With a truncated training camp and a bunch of new guys getting used to a new organization, new teammates, and new system, it’s hard to read too much into what transpired here.
The Penguins showed “heart” and “guts” to battle back from two separate deficits, including one when heading into the final frame, to give themselves a shot.
But it’s got to be a little disconcerting to see the same things that plagued them late last season- blown defensive coverages, a lousy powerplay, and just overall poor decision making- be their undoing yet again even in the face of controlling the puck for most of the night.
And therein lies some of the optimism: the Penguins did control the puck most of the night.
In fact, in the 51:56 of 5v5 play, they controlled 56.47% of the shot attempts (48-37), 60% of the shots on goal (30-20), 54.29% of the scoring chances (19-16), and 52.08% of the expected goals (1.58-1.46), via Natural Stat Trick.
If there’s another optimistic side here, the problems were (mostly) on the mental side of the game. That can be fixed.
They will, however, need to be fixed quickly. Because a slow start in a 56 game season where you see the same teams repeatedly does not bode well for teams with playoff and Stanley Cup aspirations.
Put another way:
Marino: "Guys are going to be upset about a loss, but at the end of the day, it’s the first game of the season. We don’t want to take it too heavy. We want to learn from this and get better, but at the end of the day you don’t want to dwell on it for too long."
— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) January 14, 2021
Fortunately, the chance at redemption comes quickly: a Friday night rematch back at Wells Fargo.
First lineup of the season, babyyy.
Let's play some hockey. pic.twitter.com/IOKw8W5wHu
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 13, 2021
Zucker-Malkin-Rust were kept together just as they were in August. Jared McCann got the start on 3LW instead of at 3C, while Tanev got a promotion and new boy Colton Sceviour got 4th line duties.
On the back end, we welcomed back the Dumo-Tang pairing, but the Pettersson-Marino pairing was split up to let them play with the other new guys.
Jarry vs. Hart between the pipes.
Game 1 lines & pairings as expected:
— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) January 13, 2021
For some reason, the ref gave some dumb, awkward speech before dropping the puck and frankly, it was the worst thing about this game. At this stage in life, dropping a 6-3 game is far less troublesome than a meandering, meaningless speech by a referee welcoming us back to hockey in 2021.
— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) January 13, 2021
It was matched by the actual start of the game, which featured a couple of icings, some missed passes, and just overall choppiness- almost as if these guys only got an abbreviated training camp or something. Guess we’ll never know.
You could make the case that the Flyers were turning the screw a bit more and controlled the early goings, including hemming the Malkin line in their own end of the ice for nearly a minute and the little rat Travis Konecny getting a 2v1 from the red line in on Cody Ceci.
Nothing came of it as Konecny didn’t yet eat his nightly bucket of night crawlers and it didn’t take long after for the Penguins to open the scoring.
PIT –5:14 – Jankowski; A: McCann – 1-0
Following the 2-on-1, there was about a minute or so of dicking around where both teams just clogged shit up in the neutral zone and just forced PUCKS IN DEEP.
In one of those instances, towards the end of the Pens 4th line’s shift, Teddy Blueger couldn’t latch on to a PUCK IN DEEP.
He refused to give up on it despite being gassed, getting on his horse to backcheck and turn the puck over in the neutral zone. Matheson picked it up, hit Marino and the Pens countered with McCann getting the PUCK IN DEEP for Tanev to chase.
Jankowski burrowed in, forced a turnover behind the net and went straight to the net when McCann picked it up. “Pierre” did not fawn over going to the dirty areas to score goals, but I will because I am shameless.
This is how you score goals, folks.
Go to the net.
Get lost in coverage.
Hit the net.
Every single Flyer on the ice was focused on McCann skating around, facing the glass that they didn’t pick up Jankowski on the back stick. All McCann had to do was find him. You simply have to love it.
A little later, both teams traded off powerplay opportunities, starting with the Penguins.
They did not convert.
But with Ceci in the box for slashing Voracek, the Flyers did. And a trend would begin to develop for the Flyers PP unit.
PHI –15:11 – PPG – van Riemsdyk; A: Gustafsson, Farabee – 1-1
Really tough first penalty kill for Mike Matheson. First, the Pens 2 penalty killing forwards got a little caught in the offensive zone as Patrick was shipping it out.
