Even Strength Offense: A

The offense is on a roll. They were thoroughly dominant most of the night. They racked up an amazing 77 shot attempts. The first period was a thing of beauty, as they scored three times and had numerous other quality chances. The Pens were just flying. It might have been the best I’ve seen them skate all year. Neal whacked home a blocked shot. Sid and Bennett (well, actually some Toronto scrub) batted in rebounds against a shaky James Reimer. Unfortunately, Reiner somehow found his game and they only put one more behind him until the shootout. But it wasn’t like the Pens took the foot off the gas. They still got some quality chances but couldn’t bury them.

Even Strength Defense: B

They did play a bit better defensively. I didn’t really see a lot of good chances for Toronto. Adams and Niskanen seemed to somehow lose track of Kessel on the tying goal, but that was the biggest breakdown. They rarely got hemmed in their own end and they took care of the puck in the neutral zone to avoid too many odd-man breaks.

Power Play: D

They did generate some chances, but not with any consistency. At some point, they are just going to have to admit that the best configuration does not include number 58.

Penalty Kill: F

It is just a disaster area right now. They continue to leave guys wide open in front, witness the Van Riemsdyk goal. They continue to allow uncontested, screened point shots, witness the second goal. And to make matters worse, Sutter lost both draws and they ended up behind Fleury seconds later. They are just doing nothing right.

Goaltending: D

Not a good effort from Fleury. The first goal, despite being deflected only slightly, leaked through the five hole. And he has to stop that MacArthur shot. He can’t be blamed for the fully screened power play goal (thank you, Letang) or the Kessel goal that resulted from a fortuitous bounce and poor coverage.

Overall: B-

It was really a solid effort, but I am downgrading them significantly for gacking another 2-goal lead. They just can’t seem to find that happy medium that will allow them to play comfortably with a lead. Be it shoddy defense or lousy goaltending, they seem to find a way to keep every opponent in a game. I remember in the first Cup years, they were in a similar situation both years. They were just playing firewagon hockey. But both years, Craig Patrick boldly traded away offensive dynamos (1991: Cullen, 1992: Recchi and Coffey) for toughness and defense (1991: Francis and Ulf, 1992: Tocchet and Kjell). I wonder if Shero can pull off something similar.

And now, the rest of the story…

Sid: A

Oh, my. He was dynamic last night.

Geno: A

He was flying too.

James Neal: A

Seven shots on goal and a +2.

Beau Bennett: A

I might have to quit saying Shero has never drafted a worthwhile forward.

Brooks Orpik: F

He was on for both power play goals against.

Brandon Sutter: F

Most of the penalty killer are the same as last year, with the exception of him and Glass.Thus, some of the blame has to go to him. He was a miserable 4/14 on draws, including getting skunked while down a man. That is simply unacceptable.

The Fourth Line: F

Glass and Adams were on for the tying goal. This is a totally useless line, and I’d like to see all three or four or five of them jettisoned. Adams is just dog slow. Glass is more worthless than Arron Asham. Jeffrey is miscast. And Vitale isn’t good enough to beat any of them out. This trio is just not working, especially when one of their primary roles is to kill penalties and they can’t even do that.

Hockey Night In Canada: A

Last week, we were subjected to the tedious Bob Cole. He made that 7-6 game sound like a snoozefest. Last night, they gave us Jim Hughson. What a pleasure it is listening to someone so good at his craft. He is quick and precise with his calls. He might just be the best in the game right now.

Icehole

Tyler Bozak whined to the linesman about his puck drop on the Neal goal, and after a couple other ones. Apparently, he was complaining that despite it being Hockey Night In Canada, he was being shortchanged. After this, Bozak shockingly wins two power play draws cleanly that resulted in goals.

March 9, 1967:

A TWA DC-9 that took off from Pittsburgh collided in midair with a small Cessna just west of Columbus, killing all 25 people aboard.

Ah, 1967. TWA was still in existence and the Leafs won the Cup. Two things you’ll never see again.

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A guide to the game grades can be found here.