Sorry for missing a few games in a row – had some family obligations that prevented me from taking in the games. Feel free to blame me for not watching and causing us to lose if it’s helpful. Otherwise, thanks for coming back and reading.

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The Penguins, over the course of the last five games, have experienced their longest stretch of futility. With the exception of a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators, the Pens lost four of their last five games, and only scored one goal in each of those games. There seemed to be a different story or reason for their inability to put together a complete game. Another Western Conference team, the strong Anaheim Ducks, was their next challenge. How did the Pens fare against one of the best teams in the West?

EVEN-STRENGTH OFFENSE: A-
In the first period, they only managed three shots on goal, all of which came with under three minutes to go. They did have some opportunities and created some close calls, but nothing truly substantial. However, some slight tweaks to their game generated 12 shots and had some great chances. Then, they exploded for three quick goals in 4:04 in the beginning of the 3rd.

EVEN-STRENGTH DEFENSE: A-
The Ducks were very strong in the 1st and had basically all of the chances in the opening frame. From there, however, the defense clamped down made life difficult for Anaheim the rest of the game. The Ducks only goal came at even strength, but was a tremendous play by the top line of the Ducks and a highly-skilled move by Ryan Getzlaf. They held the high-scoring Ducks to one, which is a major step in the right direction.

POWER PLAY: C+
0-for-3 isn’t going to warrant a high grade, but their power play had quite a few chances. The five power play shots registered is not an accurate representation of how many good looks at the net they had. Kris Letang was particularly strong with the man advantage tonight.

PENALTY KILL: A-
They only had to kill one penalty, and they were successful. It wasn’t the prettiest kill, but there aren’t style points on penalty kills.

GOALTENDING: A
Marc-Andre Fleury was a major part of the Penguins winning. He weathered the storm in the 1st when the guys in front of him could not get a puck to the net. He kept sharp in the 2nd despite not facing much. And he made a couple huge saves in the 3rd that preserved the lead. Fleury has been solid, even amidst the recent losing streak. This was finally a result he deserved.

FINAL GRADE: A-
This was a huge game for the Pens. They haven’t played many teams that would be considered superior competition on paper, so this was a true test for them. They played the Ducks tough and showed why they certainly have the potential to work out of the rut they’ve been stuck in for the last several games.

AND FOR THE REST…

BRIAN GIBBONS: A
His first goal of his NHL career was the first goal of the game. He had an assist on the goal that would be the game winner. He played a simple game and did exactly what you should do in your first game. Nice work by the kid. And kudos to the Pens farm system for preparing guys to come up to the big club and play well.

EVGENI MALKIN: B
He had two assists in the game and, in the 3rd period, looked like that dominant player that makes it so tough for teams to gameplan for the Pens. However, in the 2nd period, Geno had a couple of prime chances – in the slot, no less – that he passed over to try to feed the puck to someone else. In the 3rd, he started shooting and suddenly things opened up a bit more for him. I wonder if there is some connection there…

DAN BYLSMA: A
After a really rough 1st period, the Pens made the needed adjustments to take the game over from the 2nd and on. The changes to the lines also sparked the team and got a winning result.

LUCA SBISA: T
As in “Target.” All night, the Pens plastered him along the boards. Joe Vitale and Craig Adams drilled him to set the physical tone, and this later seemed to lead to Sbisa taking a frustration cross check on Brandon Sutter.