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Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card vs. Philadelphia Flyers



Penguins Trade, Matt Murray Pittsburgh Penguins
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 02: Pittsburgh Penguins Goalie Matt Murray (30) tries to cover a rebound during the second period of the National Hockey League game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers on January 2, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Flyers set up an encampment area in the Pittsburgh Penguins zone much like General Braddock did in my little hometown of Hermine, Pa. The Flyers bombarded Penguins goaltender Matt Murray with 28 shots in the second period and overwhelmed the Penguins. However, the Penguins treated the barrage like Rocky Balboa did Clubber Lang’s assault in their great rematch.

The Penguins weathered the assault and lit the lamp a few times at 5v5 for a gritty, 4-1 win at the Wells Fargo Center.

For the record, the intro regarding Rocky III was written before Bob Errery mentioned it on the Penguins telecast. Pain.

“They obviously had a good second period. They got a lot of momentum from their power plays,” said Sidney Crosby. “It put us on our heels a bit, but we got some timely goals and timely saves.”

Analyzing what the Penguins were able to do offensively is unique to their matchup with Philadelphia, which gives the Penguins time and space on the rush. The Penguins were not forced to dump-and-chase as much against Philadelphia. They were able to go for the right shots without being too fine.

To wit, while the internet held its breathe in the second period as Philadelphia fired 28 shots on net, the Penguins had more scoring chances, 9-7.

What does that mean? It means the Penguins defensemen–the five remaining d-men after Olli Maatta was injured early in the first period–battled as if their lives depended on it. They protected Matt Murray even as pucks were flying at him like a video game. Jack Johnson out-muscled premier net-front presence Wayne Simmonds. Brian Dumoulin pushed back on Flyers coming to the net, as did Letang, Pettersson and Juuso Riikola.

The Flyers kept shooting, but the shots were from the perimeter and the net-crashers were bodied up which avoided deflections and obtrusive screens.

Glass half empty–the Penguins couldn’t get out of their own zone. Glass half full–the Penguins defensemen won the battle, convincingly.

“I thought our defensemen battled hard in front of (Murray), but Matt was really good,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan.

If Philadelphia wonders how the Penguins escaped with a win, it was the Penguins ability to prevent second chances in front, it was Philadelphia’s allowance of time and space for great Penguins scoring chances, and of course, the inability to beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray until the final minutes of the game.

However, in the first period, the Penguins bugaboo of forwards getting lost in the defensive zone reared it’s head several times. Dominik Simon once and the Crosby line once were culprits for far too good offensive chances. Murray bailed the boys out in the first five minutes of the game, as well.

The specific problem, which New Jersey exploited a couple of weeks ago was the trailing forward. A little drag step, a slight hesitation to lag, and forwards can get open against the Penguins which don’t make good habits of sealing passing lanes or covering the open man.


What do you think of the giant lettering? Too much? I’m starting to feel like this report cards need to be freshened up. Subscribers who read these–let me know what else you’d like to see.

Matt Murray: A+

50 shots are 50 shots. That was a whale of a performance.

“That’s the kind of game he’s capable of. He’s a real good goalie,” Mike Sullivan said.

Penguins defensemen: A+

Hold the Flyers to one goal with just five defensemen earns the entire unit an A. They fought like honey badgers for loose pucks near the net and physically won the battles in the low zone.

They didn’t get to enough pucks but generally, that is on the forwards especially with as much effort as Philadelphia spent getting to the net.

Now the individual grades:

Kris Letang: A

He played 31 minutes under tough circumstances. He pushed the offense when possible in the first and third periods.

Marcus Pettersson: B-

Pettersson was toasted early in the game, which has been an issue, but he rebounded well. This wasn’t his type of game, but the kid rolled up his sleeves and did the work.

He was on the ice for the worst scoring chance ratio of the group, 3-7. Pettersson played less than 17 minutes, which tells you the coaches were shielding him a little bit from this game.

He wasn’t so hot on the Penguins power play, either.

Jack Johnson: B

I struggled with this one. He had a pair of pucks bounce off his stick at the offensive blue line in the first period. That looked bad. He made a first-period turnover in his over zone when he tried to skate it out but was caught from behind.

However, he was a brick wall on the penalty kill and he beat Wayne Simmonds in front of the Penguins net.

Johnson played over 24 minutes and had an excellent scoring chance ratio, 10-5.

In the end, extra weight was given to playing 24 very hard minutes and winning the physical battles. I know there’s a lot of internet noise on him–everything from cutting him to the Penguins can’t win with him to essentially blaming the losing streak on him. Looking past emotion, these are the games for which the Penguins signed him: Philadelphia, Washington, Columbus.

Brian Dumoulin: A

He was the steady presence and a hard net front battler. He too had a favorable scoring chance ratio, 11-6.

Given the Flyers domination of the second period, the scoring chance ratios are absurd but tell a real story. Dumoulin played 25:02 and his ice bath probably felt pretty good.

Juuso Riikola: B

Riikola was shielded from the madness. LIke Pettersson, he played just 17 minutes. However, he had a 7-1 scoring chance ratio. I could rewatch the game three times and not pick him out many times but he did the job. No turnovers and he covered for Maatta on the in which Maatta was injured.

Penguins Fourth Line: C

Patric Hornqvist wasn’t a welcome addition to the line and Garrett Wilson wasn’t as active from the left side. Not a great night for them.

Kessel-Malkin-Bjugstad: ?

My eyes told me they were chasing or on the wrong side of the puck. The numbers tell me they did well.

I will be rewatching this game with a sole focus on this line, how it worked, how Bjugstad factored, and how Kessel truly performed on the left wing. My gut says they had standout moments and very forgettable moments.

If I had to grade them, C+. Maybe B-

Drop your comments below on evolutions of this postgame analysis you would like to see. Please and thanks!



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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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3 years ago

Bjugstad is better fit on 3rd line

James Biller
James Biller
3 years ago

Only thing I disagree with is the Malkin, kessel, bjugstad grade. I thought they were the second best line out there, Sids line of course was number one. Very noticable. Malkin and kessel made more north and south plays. Bjugstad/Malkin with there long sticks cause problems for philly. I’m really excited about this line. Mark my words this line could be a turning point. That’s if Malkin don’t miss the next few games after what he did

3 years ago

It really bothers me that we traded not only Brassard and Sheahan but also draft picks to get a third line center and already they are trying to put him on Malkin’s wing because Kessel is sucking. It also bugs me that Sullivan just cannot let a line gel. For Pete’s sakes, let Bjugstad be a center for a while with Phil and see what happens. Malkin plays well with Hornqvist. (Yes, I know Hornqvist is struggling.) Malkin misses Hagelin but I am sure someone can fit into that spot.

Matt Schmidt
Matt Schmidt
3 years ago

I really enjoy the report card. It’s a great game recap and let’s me know whether my own take matches yours. Not sure if that was the type of feedback you were looking for. I like the letter grades. I very rarely disagree.

3 years ago

Ditto to Matt’s comment

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