Plenty of Positive Takeaways from Penguins – Leafs

Who saw the Penguins and Maple Leafs combining for zero 5-on-5 goals?

Matt Murray posted a 38-save shutout and the Penguins earned a 3-0 shutout win over the Maple Leafs Thursday night in snapping the Leafs five game winning streak.

This was a vintage Matt Murray performance that had to remind fans of the goaltender we saw so often in 2016 and 2017.

Murray was playing big, squaring up shooters and looked a step ahead mentally in knowing where shots were going. This might have been his best game since Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

He was on his angles so well, that it forced the Leafs to have to try to make perfect shots to beat him and that’s when Murray is at his best.

You can argue this was a statement performance from Murray.

Murray is said to have been livid he was passed up for Tuesday’s start against the Canucks and he looked like a goaltender looking to send a message.

[hide] “I was a little antsy,” Murray said after the game. “I’ve been healthy for a while now and still haven’t played. Just a little bit antsy and anxious to get in there and play again.”[/hide]

Murray’s 38 saves was his seventh career shutout and the most saves he’s made in any shutout, but this shutout was a total team effort type of win.

— The biggest takeaway was the Penguins elite level back pressure they possessed.

It started from the drop of the puck and carried over for sixty minutes.

You saw a team in Pittsburgh actually come in with a mindset to execute the coaching staff’s game-plan.

Forwards were providing proper support on pinches, backchecking through the middle of the ice with authority and Pittsburgh slowed Toronto’s transition game by playing a 1-2-2 neutral zone trap that saw Pittsburgh clog the middle of the ice and quickly counter off turnovers.

This was the quickest the Penguins have looked all season and part of that was the group playing with actual structure.

When the Penguins have been at their best since Mike Sullivan took over, it’s been when they dominate through the neutral zone. Thursday’s game showed that.

This team is built to trap more than they do.

— Auston Matthews/John Tavares is one of the NHL’s best 1-2 punches down the middle. But, what the two don’t have is Connor McDavid type speed. Their games are built on possessing the puck and getting to the inside.

Pittsburgh’s laser focus from the forward group in tracking the puck exceptionally well and taking away the inside, led to Pittsburgh not letting the Matthews/Tavares lines be major factors.

Pittsburgh’s top line dominated this matchup.

The Penguins had a combined 15-5 edge in shot attempts when the Sidney Crosby line was on the ice against the Auston Matthews and John Tavares line.

The Malkin unit had less success from a numbers standpoint, 50% possession against the Tavares line and 36% in Scoring Chance For %, but they were much more effective than the numbers may say.

Carl Hagelin’s speed game in particular gave the Leafs second line fits in taking away time and space.

Bryan Rust providing that speed presence on the top line in tracking the puck was also a slick lineup move for this matchup against those type of centers.

— Best player on the ice vs the Leafs wasn’t Matt Murray, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang.

It was To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

— Tick, tock on Daniel Sprong. He played 23 seconds in the third period as the Penguins went with 10 forwards as Dominik Simon also got benched.

The two were victimized for a long shift in the second period that resulted in an icing.

Sprong is the Penguins worst possession player through six games at 33%.

What multiple scouts have told me they’re seeing from Sprong is the To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!