Posts tagged “Penguins”

Wings 4, Penguins 1

First Period: I missed most of the first period, but sat down to watch just in time to catch Evgeni Malkin stream down the right wing and snipe Jimmy Howard like the freak of nature he is. So that was nice. Seriously: it sparked the Wings to better second and third periods.

Jimmy: Very good. Not many goalies, maybe none, stop that Malkin shot. And he was very sharp later in the game when the Pens got dangerous around the net.

One negative note: he got bumped a couple times and rather than pull his St. Louis act, he pulled another one entirely. I’d rather he flip out on guys who bump him than go down like he’s been stunned by some heavy blow.

Conner: He’s doing a good job of making Patrick Eaves look a bit redundant. He’s got comparable speed, offensive sense and work ethic that Eaves offers on average, and is putting up competent PK time as well. I’m a big fan of Eaves, but Conner may be playing his way into a longer term spot, possibly at Patrick’s expense.

Our Russian Can Take You to School Too: Malkin looked good early on, but Datsyuk, this biased fan says, eclipsed him. He backhanded the puck through a smaller spot than Malkin forehanded it and made some Pens just look silly with his ability to seamlessly take the puck away. He also knocked the puck out of the air to set Franzen up with a spectacular display of hand-eye coordination.

I would take Pavel Datsyuk over Malkin any day of the week.

Scary moment in the second: FSD came back from commercial to show a replay of Datsyuk falling very awkwardly in a manner that twisted his knee and stretched his groin. Fortunately, he seemed none the worse for wear after briefly  heading to the room. But it was a little worrying.

Franzen: Scored a goal and looked assertive with the puck. These are the nights where I like him.

Even Match Up: I wish realignment could have somehow included being put in the same division as Pittsburgh, because these are good, enjoyable games. There should be more of them.

Next: Nashville on Thursday. A good opportunity to put some further distance between the Preds and Wings. Jimmy better watch out for Jordin Tootoo.

Game Day Notes: @ Pittsburgh

… This is the only meeting between the Wings and the Penguins this season. Pittsbugh won last year’s games 4-1 and 5-4 (SO).

… The Pens are 17-9-4 overall, with 38 points. They’ve won six of their last 10, including a 6-3 decision over the Islanders on Saturday. Prior to that, they’d lost two in a row.

… They’ll be a bit shorthanded from a starpower standpoint tonight, as Sidney Crosby has been ruled out indefinitely with concussion symptoms. He’s already missed two games.

That a more or less routine bit of contact such as this has him out is not a great sign. As much as I love to hate Crosby as a rival star, I hate to see him out due to injury even more. Especially this kind of injury, which not inconceivably could derail his career just when he finally got to the point of living up to the hype (remember him absolutely tearing up the League last year?). And that it wouldn’t be because he refused to adapt his  game at the NHL level, like Lindros, but because of a couple freak incidents. The word “tragedy” gets thrown around too much, but within the confines of hockey, that’d be what you’d have if he’s forced to bow out due to anything tied to this concussion issue.

I hope he can beat this.

… Anyway.

… To compound the bad news for the Penguins on the injury front, Evgeni Malkin is a game-time decision, as is Marc Staal. As Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) points out, they would have a big hole in the middle without those two.

… Former Red Wing Jason Williams has been recalled from Wilkes-Barre to help fill in that hole. He played fourth-line winger for the Pens on Saturday. They’ll also use Pascal Dupuis as a center.

… The Pens will also be without Robert Bortuzzo, Kris Letang, Ben Lovejoy, Zbynek Michalek, Brian Strait, Dustin Jeffrey and Richard Park.

… The remaining Penguins lineup isn’t all that super-powered: James Neal tops the list with 17 goals and 28 points. Only Malkin can match that for Pittsburgh. Dupuis has 13 assists and 22 points. And there is noted Red Wing killer Steve Sullivan, who has managed 5 goals and 14 points this season.

If Staal and Malkin both get the go-ahead to play, the Pens aren’t in terrible shape. Without them, the Wings’ odds are better. Obvious analysis is obvious.

… The Pens do have one marquee guy set to play tonight: Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s got 15 wins and a 2.23 GAA this season.

… Don’t miss George’s set-up post here.

… The Wings are coming off a commanding 7-1 win over the Jets on Saturday. The win built on Thursday’s 5-2 decision over Phoenix, which in turn cut a little skid they had going short at two.

… There will be no lineup changes for the Wings. Update (1:48 PM): There is one change, actually: Ericsson and Stuart are switching. That means a Jonny-Jakub third pairing and a Stuart-Kronwall second. - Matt

… … which means Jimmy Howard is in net again.

… The Pens’ injuries offer the Wings a great opportunity to easily handle what would normally be a much tougher team to beat. Which, given their frequent script, may mean they’ll have a tough time of it. But the rivalry nature of this game ought to mean the pessimist’s script gets tossed out and that they’ll take care of business.

Wings 2, Pens 3

Hockey’s Back: Yeah, it was a loss. But it was hockey. So there’s that. And it’s a big, pretty cool that.

