Pens at Devils Grades
A superb performance
For the most part, the Pens had a great offensive game. Right from the drop of the puck, they generated good chances against Uncle Daddy. He kept them at bay in the first period, though. But in the second period, the Pens exploded. The three goals were all a result of great work in the offensive zone. First, they got a lucky goal as Staal barged his way in front and the puck went in off a Devil player. That’s the type of power move we need to see more of from him. Then, they took advantage of a Lil Dab Oduya giveaway. Max Talbot made a nice one-handed pass in front to a wide open Christensen, who absolutely undressed Uncle Daddy (now, there’s a horrifying thought) with the Forsbergian forehand to one-handed backhand move. But the onslaught wasn’t done. Sykora made a brilliant pass in front to Malone, who buried it for the eventual winner. Even more impressively, the Pens kept up the pressure in the third period, after they got the lead. They never let the Devils off the mat, as they have been wont to do this year.
They really limited the Devils’ chances last night. Conklin was not forced to stand on his head to earn this win. For the most part, they were able to move the puck effectively out of the zone and limit the second chances. The only even-strength goal they gave up was the old JS Aubin “fluky” goal. A weak wrister by Mike Rupp went off Laraque and then Letang and past Conklin. They really cut down on the shots against in this one, allowing only 18 at even strength. Once they had the lead, they gave up virtually nothing in the way of chances. This was a tremendous team defensive effort. Hey, maybe taking Orpik off the blueline was a smart move.
Power play: B
The first power play looked terrible, but it got better as the game went along. On that one, the first three dump-ins went right to Uncle Daddy, who easily moved it out of the zone. After that, they were moving the puck and moving around, and it finally culminated in a goal. It was another garbage goal, with Ryan Malone camped in front just waiting to bat home a rebound. The power play has looked better the last couple games because they are indeed willing to keep it simple while Sid is out.
Penalty kill: C-
Boy, the power play goal the Devils scored was a classic example of what’s wrong with the Penguin defensemen. Sydor just got abused in front by the immortal Mike Rupp. Sydor neither played the body nor the stick, and ended up falling on Conklin as Rupp outmuscled him. Not pretty. They struggled a bit all night clearing the puck when they had chances. Thankfully, they only took three penalties so they weren’t exposed too much.
Conklin responded to his worst game as a Penguin by returning to form last night. While he wasn’t overly busy, he did make a few key saves here and there to keep the Pens in it. Once they got ahead, the defense and him pretty much shut the door and allowed nothing at all
Pens goaltending since Fleury went down: 15-6-2, 2.35 GAA, .926 save percentage (Conklin is 11-2-2, 1.81, .944).
This was a tremendous overall effort. They generated offense. They played stifling defense once they got the lead. The special teams were pretty strong. The goaltending was good. I mean, what else can you ask? This is a depleted team that had to move a defenseman to forward just to field four lines of healthy bodies. They go on the road and beat the division leaders. Just a sweet, sweet win. This is starting to remind me of how the old Penguin teams used to buckle down when Mario was out.
And now, the rest of the story…
Michel Therrien: A
Okay, you who loyally read this blog know I have been highly critical of Michel Therrien at times. But you have to give the guy all the credit in the world for how this team is playing without all the injured and sick players. It is very impressive, to say the least. He has implemented a strong system not seen since the Kevin Constantine days. He has kept this team together, when many coaches and players would have thrown in the towel because of all the adversity. You can’t ask for any more out of a coach under these circumstances.
This was a fairly boring affair, and it wasn’t only because of the Devils. Neither team was very aggressive offensively. But boring works when you’re as shorthanded as the Pens are right now, and they have to keep playing that way.
Bad penalties: F
The axiom goes, take a bad penalty and you pay the price. The Pens took two last night. While the high stick on Staal was accidental, it was still careless. But the penalty on Ruutu is the type you just can’t have. Staal’s penalty took away all their early momentum and gave the Devils a power play goal. They did tighten up as the game went along.
Jordan Staal: A
He is playing with much more confidence lately. Maybe Sid’s injury was just what he needed to get kick-started and realize he had to step up.
Evgeni Malkin: A
Once again, he was far and away the best player on the ice. Even the Devils announcers were commenting on how dominant he was.
Devil “fans”: F
Do they even have any fans? Years of boring play in the swamp drove all but the most ardent fans away. Now they can’t even fill their sparkling new arena for a game between two top teams. They are an embarrassment to the NHL.
Lou the Devil: F
Tonight: 26/57, 46%. Power play: 2/7, 29%.
Total: 44.6%/40.7% since Sid went out.
Striped Buffoon Huh? Call of the Game
Ryan Malone is apparently invisible to both the Devils and the striped buffoons. He scored two goals, proof that the Devils couldn’t see him. And he got high stuck twice in the game, neither one being seen by four striped buffoons, proving they couldn’t see him either. Laughably, on the first one, Doc Emrick said it must have been his teammate’s stick since there was no call. C’mon, Doc, you have watched the game long enough to know how bad the striped buffoons are.
It has to be Erik Christensen’s move to beat Uncle Daddy. As Doc Emrick said, that is a practice move that few would dare try during a game. It shocked Uncle Daddy and shifted the momentum back to the Pens. It was a game-changing moment.