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Penguins Grades: Shoot the Puck! Breaking Down Pens’ Bewildering Game



Pittsburgh Penguins game, Sidney Crosby, Philadelphia Flyers Cart Hart

PHILADELPHIA — The power play was again not only ineffective but destructive. The Penguins yielded more shorthanded chances than they had power-play shots and needed about 10 minutes to take their first shot in the third period.

In fact, the Penguins dominated the first half of the third period in a 1-1 game. But you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. On that, the Penguins were perfect. The teams traded barbs in the final minutes before the Flyers won 2-1 in overtime, their second straight extra-time victory over the increasingly frustrated Penguins.

“It’s good to get points. Get something,” said winger Bryan Rust, who sat in his locker stall, arms folded, shaking his back and forth in disgust. “Consistency. Shift to shift. Period to period. Night to night. ”

The Flyers served the Penguins a little bit of a different dish on home ice compared to their buttoned-up conservative style on Saturday. The Flyers defensemen activated out of the defensive zone a few times in the first half of the first period, putting pressure on the Penguins’ defense.

Get the Penguins game recap here.

Penguins Analysis

The Flyers were able to get numbers on the rush a few times, though they failed to make Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic work too hard, at least in the first.

By the third period, the Penguins were fully engaged in helping the Flyers transition game. An untold number of misplayed pucks, turnovers, and takeaways filled the Flyers’ coffers.

Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic didn’t face a great many shots, but what he saw was often a scoring chance.

The Flyers also continue to let a forward fly the offensive zone. Travis Konecny got behind Kris Letang in the first period but rang the post without cracking it (sorry, a Philly joke, and a poor one at that).

The game opened up in the second period but with surges. The Penguins had very good pressure by holding the puck in the low zone and forcing the Flyers’ lesser blueliners to defend. The Penguins have a significant advantage when they force teams to play them on the goal line. The Penguins have strong centers who can play that game better than most of the world and wingers who can finish.

Yet, no one shot the puck in the first 10 minutes of the third period. No one.

“I thought we had a lot of zone time, and we were looking for the next play. And we actually talked about it on the bench because we did have some significant zone time, but not a lot to show for it,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve got to be willing to just put pucks down at the net front. Even if the puck gets blocked around the net front, it creates a broken play. Nothing breaks coverage down better than a shot on goal because it forces decision-making, and usually, in that, an opportunity presents itself.

“We were looking for that next play that didn’t really materialize. And that was something that we talked about during the third period because we felt like we had a significant amount of zone time. But we didn’t get as much to show for it as we could have.”

However, it was in the heavy offensive pressure the Penguins applied that the Flyers found their offense, too. The Penguins pressed and pressed but then got sloppy. A myriad of turnovers, including by the Penguins’ top line, launched no less than a handful of Flyers’ odd-man rushes in the third period.

“I think it happens in different ways. And certainly, when you give teams those kinds of looks, it’s hard to win,” Sullivan said. “So, we’ve got to learn through those experiences, and we’ve got to get better at it. It’s easy offense, right? We don’t make them work for it.”

In the second period, the Penguins flexed for the first time.

The Penguins held the puck in the low zone well. They entered the offensive zone with speed, moved the puck to the open man, and didn’t waste time. But when the Penguins run downhill, it’s only a matter of time before they run too fast. They took the Flyer’s soft defense for granted and stopped getting pucks deep.

The Flyers activated everyone when the turnover call went out. More breakaways, three-on-two rushes, and even a five-on-three rush pushed Nedeljkovic to the edge, but the Penguins’ bendy backup goalie was spectacular.

No, really. Nedeljkovic gave the Penguins a gem.

*What was startling was the increasingly disjointed play by Sidney Crosby. The Penguins top line was exceptional for most of the game, but in the middle of the third, even they were gifting the puck and rushes to the Flyers.

In overtime, Crosby might have had one of the worst shifts or two you will ever see from him. He looked lost and couldn’t find the thread.

*The Penguins power play. If the last few weeks were a zero, then Monday’s play splat was absolute rock bottom zero or perhaps digging into the bedrock.

The power play debacle is clearly affecting the team beyond just the two minutes. It’s like a spreading virus.

Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card

Team: C

The Penguins did so many good things, but they failed to do the most important things, like SHOOT THE PUCK. The prolonged offensive zone possession in the third period was a marvelous spectacle of puck work, cycling, backchecking, and winning puck battles. Unfortunately, the NHL has not yet introduced a style component to the scoring.

The game was a display of the Penguins’ potential, immediately followed by their most destructive habits. Turnovers. Passing up good shots. Missing assignments.

Absolutely mystifying.

Alex Nedeljkovic: A+

Dude was just on his game. He didn’t like the goal he gave up to Tyson Foerster in the second period. But we’ll give him a pass because the shot was a clean rip from the circle. Also, he made some ridiculous saves, too.

I was dubious about him replacing Casey DeSmith, but he’s been brilliant when called.

Power Play: Please See Me After Class

It doesn’t matter how badly the unit is struggling; there’s no excuse for giving up that many shorthanded chances. There’s nothing to analyze, but the Penguins rarely set up and got into any sort of rhythm.

Putting Kris Letang back on the top power play but keeping Erik Karlsson was the equivalent of adding more cooks to an overcrowded kitchen. And it looked even worse than words could describe. No zone entries. Double drop passes in the neutral zone without pressure. Paralysis has set in.

It was like watching a horror movie.

Bryan Rust: A

Rust is one of the players who is figuratively grabbing both oars and trying to row the ship out of the storm.

Sidney Crosby: A…then D

Crosby’s game was brilliant for most of two periods, but then he had a couple of turnovers. Then, he missed a couple of assignments. His OT performance was bewildering.

Jansen Harkins: A

He was really good. Harkins was energetic, created loose pucks, and chased down several loose pucks for possession and offensive chances. His best game as a Penguin.