WEDNESDAY’S PENGUINS BUZZ
For the first 25-26 minutes of Tuesday night’s 8-3 Penguins win over the Devils, that saw the Penguins erupt with seven unanswered goals, the Devils played the type of text book game of how you beat the Penguins.
You get to Marc Andre Fleury early, get a special teams goal and don’t let the Penguins dictate the pace 5 v 5.
New Jersey had all those things going for them in jumping out to a 3-1 lead just 5:14 into the second period.
However, the book on the Penguins hasn’t changed. When holding a lead against Penguins, you can’t put them on the power play with careless penalties to give them the slightest bit of momentum and that’s what New Jersey did.
Around the seven minute mark in the second period, Damon Severson took a lazy holding penalty against Evgeni Malkin in the defensive zone and than a bad Devils line change gave the Penguins a 5-on-3 and Pittsburgh completely change the momentum of the game on Malkin’s power play goal.
It was suddenly 3-2 and with Corey Schneider not having his A-game, things snow balled quickly as Schneider failed to come up with any big saves in a four goal second period.
For Schneider you knew it wasn’t his night when Craig Adams scores a breakaway goal. He is off to a poor start with a .901 save percentage in nine starts. Those are Marty Brodeur numbers from last season that kept the Devils out of the playoffs.
1. Confidence from the Penguins coaching staff in Rob Scuderi is growing. The Penguins opened the game with Olli Maatta – Kris Letang against the Devils top line but the Penguins struggled mightily in containing the Devils puck possession game down low, namely Jaromir Jagr. One switch Mike Johnston made mid-way through the game was giving Rob Scuderi the matchup against Jagr. “Jagr was tough to handle down low,” Johnston said. “I thought Scuderi could handle him. Just because of his intelligence and way he plays defensive side of guys.”
2. Pittsburgh had seven different goal scorers, but at even strength three of the four games came from players on the top-2 lines. Breakdown the goals this season and nearly 3/4 is coming from special teams or top-2 lines. For one night, though, there was contributions throughout the lineup which was a positive. “Seven different players scoring, there was contribution through our lineup,” Mike Johnston said. “If we’re going to be successful, we need that at both ends of the rink.”
3. 5 v 5 the Devils possessed the puck well, had 33 shots attempts to the Penguins 30. The Devils, though, could not handle the Penguins top line. Kunitz – Crosby – Hornqvist were on the ice together for 14 shots attempts and just 2 against 5 v 5. The Devils lack of a shutdown pair was evident. As Crosby’s line dominated 5 v 5, every other Penguins line was in the negative for CF%.
4. The Penguins have seen the good and bad from Simon Despres this season but we’re seeing the 23 year old defenseman comfortable on the ice for the first time in his young career
There are a lot of different opinions from scouts on Despres. Some like him, others don’t think he’s going to evolve into anything other than a 12-14 minute player a game in a third pairing role.
One scout I spoke with this week praised the Penguins coaching staff for simplifying things for Despres and limiting his minutes. The scout felt the previous staff threw Despres out to the wolves two seasons ago in playing Despres with Kris Letang (top-2 pairing role) and he never recovered. “There’s less thinking for him when he retrieves the puck [now],” the scout said of Johnston’s system. “The mental mistakes are concerning [but] he’s learning how to use his frame the right way….. He’s a ‘6’ with potential to become a very good ‘5’.