Pens at Thrashers Grades
Just one of those nights
The Pens actually generated a good amount of pressure most of the night, but they just couldn’t beat Kari Lehtonen. Sykora and Gonchar, in particular, had a number of great looks. But it was just one of those games where the opposing goalie was hot, as Lehtonen always seems to be against the Pens. They had several sequences where the forecheck was excellent and they bottled the Thrashers up. Some ended in shots, some did not. They also had a decent number of odd man breaks. But nothing was going in, at least until Whitney scored late. That play was just a nice cross-ice pass by Christensen at the end of a sustained forecheck effort. But that was the only time they dented Lehtonen.
The two even-strength goals they allowed were both pitiful plays by Whitney, who was just awful in his own end. On the first, he had Unibrow one-on-one in front, and Unibrow just abused him. Whitney neither played the puck nor the body nor the stick, and Unibrow had a week and a half to make a move and put it past Conklin. First bad break of the night as the shot was going wide, but it hit Conklin and went in. On the second even strength tally by Atlanta, the immortal Jim Slater was able to bring a rebound off the boards out front and slam it home as Whitney again stood helplessly by. I guess he was plotting how he was going to score a goal or something. Aside from this, they also allowed a number of odd-man breaks and were generally nowhere near as sharp as they had been the previous night.
Power play: D
The power play didn’t look TOO bad, but they had nothing to show for their efforts. They did control the puck at times, but didn’t get nearly enough rubber toward Lehtonen. And they gave up a shorty to boot on the last one. That was just an ugly play by Gonchar, who got caught in no-man’s land on a clearing play. He neither kept it in nor prevented the breakaway, and Eric Perrin just buried it past a stunned Conklin.
Penalty kill: C
it was a tough night for the PK. They generally did a good job, despite being forced to kill a four-minute double minor and a five-minute major (more on that later). They generally kept the Thrashers at bay, except for the usual momentary glitch that allowed Ilya Kovalpunk to one-time a wicked slapshot past Conklin. You just can’t give that guy even an inch. Malone wasn’t in bad position, but he was unable to block the shot, and Conklin had no chance. Other than that, though, they did a good job and didn’t allow the Thrashers many good chances.
It wasn’t one of Conklin’s stronger efforts. He wasn’t horrible, as his defense basically abandoned him on the goals. But he wasn’t as good as he had been this past month. He tried for a poke check on the Unibrow goal and missed. He wasn’t really set on the Perrin breakaway. But pulling him was more of the old mercy pull, rather than a commentary on his game. It was just one of those nights where everything the Thrashers shot was going in and nothing was going in at the other end.
Pens goaltending since Fleury went down: 15-7-2, 2.42 GAA, .923 save percentage (Conklin is 11-3-2, 1.99, .939).
Considering the circumstances, the Pens didn’t play all that badly. But it just seemed like one of those games where the bounces didn’t go their way, unlike during the winning streak when everything went in their favor. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. They didn’t get a bounce, they didn’t get a call all night. Consequently, they were blown out. The Pens came out with some good hop early, but couldn’t beat Lehtonen. It was all downhill after that.
And now, the rest of the story…
NHL Schedule Monkeys: F
I know these things even out over the course of a season, but who the heck makes up this schedule? Coming off the break, the Pens play in New Jersey Tuesday night, then fly in and get in very late to Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Thrashers hadn’t played since last Thursday. Sounds fair to me. How about you?
Offensive style of play: F
I like offensive hockey, but the Pens simply can’t play that style a game with all the guys out right now. But for some odd reason, they were unable to carry over the defensive style they played against New Jersey into this one. Atlanta sucked them into playing a more wide open game, and the Pens took the bait. And it didn’t work.
Petr Sykora: C
The guy had lots of shots, but as usual, nothing went in.
Ryan Whitney: F
He just got abused on the two aforementioned goals. There are some nights when he just looks totally lost in his own end. This was one of them.
Empty seats: F
I looked at the stands and I thought they must still be in New Jersey. But no, it was Atlanta. I would really love to see actually fanny counts at some of these venues, rather than tickets sold. I guess once they saw Sid was out, they saw no reason to go. Pretty sad, when you have your own guys like Kovalpunk and Hossa that are fun to watch.
Bob Errey: A
He called Unibrow “scary.” I couldn’t agree more. He looks like he came straight out of some horror flick.
Tonight: 23/51, 45%. Power play: 5/7, 71%.
Total: 44.8%/47.1% since Sid went out.
War Garage: F
I wish somebody could please define “distinct kicking motion.” In my mind, there is no way Nathan Smith’s goal was a distinct kicking motion. He did guide the puck in, but he sure didn’t kick it in. It was at that moment that I realized the Pens had no chance in this game.
Striped Buffoon Huh? Call of the Game
Oh, where, oh, where to start. Let’s begin by saying it was a Devorski game. That lets you know right off the bat that there will be too many bad calls to dissect. So we’ll concentrate on only the two most heinous offenses by him and Daddy’s Boy McCauley. Runnerup for this award tonight goes to the sequence late in the game where Alexei Zhitnik blatantly held Staal right in front of one of the buffoons. No call. No more than five seconds later, they give Orpik two for a little tap on a Thrasher. Pure idiocy. But we all know the call that takes the cake, and that’s the major on Ruutu for “kneeing” Kovalpunk. Yep, that was a knee. Uh huh. Ruutu just skates toward him and tries to finish the check. Kovy tries to avoid him, moves to the side, and they accidentally bump knees. Ruutu doesn’t even have his knee out or anything. It was accidental as you can get. Then Steve McCarthy jumps Ruutu, who turtles and never throws a punch or even takes his gloves off. The correct call, if you are looking at what actually happened (okay, insert Devorski joke here), should have been McCarthy 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting, and a gamer. Instead, we get Ruutu 5 for kneeing, 5 for fighting, and a gamer. So instead of the Pens having a 7-minute power play, the Thrashers have a 3-minute power play. It just doesn’t get any more ridiculous than that.
Ice hole of the game
This goes to Kovalpunk for his little point toward the Pens bench after he scored the goal. At some point the league will have to look at calling taunting penalties.
Guide to the grades can be found here