My Prediction

Pens 5, Panthers 2.
Actual: Pens 2, Panthers 1.
Record in predicting winner: 26-16.

Even Strength Offense: D

They were brutal most of the night. Their dump-ins were aimless. The effort just was not there, except for the Staal line. The top line has completely disappeared, which means they’re having trouble scoring goals right now. They generated very few quality chances against a goalie who always beats them, though they did hit a couple posts early on. The Staal line finally got them on the board when Staal made a great pass to set up a mini breakaway by Sullivan where he just squeaked the puck past Theodore.

Even Strength Defense: A-

Hard to fault the defensive performance when the other guys get one goal and that was on a lucky bounce off the boards. They kept the Panthers mostly under control and didn’t allow many odd-man breaks. Considering they were playing without three regulars (or two regulars and a minus machine lol) on the back end, I’d say the defensemen held up quite well.

Power Play: F

It’s just a mess right now. They really miss Letang on the back side. Maybe when Sid comes back, you just go with five forwards until Letang returns, because Niskanen just doesn’t have it. Of course, the slumps by Neal and Malkin don’t help either. Last night, the Pens managed but four harmless shots during a 4-minutes power play, their only one of the night.

Penalty Kill: C

I know, I know, probably harsh since they didn’t even allow a power play goal. But they were actually terrible on their only kill, allowing five shots and a couple good ones. The Panthers basically kept the puck in the zone the entire power play.

Goaltending: A

As usual, Fleury was basically their savior again. They probably didn’t deserve to win other than Fleury’s play, but he got them the two points. e is on an amazing run right now. In his last six starts, he’s 6-0 with a 1.14 GAA and an incredible .964 save percentage. Make no mistake, he’s the main reason the streak is still alive.

Overall: C+

Lowest grade possible for a win. The effort wasn’t there. The execution wasn’t there. But Marc-Andre was.

And now, the rest of the story…

Geno: F+

Gene, Gene, the Giveaway Machine goes up a notch only because he scored in the shootout. Otherwise, it was one careless intercepted pass after another.

James Neal: D

At least he had a couple good chances last night, even though he didn’t convert.

Jordan Staal: A

By far the Pens’ best skater last night. He was all over the ice, just hounding Panthers in the defensive zone and controlling the puck at the other end. He won 15 of 20 draws. And he made a great pass to set up their only goal.

Pascal Dupuis: A

Another levitation night for him.

Steve Sullivan: A

I gave him a lot of crap earlier in the year, but he is really playing well right now. He’s got 4 goals, 7 assists in his last 10 games. he has meshed extremely well with Staal and Dupuis.

Zbynek Michalek: A

He was tremendous. He attempted 8 shots offensively and was a rock defensively. He played an amazing 28 minutes.

Minus Machine Update

Player This Game Season
MM4 0 -3
MM7 0 -4
Non Minus Machines 0 +45

Striped Buffoonery

So, I have a question. Why do we even pay referees? To call penalties, you say? Oh, wow, there were four last night. And one of those was a blatant high stick that was seen in the top rows of the arena. To make goal/no-goal calls? There were only three calls all night, and they got one of them wrong. Seriously, just think of all the savings if there were no clowns out there taking up space on the ice, and you didn’t have to pay their salaries and travel.

Bibsy’s Creative Language

We have two fine entries last night.

“The Pens are trying to get their legs behind them and underneath them.” What, are they playing Twister or something?

“Go to the bench. Get the blood capsule out.” This ain’t professional wrestling, Bibsy.

Minard of the Game

We rarely award this anymore, but Jordan Staal came through in a big way in the final minute. He was in front on a semi-breakaway and inexplicably tried a backwards pass to Sullivan (I think) in the left circle. Hilarious!

Free Candy

He nailed Shawn Matthias early on.

I’m on Twitter.

A guide to the game grades can be found here.