), Dupuis (goal)
- 3rd GF (Neal): + for Malkin (stretch pass to Kunitz), Kunitz (pass to the goal line to Neal), Neal (goal)
- 4th GF (Cooke): + for Sutter (faceoff win), Cooke (goal)
- 5th GF (Crosby): + for Neal (passes to Malkin), Malkin (shot that creates rebound), Crosby (retrieved puck originally, goal)
- 2nd GA (Ovechkin): - for Orpik (penalty)
- Click here to get the Season +/- spreadsheet and totals
- Lovejoy Trade: As you likely know, Lovejoy was traded to the Ducks for a 5th round pick. I think it’s a fair trade, and honestly a generous trade since Lovejoy likely would have been put on waivers. The Ducks are tearing it up right now and Lovejoy would have been claimed before he made it to them. Pittsburgh gains compensation and the Ducks pay for depth. It’s a solid trade for both teams.
- Dylan Reese: I was very impressed with Reese, who played over 14 minutes in this game. He played smart and simple hockey to perfection. He didn’t take a single risk in passing or shooting the puck, and even made some superb line changes (I’m serious). I noticed twice that he refused to change until his other D partner had changed and the new defenseman had already shifted over to cover him for his change. It sounds natural and simple, but natural and simple is what wins hockey games for 3rd pairing defensemen, so good for him.
- Robert Bortuzzo: Bortuzzo played well as usual and I had to give him credit for showing absolutely no fear with Ovechkin in the 3rd period. The second penalty he took was certainly interference and I could have done without that (kept him out of the good section) but the first penalty was a good one. He clearly stood up to Ovi and got into his head. Not only that, but I will take a Bortuzzo for Ovechkin trade to the penalty box any day of the week. Bortuzzo has quickly acclimated himself to the NHL and is showing he really belongs.
Pens Record: 8-3-0, 16 pts
Next Game: 2/9 @ NJ, 1pm