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Penguins Report Card: DeSmith Solid, Bottom Lines Rock, Others Absent in 1-0 Win (+)



Pittsburgh Penguins, Casey DeSmith
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith gloves a shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Anaheim Ducks in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Casey DeSmith recently began to lace his new skates differently. Before that, he felt the new blades had him on his heels and took away some of his movement. It’s hard to argue the difference. DeSmith won his second game in five days for the Pittsburgh Penguins and earned a 33-save, 1-0 shutout win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena.

DeSmith played his best game of the season. In the second period, he was the difference as the Penguins lost their energy, and Anaheim found it. But it was DeSmith’s postgame answer that drew a few chuckles, but it was also a very human explanation of his season struggles.

“It’s pretty standard that the more you play, the more comfortable you feel out there. So that was one thing. And then just been working on getting back to playing my game, playing a little bit more on my toes, a little bit more athletic, you know, not playing as stiff and boring of a game as I was playing earlier,” DeSmith said.

“… to be honest, it was a skate issue. I was in these skates, and they were just different than the ones I was used to, and it was just kind of throwing me back on my heels. I was always on my heels, so I didn’t feel explosive. It’s really hard to make saves when your weight is back. So I just started lacing my skates differently and went back to normal, and I felt a lot better after I started doing that.”

Every goalie in the NHL is going to check their skate lacing tomorrow.

In the PHN pregame, I warned of that the post-road-trip sigh. When teams get home and settle after five games on the road, there’s often an energy letdown. The Penguins didn’t have that drop in the first period, as they blitzed Anaheim. Despite just six shots on goal, the Penguins controlled territory, and the puck.

Anaheim blocked seven shots in the first period, and a few of those were quality scoring chances.

The Red Bull crash came in the second period. The Penguins were slightly outshot, 12-10, and not even the tally showed much disparity in high-danger scoring chances (3-1), but numbers cannot and do not often tell the whole story.

Fortunately for the debut of the Penguins’ third jersey, the Gin and Juice Pittsburgh script, the crash was short-lived. The Penguins attacked again in the third period and battled to even with the Ducks. The Penguins forecheck again was a difference-maker, at least for a few lines.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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