The New Jersey Devils should have been the tonic to cure what ailed the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, the cure worsened the sickness, and the Penguins lost their third straight game, 4-2, to New Jersey.
I’m not saying the second period was ugly.
That would be an insult to ugly.
It was like when Grandma tried to make my Halloween costume at the last moment (because I hated my Big Bird costume) by cutting holes in a pumpkin placemat and tying a rubber-band, er, gum band to the back and told me I was The Great Pumpkin (weird things scarred me).
It was that bad.
“It’s always an interesting dynamic when you bring players back into the lineup. The challenge is to continue to play the game. Everybody has to think in terms of trying to make an impact on the game, a positive impact on the game,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I just didn’t think we did that as a team.”
The Penguins ceded the second period to New Jersey as several aspects of their game were stout in the first five games of the season disappeared. Several of those systemic features were gone, like the Great Pumpkin…
The Penguins tight puck support evaporated. Even in the first period, the Penguins were spread out. An open and loose structure replaced those five-foot simple ups and traveling in packs. New Jersey, like any team, exploited the Penguins’ gaps and isolated the puck. Without help and support, the Penguins could not get enough great chances on a soft Devils team.
As usual, the Pittsburgh Penguins fourth line lit the way. Heinen crashed the net with others, and there was a greasy goal waiting. Huh.
“We kept it really simple,” Heinen said.
The Penguins abandoned their forecheck like last year’s candy in the second period. New Jersey was able to carry the puck with speed up and down the ice. The Penguins–all four lines–were more spectators than participants.
“I thought we pushed in the third period. We started playing in the third period. But for me, we weren’t good enough. We weren’t good enough tonight as a team. We need to be better as a team in all areas,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “And I just thought our attention to detail wasn’t as good. I don’t think we were skating. We weren’t playing the game on our toes…”
Crosby was hard on himself. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad, either. Let’s give him a few games, eh?
Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card:
Tristan Jarry: A+
To “only” allow three goals is a victory. Jarry was on his head.
“He was really good…” Sullivan said.
Kasperi Kapanen: D
If I bothered to buy milk, his picture might be on the back of the carton. He had three shots and two takeaways, yet his naturally prominent game lacked anything resembling an impact.
Kapanen remains goalless this season and has not contributed a point during the losing streak.
Jason Zucker: C-
Perhaps Sullivan puts Zucker on the same line as Kapanen, so both of his tantalizing good players who are more frustrating than productive only take up one of every four shifts.
Zucker had four shots and one takeaway. At times, he made a bit of an impact, but the line with Jeff Carter was like the house that gives away popcorn balls and candy corn. Yeah, you got something, but you still want to throw eggs.
Danton Heinen: A
I really liked his game. He brought the offense to the grinding, greasy game with Brian Boyle and Drew O’Connor. I wondered how the line would fare without Dominik Simon. The first go-round was a solid effort: one goal and two scoring chances vs. only one chance against.
Juuso Riikola: B
Riikola will never be a coach’s favorite because he still makes too many minor mistakes in the defensive zone. He didn’t make any glaring boo-boos, but he did leave his station a couple of times.
He also did well to create the Penguins first goal.
My gut says the Penguins may be showcasing our favorite mustached Finn, but we’ll see. He was solid in his first game since early last season. He probably earned more time, unless this game was about sending a message to Mark Friedman, whose play has waned.