No harm, no foul because Rust got back to help break it up.
But Matheson’s clearing attempt was an attempt in name only and was held in by Patrick and Co.
With all 4 penalty killers on the strong side of the ice, Gustafsson switched the point of attack through Farabee, who sucked Rust down the wall and got a little Red Wings Interference from Voracek on ERod to open up the point shot from Gustafsson.
Big screen and tip from JVR, but you gotta say that Matheson should probably do better here to tie up his stick. But it was an overall PK failure that was the Pens undoing here.
PHI –19:52 – PPG – Patrick; A: Gustafsson, Farabee – 2-1
It would be their undoing again as the period came to a close when Matheson got a little overzealous and crosschecked Konecny from behind after the little weasel got into it with Geno.
Off the ensuing draw, which Blueger wasn’t able to win, the Flyers 2nd PP unit once again went from far-to-near so that Farabee and Gustafsson could isolate Jankowski this time around for the Gustafsson point shot.
Patrick, JVR, and Dumoulin all in the shooting lane and the high tip from Patrick left Jarry absolutely helpless to take us into the first intermission.
Took almost 2 minutes into the period before the Penguins got their second PP of the night when Voracek cowardly interfered with McCann in the neutral zone. Took just 40 seconds into it before reaching the conclusion that the Pens powerplay looked like shit.
PIT –3:39 – PPG – Crosby; A: Hart – 2-2
Breaking the fourth wall for a minute, if you were sitting with me in my office just watching me write sentences about this hockey game, you would have seen that as soon as I finished typing “the Pens powerplay looked like shit,” Sidney Crosby made those words look like they were written by a “lawyer” not getting paid $20k a day by a “con man” because Sidney Crosby turned around and did some Sidney Crosby shit.
The powerplay still looked like it was being run by Recchi and that’s a fact, Jack.
But let’s ignore everything else for the next 8 to 568 seconds for some king shit.
The hand-eye to knock that out of the air is one thing, but to just know where the net is and dink it home is just something else. Hope you all hammered the Crosby to score superboost at +210. Easy money.
Pens got another powerplay with 12:37 left in the middle frame and definitely did nothing with that one this time around.
Following the sad and failed PP, it really felt like neither team could get a foothold on the game. In fact, the period ended with shots just 9-5 in favor of the Penguins.
But late on, it would be the Flyers answering the bell to take another lead into another intermission.
PHI –18:54 – Farabee; A: Hayes, Malkin – 3-2
Really tough, unlucky shift from Sam Lafferty here. He gets faceoff duties on the D-zone draw against Kevin Hayes, the brother of Jimmy Hayes (the Pride of Dorchestah).
Lafferty loses it, which isn’t a huge deal. Philly works it around the horn and Lafferty follows it well, winning the puck as Hayes tried to reverse it to Farabee down low.
But that’s where the wheels fell off. He collects it on his backhand in behind Matheson, who you have to say had no idea he was there. Matheson turns and chops at it, throwing a wrench into the puck clearing plans. Lafferty gets spun around and loses control of the puck, turning it over to Jimmy’s brother.
Matheson then goes on to get caught watching the puck after he unties himself from Farabee, giving Hayes the chance to get it down low to Farabee to finish it off.
Flyers got a chance to extend their lead just 39 seconds into the period when the Penguins got caught with too many men on the ice. But just as quickly as the lord giveth, he can taketh away.
PIT –3:01 – Tanev; A: Jankowski – 3-3
And right after the penalty was killed off, the lord tooketh away the Flyers lead, albeit temporarily.
This one started with the Pens soaking up some pressure in their own end of the ice and Pettersson alleviating that pressure by taking Sanheim’s dump, sucking in the forechecker, and releasing McCann up the wall through the nifty little relief pass up through the circle.
McCann’s outlet to Ceci missed the mark and found its way to Gustafsson, who in turn gave it right to Jankowski.
Exactly as McCann and the Penguins drew it up.
McCann’s center drive helped open up the passing lane to Tanev and…
Jankowski hit him with a nasty little backhand dish to give him absolute, unmitigated permission to snipe. What a bullet.
