Ducks 5 – Penguins 3
1. The Penguins 5-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks Wednesday night showed recurring issues of why the Penguins have been such a vulnerable team defensively this year.
Carelessness and poor decisions with the puck saw a Penguins 1-0 lead turn into a 4-1 Ducks lead at the end of two periods.
“You can’t give up four breakaways,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan as the Ducks netted two breakaway goals in the four goal second period.
The breakaway chances against were the Penguins putting opportunities on a platter for Anaheim such as Olli Maatta at the point shooting right into Ondrej Kase shin pads when clearly pressured that led to a breakaway goal the other way and Anaheim going up 4-1.Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
“We’re hitting shinpads, we didn’t take care of the puck in certain areas of the rink and when we don’t play disciplined, diligent game in those areas, then you’re vulnerable,” Sullivan said.
More than halfway through the season, this is who the Penguins are when it comes to these issues but there were still a lot of positives for Pittsburgh that carried over from how they were playing during their four game streak.
Pittsburgh climbed back in the third period with power play goals from Phil Kessel (21) and Jake Guentzel (14) as this team on the power play is starting to resemble the 1995-1996 Penguins with Lemieux-Francis-Jagr-Nedved-Zubov where they are becoming unstoppable on the man-advantage but while the Penguins were outscored 3-1 at even strength, the way the Penguins are pushing the way at 5-on-5 continues to trend in the right direction.
The Penguins were 48-33 in shot attempts and 24-13 in scoring chances during 5-on-5 play. In what has been the case over the last handful of games, the Penguins were playing fast in getting through the neutral zone that led to clean entries and were very effective in pushing the Ducks ‘D’ back.
2. More positive signs for the Penguins in the loss was the puck pressure they provided on the forecheck.
The Malkin goal was setup by great work from the F1 (Malkin) and the F2 (Hagelin) where both players forced the puck carrier onto their backhands.
Malkin does a great job of not letting Rakell go up the boards with the puck and Hagelin as the F2 reads the play very well in providing immediate pressure on Bieksa behind the net that leads to Pittsburgh winning a puck battle in the other corner and Malkin burying a shot from inside the circle.
Hagelin has to start finishing better around the net like the opportunity he had in the third period that somehow didn’t go in and hit both posts, but the Malkin goal was another example of where Hagelin has been really good of late in creating offense down low with excellent puck pressure.
3. Sprong Benched, Crosby/Kessel shine together in the third period
Daniel Sprong had a lot of trouble in this game in getting bumped off the puck and he was not effective in moving the puck well in transition on cross-ice passes.
Mike Sullivan clearly took notice and Sprong was benched for the entire third period with his last shift of the game coming at the 15:05 mark of the second period.Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
While Sprong had a poor game, Dominik Simon was very good again on the top line in driving possession, on the ice for 13 attempts, 4 against, 8 Scoring Chances/0 Against.
Is he going to score enough?
Probably not but what Penguin coaches have been impressed with Simon is how he gets the puck to Crosby in the neutral zone in a similar way that Chris Kunitz did off the boards where Crosby receives the puck in stride and with speed to attack.
With Sprong getting benched, it opened another door for Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel to get some shifts together 5-on-5 in the third period after the two had some impressive shifts together vs the Rangers.
While it’s another small sample, the two shined in the third period on a line.
Crosby and Kessel played 5:04 together and they produced numerous chances, on the ice for 7 attempts, 1 against; 5-0 in scoring chances and 3-0 in high danger chances.
There was a shift early in the third period where Simon-Crosby-Kessel had Anaheim hemmed in their own zone for a minute. [/hide]