Game Grades: Game 17 @ St. Louis
The Penguins suffered their worst loss of the season at the hands of the New York Rangers on Wednesday after a long layover between games. After another long wait between games, the Pens were finally back in action Saturday in St. Louis to face the Blues. The long stretch between games has not been beneficial for this team, though. Here’s how too much rest turned out for the Pens.
EVEN-STRENGTH OFFENSE: E
The team as a whole had only 20 shots on goal, and when you consider the Pens only had two power plays that accounted for four of those shots, it really helps to illustrate how few pucks they let fly at Jaroslav Halak. At one point, Bob Errey made it a point to mention that Halak took time during play to get a drink of water from the bottle. There was that little action from the Pens’ offense. To compound the issue, in a tight game, they were outshot 12-5 in the 3rd period. If you want to win, start by getting more than five shots in the final period of a tie game.
EVEN-STRENGTH DEFENSE: C-
They only surrendered two goals, but the Blues had a lot of zone time and had a lot of quality chances at even strength. To be fair, the offense’s struggles didn’t keep the puck in the Blues’ zone that often, so the defense was busier than they typically are. But the first goal was a direct result of a defensive zone turnover and poor coverage thereafter, and they had a hard time making plays out of their own end.
POWER PLAY: A
They scored their only goal on the power play, and Sidney Crosby was a post away from getting another one with the man advantage. They had good movement and generated a number of good chances this way. They only got the two opportunities on the power play, though, so they couldn’t take advantage of how well it seemed to be clicking.
PENALTY KILL: A
Both ends of the special teams for the Pens were when they were at their best Saturday night. The Blues got three chances on the power play, but the Penguins penalty kill was solid against them. The Blues did have one quality power play, but the other two were well killed by the Pens. The Blues have the number two PP at home, so it was a great effort by the Pens to keep them off the board.
Two goals normally would be enough for a win, but the team in front of Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t at its best. The unfortunate part is that the deciding goal squeaked through MAF. It was a soft goal, but Fleury made a number of big saves throughout the game to give the Pens a chance to win.
FINAL GRADE: D
The Pens hung around for a while, but they couldn’t get it together. 20 total shots for a game is not going to cut it. This performance was not quite the same as their last one against the Rangers, but there was one similarity – the Pens were not the better team on the ice, and the result reflected that.
AND FOR THE REST…
JUSSI JOKINEN: A
He looked like the best player for Pittsburgh on the ice tonight. He got his eighth goal of the season, tying him for top on the team. He quietly plays a smart game every night, and definitely gives that second line some stability.
BEAU BENNETT: B+
He played a tough game. He was tough in the boards and fought for pucks all night. He rung one off the post that would have tied it 1-1 right after the Blues scored their first goal. It was great to see him back out there – what he brings was definitely missed.
JAMES NEAL: B
The surprise appearance of the evening, Neal came back and played pretty well. It will take maybe another game for him to really get his legs under him, but he wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger and had a few good looks at the net. He was in on the only goal of the night, too. As with Bennett, it’s a shame that the best players for Pittsburgh were the ones who hadn’t played in a while.
SIDNEY CROSBY/PASCAL DUPUIS: C-
Crosby had a great chance in front that deflected off the post, and worked well against boards, but he just wasn’t on his game. He missed on some passes, and just couldn’t get the chances he tried to create to connect. Dupuis seemed out of sorts a lot of the night. He just wasn’t in the right place at the right time at all. Thus, that line wasn’t overly effective throughout the evening.
JAROSLAV HALAK: B
The Pens got a few of their chance behind him, but a couple posts and a little good fortune kept the Pens from putting more on the board. Halak played well enough to win, but had the Pens challenged him more, they may have been able to put a few more behind him.
He destroyed Derek Roy in front of the net – Roy looked a bit stunned after getting blasted like that.
OTHER LESS-CLEVERLY NAMED HITS:
Kris Letang’s hip check on TJ Oshie was pretty great, and James Neal standing up Barrett Jackman on Jackman’s attempt to hit him was pretty impressive. There were quite a few other big hits by the Pens, but those two stood out.