PHI –5:37 – Raffl; A: Laughton, Aube-Kubel – 4-3
But just as quickly as the lord taketh away, he can also giveth. This is axiomatic and requires no proof. Here is the proof:
Just about 2.5 minutes after Tanev’s goal, the lord gaveth the Flyers their lead back, this time for good.
Once again, it was a Matheson issue here.
With an offensive zone draw, he activated down the wall to help 87 get that +1 faceoff win. That’s good! We want the Penguins defensemen, particularly those that are gifted offensively, to activate down the wall!
But Matheson proceeded to get his pocket picked by Raffl (bad, very bad) to eventually send Laughton the other way, overwhelming Crosby at the point and just smoking Marino all alone in behind. You see this is bad because we do not want our defensemen at any stage to give the puck away, especially when they’re activating down the wall.
Give Matheson some credit here- he didn’t give up on this and damn near kept the puck out of the net with his backcheck, but he got trapped in behind the net after making contact with Aube-Kubel, giving Laughton free reign to pick it up and feed Raffl in front.
PHI –12:14 – Lindblom; A: Konecny, Couturier – 5-3
And just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it did about 7 minutes later.
As they had done all night, the Pens 3rd line was threatening, but a centering feed from behind the net from Jankowski didn’t connect with anyone other than Sean Couturier.
Notice here: with the Pens needing a goal, it was Cody Ceci that jumped into the play. As soon as Coots picks up the puck, all 3 forwards and Ceci are all trapped below the hashmarks. Not a fan of that!
McCann and Ceci get back into the play eventually, but basically only after Couturier is getting the puck to the net. From that point on, it’s a circus in the blue paint. Both McCann and Ceci overskate Lindblom in front, who keeps the puck alive long enough for Konecny to sweep in and bang it home off of Lindblom’s head apparently.
PHI –12:34 – Hayes; A: Farabee, Giroux – 6-3
Then, 20 seconds later, it went from worse to worst.
Pens won the opening draw following the goal and got PUCKS IN DEEP. Hart, though, was ready and given ample time to collect and send it up the wall. Malkin struggled to control it off of his body, though, and Philly got it out of harm’s way.
But a rare and egregious giveaway from Dumoulin put him and Letang on their heels on a 3v3 as Giroux drove them back, gained entry, and deferred to Farabee at the point. Giroux kept the speed going and split Letang and Dumo, driving to the net looking for the return feed.
It never came and made it through to Jarry. On one hand, it’s dope that he didn’t let Farabee’s pass get through him. On the other hand, he should really be kicking that literally anywhere else other than to the stick of Hayes to give the Flyers an insurmountable lead late in the hockey match.
I actually forgot that hockey is pain
— Cassy 🌸 (@velvetscoco) January 14, 2021
- Let’s start off with some good: the third line of McCann-Jankowski-Tanev was a goddamn buzzsaw. In the 9:28 of 5v5 ice time together, they were on the ice for just 2 shot attempts against (both were on goal), while generating 12 for (85.71% share). They generated a team-high 7 scoring chances, allowing just 2 against. Tanev (who joint-led the team with Malkin with 5 shot attempts) and McCann were terrors with their speed and Jankowski looked really, really comfortable with the puck on his stick, registering 4 shot attempts himself.
- The Crosby line had a decent night too, controlling 60.87% of the shot attempts. They had some issues in the quality department, generating just 3 scoring chances and 0.31 expected goals (allowing 6 and 0.49 respectively). It’s just one game, but it’s hard to imagine Rodrigues is going to be any sort of long or short term solution on that RW.
- Kind of quiet nights, relatively speaking, from Letang and the Malkin line. Wouldn’t expect that to continue.
- Now, for the bad. The powerplay had a bear of a time getting into the zone. It’s a lot less static when it does get set up, but boy oh boy did it ever have problems even getting set up.
- Worth reiterating that it’s just one game, a new team, new system, etc., but Mike Matheson had a bad night, despite having some decent underlying numbers. No two ways about it though. You can point to mistakes that fall squarely on his shoulders on 3 of the first 4 goals. He was in the box for the other one. But hey, look on the bright side: there’s nowhere but up from here.
Back at it Friday night. Bring it.