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Penguins Player Grades vs Blues: Crosby, Schultz, McKegg earn high marks
Post-Game Player Reports
Game 1 Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Blues 5 @ Penguins 4 (OT)
(Grade Scale: 0.00 – 5.0)
Sidney Crosby| Grade: 4.3
Playing 23:59, Crosby had a goal, assist in the loss and looked to be in mid-season form. His dominance down low in controlling the puck was on display early, possessing the puck away from two Blues defender to get the puck to the point to Justin Schultz who scored the Penguins opening goal with a screen in front from Jake Guentzel. There were some moments early in the first period and a few shifts late in the third period where Crosby’s line looked to be on the cusp of taking the game over. Crosby not only jumpstarted the Penguins third period rally with a power play goal, he drew a penalty just prior to the goal with a zone entry.
Evgeni Malkin | 3.6
Malkin had a quiet 2 assist night with 3 shots on goal and 6 attempts. The low center support was not there that led to the Penguins first goal against and Malkin got caught deep on far too many occasions. The puck possession game, though, would shine for parts of the game. Malkin had a great second period shift in hemming the Blues in their own zone that led to Olli Maatta’s second period goal. He hit a post on a 5-on-3 power play prior to Crosby’s goal.
Greg McKegg | Grade: 4.2
As the Penguins have started to ramp up their search for a third line center, McKegg shined in the OT loss. McKegg produced a dominant night in the faceoff circle, winning 13 of 17 draws, including 7-8 on d-zone draws and was the Penguins best possession player at even strength (17/6, 74 CF%). McKegg flashed some tools with breakaway speed to separate well to create offense in transition and the playmaking ability was very strong. Had a great setup on Conor Sheary’s game tying goal.
Carter Rowney| Grade 2.2
Rowney played 8:04 in the loss and had 0 shots on goal. It was a low impact game where Rowney couldn’t get off shots with a few opportunities in close.
Jake Guentzel | Grade: 3.9
Guentzel is such a cerebral player that the puck just follows him around and the hockey IQ of both Crosby and Guentzel is just a perfect match. Those two were reading the play with each so well again. Guentzel while with 0 shots on goal, had had a 2 assist night and provided a great screen on Schultz goal.
Conor Sheary | Grade: 4.1
The preseason showed Sheary’s has some swagger back in his game and that carried over on opening night. He had a game tying goal to force overtime and had 7 shot attempts. When Sheary was lacking confidence in the playoffs, the attempts weren’t there. What I liked from Sheary is he was playing that slippery style of game where he was putting himself in position to be open in high danger areas for the puck.
Bryan Rust | 3.7
2 Assists, 55 CF% at even strength for Rust in the game. Had a very strong shift on the Maatta goal, getting possession along the wall then getting to the net-front era for a screen.
Phil Kessel | Grade: 3.0
The Penguins controlled possession at 57% when Kessel was on the ice and Kessel added 4 shots and 6 attempts. Kessel pointless vs the Blues, is counted on to bury prime scoring chances and he missed a couple golden opportunities. Failed to finish a great setup from McKegg off the rush and just before the Crosby goal, missed a wide open net at the post where he shot wide during the 5-on-3 situation. St. Louis defended Kessel very well when the Penguins were on the power play in putting him in awkward spots where he was getting the puck in position where he needed to one-timer the puck, instead of letting Kessel have time and come off the wall for a shot-pass opportunity that he is so dangerous at.
Carl Hagelin | 3.9
This was more of a vintage 2016 postseason Hagelin performance. 3 shots, 6 attempts and great possession numbers (15/6, 71 CF%). Against a bigger team, Hagelin played to his strength’s. He used speed on the forecheck and was excellent at tracking the puck. Hagelin drew a penalty with his speed in the second period and he was very effective in controlling the puck along the wall.
Tom Kuhnhackl Grade: 3.2
Maybe it was the opponent, but Kuhnhackl looked to be showing some improved speed. He was very active with his stick in defending passing lanes and like his linemates, had a strong game in creating offense off puck battles and the forecheck.
Scott Wilson | Grade: 2.5
Wilson on the penalty kill is still a work in progress. He had a poor read on the power play goal against as the last line of defense but the bigger story is the Penguins playing him with Carter Rowney and Ryan Reaves, they are not maximizing what Wilson can give the team offensively. Wilson played just 5:37 at even strength and had 1 shot on goal.
Ryan Reaves | 2.5
Reaves played 6:21 in his Penguins debut, collecting 1 shot and 2 hits. Reaves had a scoring chance in the second period, coming off the left wall and shooting the puck low for a rebound chance but Carter Rowney was not strong enough in front and couldn’t get a shot off on what might have been a tap-in goal.
Kris Letang | 3.6
It was business as usual for the Penguins and Kris Letang. Letang went out and played 8:10 in the first period and finished with a team-high 26:05 of ice time. It wasn’t a perfect game for Letang, who had some poor reads defensively in transition but what a nice sight it was in how quick he gets the puck up to the forwards. If there was one cringe moment, it was when Letang got caught with his head down below the goal line and Scottie Upshall could have took his head off but thankfully for Letang’s sake, he let up.
Brian Dumoulin | Grade: 3.5
Dumoulin played a team-high 19:08 at even strength and posted a 54 CF% (25/22).
Olli Maatta | Grade 4.0
A topic surrounding Maatta entering the season has been the Penguins trying to tap into the offensive production Maatta put on the ice during his rookie season. Just one game but a good start for Maatta. Maatta had a goal, 4 shots and 6 attempts in the loss. On his second period goal, Maatta forced a Chris Thorburn turnover just inside the blueline to keep the puck in and than capitalized the sequence with a goal from the point.
Another sidebar for Maatta, excellent possession numbers in playing with Schultz last night. 19/9 (68 CF%) at even strength. Maatta still got caught flat footed a few times, notably on his first period penalty but this was a very positive night for Maatta.
Justin Schultz | Grade 4.2
Schultz produced goal, 4 shots, 7 attempts and a 65 CF% vs the Blues. Schultz has become Kris Letang like from the standpoint of how well he now reads and reacts in creating offense in the Penguins system. Schultz showed again Wednesday of how good he has become of picking his spots to join the play. Everything is natural for him. Despite the power play goal from Sidney Crosby in period 3, Schultz remains the Penguins best option as the No. 1 power play QB.
Ian Cole | Grade 2.4
Cole was not his usual steady self defensively as the Cole-Hunwick pairing struggled. Cole turned the puck over off a hard forecheck leading the Blues opening goal, had a bad pinch in the third period that led to a 2-on-0 for the Blues the other way. Cole played just 15:40 and only had 1 blocked shot.
Matt Hunwick | Grade 1.9
Whether it was jitters or not, Hunwick was all over the map with his positioning and he struggled against the Blues size. . On the power play goal against in the first period where the Penguins had all four players on the wrong side of the puck, Hunwick was the weak side D on the PK and left the net-front area. In the third period he got caught being too aggressive when Ian Cole pinched that led to a 2-on-0 for the Blues.
Matt Murray | Grade 2.7
Murray surrendered 5 goals on 34 shots for an .853 save percentage. He dealt with a ton of traffic and the Blues had some great screens on a couple goals, but his night came down to getting beat on 1-on-1 shots.
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