RECAP 14: Sheary-Eller-Panik line smothers Pens in Caps' 3-1 win

RECAP 14: Sheary-Eller-Panik line smothers Pens in Caps' 3-1 win

Penguins

RECAP 14: Sheary-Eller-Panik line smothers Pens in Caps' 3-1 win

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PITTSBURGH, PA – FEBRUARY 16: Lars Eller #20 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his third period goal Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on February 16, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

Coming off just their second regulation win of the season and first win by multiple goals, one would figure the Penguins would come out buzzing against the Capitals, losers of four straight.

The Penguins did come out buzzing, largely thanks to a couple of Capitals penalties, but most of their mojo for the night was used up on a couple of clangs off the iron that would’ve drastically changed the outlook of the game had they gone in.

The Penguins looked flat most of the night, something they are extremely susceptible to if the Crosby line isn’t at the top of their game.

All situations, shot attempts were 60 – 46 for Washington. Though scoring chances were nearly even, the Capitals had a 13 – 5 edge in high-danger chances and a whopping 4.19 – 1.66 expected goals advantage, per Evolving Hockey.

LINEUP

  • Welcome defenseman Marcus Pettersson back to the lineup after missing the past nine games with an upper-body injury. Before his injury, the Penguins were controlling 53.8% of the shot attempts 52.3% of the expected goals with him on the ice at 5v5.
  • Tristan Jarry got his second consecutive nod in goal.
  • P.O. Joseph remained on the top-pairing despite the Penguins getting closer to 100% on the backend.

1st period

The Penguins failed to convert on a 5-on-3 power-play early in the game. Sidney Crosby had Washington netminder Vitek Vanecek beat, but he rang the puck off the post.

Neither team scored in the first period. Although scoring chances were even, if you take away special teams work, the Capitals outchanced the Pens 7 – 3.

2nd period

WSH Goal – Sheary (3) A: Panik, Jensen [4:52] 1-0 WSH

Five minutes into the second period, former Penguin Conor Sheary was able to sneak toward the slot unmarked and rip a shot past Jarry because the Penguins were puck watching. That’s Sheary’s fifth goal in seven games against the Pens.

Though the Penguins were puck watching, Jankowski and Jarry are largely at fault for this one. Jankowski committed to helping battle in the corner when he should’ve been keeping tabs on Sheary. Jarry was too deep in his crease, off his angle, and seemed to lose track of the puck before the shot.

Jankowski has been downright atrocious and doesn’t look like a player that should be in the lineup. The Penguins don’t have much of a choice right now, though.

WSH Goal – Vrana (5) A: Oshie, Backstrom [11:31] 2-0 WSH

Halfway through the game, T.J. Oshie dished a sweet backhand pass across the offensive zone to find an unmarked Jakub Vrana who absolutely wired home a wrister past Jarry.

Mike Matheson was watching the puck the entire time. He had no idea Vrana was there until the puck was on his stick.

3rd period

WSH Goal – Eller (2) A: Panik, Chara [1:09] 3-0 WSH

The Capitals all but put the nails in the Penguins’ coffin just over a minute into the game’s final frame when Kris Letang and Pettersson had an utter breakdown leaving Lars Eller wide open on the door step.

The Sheary-Eller-Panik line dominated the Penguins in nine and a half minutes at 5v5. They took 13 shot attempts to the Penguins’ one, controlled 90.9% of the expected goals, and on-ice goals were 2-0 in their favor, per Natural Stat Trick.

PIT Goal – Aston-Reese (3) A: Blueger, Marino [15:05] 3-1 WSH

The lone Pens goal of the evening came off the stick of Zach Aston-Reese, who now has two 5v5 goals and an empty-net goal in three games since returning from injury.

This goal gave the Penguins some life to try and tie the game, but it was too-little, too-late as they failed to score the remainder of the game despite a power-play opportunity and an extra attacker from pulling Jarry.

FINAL: 3-1 WSH

Notes

  • The Penguins have multiple glaring issues, and on nights like this where they compound, it makes it near impossible to win. Their number two center and number one defenseman are nowhere near the level of play they need to be. Their best player has yet to score a 5v5 goal. Their defensive-minded fourth-line is now playing as the team’s third-line. The team’s actual fourth-line is comprised of two players who probably don’t belong in the NHL and another who is simply a body to have in the lineup.
  • Mike Sullivan has got to switch Jason Zucker and Jake Guentzel in the lineup. Yes, Guentzel has been great with Crosby and Rust, but there’s plenty of evidence that suggests Guentzel will boost Malkin’s game, and he sure could use it. I’ve always believed Zucker’s style of play is better suited for Crosby, anyway. Though the combo of Zucker-Malkin-Kapanen is scoring over 70% of the goals at 5v5, their expected goals share is below 40%.
  • Joseph has struggled for a stretch of games now and Tuesday night might’ve been the worst game of his young career. He didn’t make any egregious plays, but at 5v5 the Penguins controlled just 38.1% of the shot attempts and 21% of the expected goals. Let’s remember that this is a guy who wasn’t even penciled into the starting lineup at the beginning of the season. It isn’t the end of the world if he doesn’t crush top-pairing minutes. His experience is extremely limited and he will need more time to fine-tune and polish his game. Ideally, he’d be playing in a third-pairing role. I’m still bullish on Joseph’s future but indications are that the Penguins can’t count on him to play top-pairing minutes for much longer.
  • Jankowski and Sam Lafferty simply aren’t cutting it. They are great if you want a line to go out and eat up 45 seconds of ice time to get your top guys a breather. They’ll get outshot at a 3:1 clip and give up a goal every once in a while even though they’ll never score. Jankowski has the lowest 5v5 expected goals share of any NHL skater with at least 100 minutes time on ice (31.8%). Lafferty’s 5v5 xGF% isn’t much prettier at 37.9%.

The Pens are back in action Thursday when they host the New York Islanders.

Thanks for reading! Let’s talk hockey on Twitter. Follow me @shireyirving.

All data via Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey.

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