Jimmy: Not his best game ever. Not sure if that minor injury from camp has him off a bit, but he did not look sharp overall. In a couple spots, sure, but he’s got plenty of room for improvement, just like he left on the short side last night.

Smith: Very cocky and doing enough to make him look stupid for being so. Obviously a lot of talent, but just as obvious is his need to grow a bit. Big minutes in Grand Rapids should do the trick.

Brunnstrom: Points for effort. He’s acting as a solo agent within the system, but he’s showing enough that he may get tossed a contract and a seat on the Griffins’ bus. I like his skill, but he needs to stop trying to impress on his own and seek to more of a team player, which is what the Wings will be impressed with anyway.

Russian Show: Malkin and Datsyuk both came to play, with the former being the Pens’ TV crew’s favorite topic and the latter doing enough to crack through the reverie from time to time. I did note, though, that a few of Malkin’s most highly-praised plays came against AHLers, so there was an element of hype there. His drive to the net on his goal, for example, wasn’t exactly like bull rushing Nick Lidstrom.

Datsyuk’s impression was likely amped up by the Pens roster too, so to be fair it’s a little early to draw big conclusions about either guy’s upcoming season. Except that Pavel’s gearing up. His play on the Kronwall goal was pretty swell.

Control: The Wings had their periods of control in this one, but the Kunitz goal derailed one, and then it was up and down, with the down stretches feeling a bit longer as the game went on. Unsurprising with the mix of regulars and kids in the lineup, but still worth noting.

The Power Play: New coaching didn’t turn out to be an instant cure, but that also is unsurprising. I’m sure things’ll be better when the full lineup is together.

Commodore: Kind of a loper and lacking the intensity I was expecting. Not sure if that’s coaching or him working to be a good, careful citizen, or what. We’ll see.

Cleary: I’m perfectly okay with that penalty. Sure Samuelsson shouldn’t turn, but there’s also no need to deliver that specific contact.

More Thoughts. Via Hollis at TPL.

Wings 4, Penguins 5 (SO)

Update (2:07 PM): Link to George’s post added, as I have recovered from the brain cramp that had me leave it out. - Matt

The Takeaway: All things considered, my feeling on this game is mostly positive. The Wings came back from a four-goal deficit to force overtime and got back in a game they’d blown. That “blown” part is a huge negative, but at the moment, I’m more concerned with the positive handling of adversity. Emotionally, the game was lost with that four goal. At least it felt that way as a fan. At that point, it seemed the best we could hope for was a halt in the hemorrhaging.

But the Wings followed the comeback script perfectly: they scored late in the second, then early in the third, and kept at it long enough to come within one. At that point, a tied game felt like a foregone conclusion. The Wings turned the game on its heel by force of will and that’s something to be impressed with.

The Bad: All the above doesn’t excuse the bad, however. The Wings’ defensive zone effort was pathetic between their first five minute push and their later comeback effort. Four goals caused by lack of urgency to close on the puck gifting up glorious scoring chances and in a general concession of momentum led to some pathetic hockey. I don’t know what switch was flipped in the Wings’ minds to cut short their early dominance, but whatever it was, they need to slam the protective cover back down on that thing and not hit it again.

Jimmy: George is the goalie expert, but between the four goals, the Helm goaltending incident and the post in the first seconds of the second period, I can’t agree with the sentiment that “he look[ed] a lot worse than he actually played.” He looked and played like crap. The first goal was awful, the second would have been prevented if he could absorb the puck, the third was somewhat flukey but he nonetheless failed to get to the post with any kind of speed, and I don’t even know what he was doing on the fourth. And those are just the plays the Pens actually scored on. It was not a good night for Howard.

But here’s the thing: it’s an isolated moment. It means nothing more than that he had a bad night, and it’s no crime against him to point it out. He’ll bounce back.

Zetterberg: He seemed to  be making things happen last night, which was good to see, even though he only ended up with a goal.

Filppula: He’s been great lately and continued it last night, -2 rating notwithstanding. He looks like a viable offensive threat more than he has in a while and makes his linemates better.

Modano: Even without the goal, I was overall impressed with him. He’s had trouble finishing, but he’s making things happen, too, and is at the center of his line’s attack every time it does anything.

Joey: As important to the Wings’ comeback effort as the skater’s decision to start playing. Maybe it was The Reliever Effect, but Joey provided stability in the net that Jimmy wasn’t bringing in that game. It was unfortunate that he got no support in the shootout.

Next: Big game against Vancouver tomorrow night. I’ll miss it because we’re going to the Griffins game (one of their last homegames), but how the Wings respond to the deflating end to their big push last night will be telling. This is their only chance to put the Canucks on notice so I hope they take it.

Game Day Notes: vs. Pittsburgh

Update (2:20 PM): Thanks to Ellen (@inhyung) for pointing me to Bob Duff’s tweet reporting that Brent Johnson will get the start tonight. Makes sense, since Fleury played yesterday. Should have thought of that. Brain cramp on my part. - Matt

Update (1:47 PM): Because Salei hasn’t skated in a week, it looks like the Wings will dress him as a kind of reserve player, to fit in as a forward or defenseman as necessary to keep his minutes down. - MatZ

… This is the second and last game between these two teams this season. The Pens won the first meeting on January 18th 4-1.

