Game Grades: Game 12 vs. Carolina
For the past three games, it has seemed like déjà vu for the Penguins from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals: out-chance and out-shoot the opposition, get good goaltending, look like the better team for extended stretches of the game, yet still come out on the losing end of the ledger. For their third game in four nights, they took on the Carolina Hurricanes, who were bringing their own two-game stumble into tonight. Here’s how things played out.
EVEN-STRENGTH OFFENSE: A-
The Pens scored all three of their goals tonight. They had a small stretch in the 2nd where they weren’t managing the puck well, but they turned that around and took it to Carolina in the 3rd. It was a simpler game plan of getting pucks deep, outworking the defense and cycling to open up shooting lanes. They had good puck possession and, even though two of the goals came on the rush, they ate up a lot of zone time.
EVEN-STRENGTH DEFENSE: A
The only offense Carolina sustained was in the 2nd, which was more a result of the offense not managing the puck as well as they had in the 1st. But the defense was very strong and really kept the Hurricanes from doing much of anything the whole night. Holding them to only three shots in the final 20 minutes was not only big for winning this game, but was a total reversal of the collapses from the past two games.
POWER PLAY: C-
They didn’t score, and one of their three chances was for 31 seconds as a backend power play, but they just aren’t finding the back of the net. You have to wonder if James Neal can really be the catalyst to turn this thing around, or it they need to make adjustments again.
PENALTY KILL: B
They gave up a goal on Carolina’s first man-advantage. Granted, this was a 5-on-3 at the time, but prior to that power play, the ‘Canes had been held to two shots. They hadn’t even had one for literally the first half of the game. That kind of goal has been haunting the Pens over their losing streak. Fortunately, the PK shutdown the next four and even drew a call on Carolina’s lone PP in the 3rd after Sidney Crosby and Craig Adams had a two-on-one the other way.
Fleury was solid when he needed to be, which wasn’t often in the 1st and 3rd. The only one that got by him was on a 5-on-3 power play. Good to see him still on track and not letting a couple tough games rattle him.
FINAL GRADE: A
The only way to stop a losing streak is to play winning hockey. The Pens played a more simplified game tonight. No blind backhand passes, not forcing pucks, minimal turnovers, insulating the goaltender. That’s how you get back to playing the way this team is capable of playing.
AND FOR THE REST…
JAYSON MEGNA: A
What a game by this kid. Two points, his first NHL goal and he made the right play all night. He deserved to get that first NHL goal with how well he played. Nice to see another first NHL goal-scorer for Pittsburgh.
PAUL MARTIN: A
His stick work in the 3rd was amazing. He was actually very strong throughout the game. He finished with a plus-2 on the night and shut down the ‘Canes pretty much every shift. Plus the play in front when he cleared the puck out of danger with a wide-open net was the defensive play of the game.
BROOKS ORPIK: A
The other half of the Pens’ shutdown pairing, Orpik finished the night with three assists and was excellent in front of the net all night.
JUSTIN FAULK: E
He was tasked with defending against Sidney Crosby in front of the coach for the United States Olympic Team, Dan Bylsma. He was a minus-3 on the evening. Not the best way to make that direct impression on the guy calling the shots on Sochi.
THE INJURY BUG: R
For “Ridiculous.” Chuck Kobasew leaves the game in the 1st; then Head Coach Dan Bylsma announces Rob Scuderi has a broken ankle and will need surgery. James Neal is still in the press box. Tomas Vokoun’s entire career is on the line. I sure hope that the Pens are getting their major injuries out of the way early…
PENGUINS COACHES: A
After a three-game skid for the Pens, they came into tonight’s game a much simpler game plan. They kept the risk-taking to a minimum and kept Carolina hemmed in for the bulk of the game. They got back to working the cycle and dumping the puck and forechecking with purpose. The defense insulated the front of the net and kept the slot closed for business. It was a nice adjustment after tough losses in games that were much more open.
Jiri Tlusty almost got a seat courtesy of Mr. Orpik.
Me – on Twitter @ZDaws75