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Penguins Grades: ‘Not Our Best, But…’ Jarry Steals, Pens Grind Blues



Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin, Drew O'Connor

The Pittsburgh Penguins did a few things that defied their soft reputation Saturday. Goalie Tristan Jarry extinguished more than a few high-danger chances as the Penguins won their second in a row and sixth of their last eight by beating the St. Louis Blues 4-2 at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday.

Sidney Crosby scored his 20th goal, meaning he’s hit the plateau 16 times in his 19-year career. He’s the 19th player to score 400 even-strength goals and the 22nd to score 20 at least 16 times.

He’s pretty good at hockey.

The Penguins’ underrated superstar Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist. He controlled the second period. Drew O’Connor and Jeff Carter also scored. Get the Penguins recap here.

Malkin’s tally puts him just 15 goals shy of 500. The win puts the Penguins just two points out of the second wild-card spot.

“We competed hard. I don’t think it was our best game, but I thought we competed hard,” said coach Mike Sullivan. “I thought we defended hard in the third. Give St. Louis credit; they elevated their game trying to get back in the game. And I thought our guys were digging in, we were competing, we were trying to defend, we were trying to defend the good ice.”

However, the Penguins’ best player throughout three periods was clearly goalie Tristan Jarry. The netminder, who leads the league with four shutouts (five if you count the goose egg vs. LA on Nov. 9 that was officially credited to Magnus Hellberg after Jarry left the game in the second period), stopped 25 of 27. Many of the 27 were dangerous chances, including one by Jordan Kyrou, who slipped behind the Penguins defense with six minutes remaining.

Jarry made a scorpion save to preserve the Penguins’ one-goal lead.

“We got some timely goals. That helps. And I thought (Jarry) was solid in net,” said Sullivan.

Penguins Analysis

The first period might have seemed like a low-event period, but that’s because the Penguins played a remarkably smart and patient game.

There were a couple of jaw-dropping turnovers. Erik Karlsson launched the Blues’ attack a couple of times with bad decisions, and Reilly Smith had a couple of boo-boos, too. Yet the Penguins mostly pushed the puck deep and were able to control possession in the low zone.

The Crosby line was especially good at controlled zone entries–playing on the rush–but yielding when St. Louis took away the immediate scoring chance. Instead, the Crosby line worked the low zone like magicians, slipping the puck to the open spot and getting it to the net.

The Crosby line, especially Rickard Rakell, had a surprisingly solid defensive game, as well. Rakell makes a pair of tough defensive plays to spring Jake Guentzel on a breakaway.

“We knew before the game that they were really aggressive with their defensemen and wanted to join the rush all the time,” said Rakell. “So if we helped each other, we knew that we were going to get offensive chances. So yeah, it was our game.”

The Penguins’ defense continues to be spotty, but Kris Letang and Marcus Pettersson are a shutdown pair. They were exceptional and stayed between St. Louis and the net. The other pairs had some good and some bad moments as the entire unit continues to be a work in progress.

Penguins Grades

Team: B+

Sullivan may have been a little tempered, but here’s Dan’s take: The Penguins won a hard game. They dominated both net fronts, got timely goals, good goaltending, played patient in the first, charged with ferocity in the second, and got a fourth-line goal to win it.

The Penguins made a point of playing harder in the defensive zone with more bodies in front of the net, and especially in the first 45 minutes, it paid offensive dividends, too.

You didn’t see a lot of silly cross-ice passes or headman passes through four defenders. The Penguins kept it simple, usually played tight gaps, and were prepared for the crashing Blues defensemen.

Their coach had them prepared.

That was the type of game that a good team wins — doing whatever is necessary. Don’t undersell it.

Evgeni Malkin: A+

He was present in all three zones. That vintage hop through center ice was present throughout the second period. When Malkin gets tall and up on his skates, he’s still one of the most dangerous players in the game. He cleaned up his own zone, too. It was a proper game.

Rickard Rakell: A

Rakell wasn’t on the scoresheet. However, he took extra responsibility in the D-zone. He dedicated himself to it, and the line was better for it.

Radim Zohorna: B

The big man has gone through some ups … and some soft downs in the course of his first real NHL season. He’s been playing harder, more intensely, in the last few games.

Zohorna took a bad penalty in the third period, but that shouldn’t erase his good work in the defensive zone and a few nifty plays with the puck, including swooping off the right wing past the defenseman to the net.

I think he’s still got more to give, but he’s tapping into the intensity necessary to be successful in the NHL.

Reilly Smith: C

Smith had a couple of chances that he probably kicked himself over not finishing. However, he also dropped a couple of defensive zone coverages and had a couple of turnovers.

The wingers who play with Malkin can’t do that.

Tristan Jarry: A+

Just in case it wasn’t clear from the recap or the analysis section, Jarry was a brick wall. The Penguins made a few too many mistakes to win comfortably–which they should have. Jarry bailed them out.