… The Pens fell to 4-2-2 in March with a 5-2 loss to the Rangers yesterday. They’d won two in a row prior to that.

… The loss to the Rangers came in large part due to Matt Cooke’s latest incident, a head-targeting elbow on Ryan McDonagh. The hit came when the game was 1-1 and resulted in a 5-minute major penalty kill that was exacerbated by a high sticking penalty two minutes in. The Rangers scored once to negate that penalty and then scored again before Cooke’s major expired to take a lead, despite allowing a shorthanded goal earlier in the sequence.

Cooke’s headed for an in-person hearing today, so unless there’s an unforeseen miscarriage in justice, he will not be in tonight. You get the impression that his teammates are getting fed up, which is the only good news to come out of this. Frustration from the guys in the lockerroom may be the only thing that will bring about change, since League punishment seems to have no effect.

… Sidney Crosby remains out, but has been skating and is headed for a return at some point.

… The Pens aren’t all that healthy, with Aaron Asham (though off IR now), Mike Comrie, Nick Johnson, Mark Letestu, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik and Eric Tangradi all out, according to their game notes.

… Marc-Andre Fluery should get the start for the Pens.

… The Wings cut a 4-game win streak off with a loss in Nashville Saturday in a game involving some excessive physicality and a lack of corresponding intensity as a response. That game dropped them to 4-3-2 in March.

… They will play with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen tonight, because Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler are being held out for various ailments. Ruslan Salei is back from paternity leave, however, so they won’t be playing a man short as they were Saturday.

… Jimmy Howard will get another start tonight.

… It’s a little frustrating that this year’s games with Pittsburgh won’t involve the full lineups of either team. That’s definitely a dampener on the matchup. But maybe that’s okay. It could allow the Wings to focus on the important thing, which is the two points they need. In theory, being shorthanded from a manpower standpoint should force them to play a harder-working game, so here’s hoping we see the benefit of that tonight.

Wings 1, Penguins 4

Update (8:14 PM): I wrote this hours ago but apparently it didn’t publish. So here it is. Sorry about that. – Matt

Disappointing: Even for an admittedly depleted team, this game was a disappointment. And I don’t just mean it’s disappointing that they lost. It’s disappointing how they lost. In a year of sloppy starts, this one may have been in the top 5. The injury streak is no excuse for opening an “all gaffes, all the time” shop in the defensive zone.

I don’t necessarily think the Wings are outgunned by the Pens even in their reduced state, but even if I did, I would still expect more out of them in terms of execution and puck security than we got last night. A depleted roster is a great opportunity to simplify your game and cut the cutesy crap that doesn’t work with the current personnel. Safe plays in the defensive zone are a great place to start.

The official chart lists the Wings having seven giveaways on top of the Pens’ eight takeaways. 15 needless changes in possession. At least. 15 seems a little low to me.

MacDonald: He is who we thought he is. An AHL goalie that can elevate his game periodically, but an AHL goalie nonetheless. I’ll be very happy when Jimmy returns, possibly Thursday. Happier when Osgood’s  back, so we don’t run the risk of Joey getting a start. He does a lot of good work for the Griffins and did some great work last night, but I want him back where he belongs and that’s off the Wings.

Okay, that’s worded a little harshly. But you know what I mean.

Filppula: I hadn’t noticed this, but @drew_tomlinson pointed out that Fil didn’t look on his game. I told him I’d keep an eye out, but I didn’t notice anything specific. Anyone else have Drew’s impression? If so, I wonder if it had anything to do with this hit in the first.

Offense: My impression of the Wings’ offense last night was that they were making passes as if everyone was skating to the puck full bore, when in fact virtually no one was. So many offensive forays were cut short by a player passing the puck to a spot that on another night would have been filled by a teammate upon the puck’s arrival there. But instead of a Red Wing getting to that spot, so many times, it was either a Pen or the puck just kept on going into the boards.

Zetterberg: I thought Z had a strong night in general, or at least relative to the others, which may not be saying much. His line with Eaves and Franzen looked good at points. I guess I should include Eaves in the strong night category. Franzen had his moment on the goal, but tended to be his loping self.

Abdelkader: His line was probably the most consistent in terms of creating scoring chances. He works well with Mursak and Tatar, or at least he did last night.

Miller: Should have had a penalty shot, but apparently the refs had a quota and it was already filled. While the PP was a solid result, I wouldn’t have been opposed to Miller getting a chance. He can periodically break out some pretty smooth hands and may have been able to do something. As it was, we were treated to a lackluster PP effort, which was great.

Franzen/Orpik: So, Fox Sports sprung a surprise clip of Orpik’s knee-on-knee hit on Franzen from the pre-season. It was the first time I’d seen it… and it went too fast to really draw any conclusions from it. Sadly, no one has posted the clip on YouTube yet.

Next: The Wings get to head to St. Louis, who’ll no doubt be dangerous with relief over the Sharks’ removing the specter of a Kyle Wellwood-infested lockerroom. The snack table’s safe, guys. Anyway. The Wings need to show up for that one.