Last night, the Pens welcomed the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Consol Energy Center. Shot numbers were low during the first half of the game, yet the team still carried the lead and finished with a total of 33. The Pens are now 8-2 in their last 10 games versus the Leafs, and have won six straight in the series.
It was the first time that Phil Kessel got to face his former team. He led all forwards in ice time at 20:47 and was 3rd overall behind Kris Letang / Ian Cole.
Marc-Andre Fleury played in his 600th game. This ranks first for goalies, ninth overall in the franchise. He played well on his way to making 26 saves. “It was a close game,” Fleury said, “but we didn’t give them too much so that’s always a big help.”
Final: 2-1 Pens
Points of Emphasis:
Last night, Ben Lovejoy and Rob Scuderi were placed in different defensive pairings. The thinking is that in separating them, you soften the damage by pairing them with a more capable partner. However, I believe the time for softening is over. If Lovejoy and Scuderi must be in the lineup, play them together.
Not to “spread out” the damage, but to limit it.
If Scuderi was still capable of playing a “stay at home” role at a high level, I’d support pairing him with someone like Olli Maatta or Letang. That time is passing (if it hasn’t passed already). Think of a Lovejoy / Scuderi pairing as a powder keg just begging for a spark. By playing them together, you can control the explosion by limiting their ice time. It’s how the Pens can get the most out of someone like Maatta, who began last night chained to Scuderi on the bottom pairing. Maatta will flourish if he is freed from having to worry about whether his defensive partner can keep up.
It goes beyond stick-handedness or trying to match up complementary pairings; If there must a defensive hole in the lineup, one hole is preferable to two.
Or, the problem could be solved simply by playing Adam Clendening instead.
Maatta, for his part, talked up his line mate after the game:
“We played well. We did a really good job in our own end breaking out. He’s a good player. He’s easy to play with, as he talks a lot and is really solid defensively – I really like playing with him.”
The Incredible Malk:
Evgeni Malkin scored another goal last night, his 2nd on the season.
— 🌕#1 Moon Owner🌕 Paul Clemente (@_BooPaul) October 17, 2015
He’s playing on another level right now, and is obviously the team’s #1 center at this moment. Perhaps it’s time to give Kessel a try on Malkin’s wing?
@LCJS exactly. Like a Neal replacement. Hornqvist with Crosby. Crosby plays better with guys like 72
— Beth (@pghgirl15222) October 18, 2015
Here is a great example of what hustle in hockey looks like, from Patric Hornqvist.
Lee is a contributor here at The Hockey Writers as well as at Pens Initiative. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, he worked an internship at VH1 Radio in NYC and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Penn State – New Kensington campus student newspaper, The Nittany Pride. You can visit Lee’s website here: leecjsobotka.com.