RECAP 42: Blackhawk Frown

The Pens were back in action last night against the once mighty Blackhawks, a team they haven’t beaten in the regular season since about 2002. The Penguins organization honored the members of the 2009 Stanley Cup winning team before the game to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the event.

https://twitter.com/penguins/status/1082088345449172992

The starting lineup was the same as it has been with the only note being Oleksiak scratched for Riikola

The Penguins were geared up at the start of this game and it paid off early after a clean faceoff when by Malkin allowed the second line to set up shop in the offensive zone. Eventually the puck found Geno behind the net and he quickly located Hornqvist in the slot, tape to tape and behind Ward

PATRIC HORNQVIST (15) Assisted by MALKIN (31) & SIMON (11) @ 2:43

Hornqvist closing in on a 9th consecutive 20 goal season as this new second line continues to produce at even strength.

The Penguins continued pressing the Blackhawks all over the rink, not even two minutes later they forced the Hawks into a defensive zone turnover, got into offensive position, and made it 2-0.

JAKE GUENTZEL (18) Assisted by LETANG (27) & RUST (10) @ 4:33

The Penguins effortlessly transitioned from defense to offense after forcing the turnover. If this isn’t Mike Sullivan hockey I don’t know what is. When Jake Guentzel came into the League I constantly applauded his ability to score goals in multiple ways, and this is yet another example of his scoring touch, and a big reason why he already has 18 on the year.

The Penguins were firing on all cylinders and it appeared that they would be taking a 2 goal lead into the locker room, then Evgeni Malkin took a hooking penalty against Drake Caggiula which is a real name. The Penguins penalty kill looked average against the Hawks and it was quickly 2-1 after Alex DeBrincat notched his 19th of the year 21 seconds into the powerplay

The penalty kill wasn’t the solid body we’ve seen lately as the Blackhawks had them moving around with every pass. Neither team would score in the final 3 minutes and the Pens carried the 2-1 lead to the room after honoring Chris Kunitz

The Pens started the second much like the first but couldn’t get anything done early. Six minutes in Chris Kunitz decided to celebrate the 2009 cup by pretending to be relevant again

Not a good goal for DeSmith to give up here. Kunitz gets his first of the year a few weeks after being healthy scratched and some people on Twitter want GMJR to trade Kessel for him.

Amazingly, the game was only tied for three minutes. I say amazingly not because the Penguins scored to take the lead, but because it was Derick Brassard!

DERICK BRASSARD (7) Assisted by KESSEL (30) & PETTERSSON (10) @ 9:49

https://twitter.com/penguins/status/1082101713639747584

This could be the biggest moment of this game, as it is the first time I can remember where the new third line looked like a line. This is a great shot by Brassard, should’ve been saved but Cam Ward was also apparently celebrating the 2009 cup run by playing like he did that year. If the third line starts chipping in like the other three lines then look out.

The Penguins continued playing some pretty good hockey but couldn’t get that two-goal lead. Tanner Pearson took a hooking penalty 15 minutes into the frame and suddenly the Hawks went from looking out of it to the powerplay, just like the first period.

The Blackhawks didn’t convert on the powerplay but they picked up momentum, and shortly after the man-advantage concluded Duncan Keith notched his first of the year

“Slam Duncs” it was indeed, as the $5.5 million dollar per year 35-year-old defenseman with 5 years left on the deal gets his first of the year halfway through the season.

Nothing else going in the period and we ended tied at 3.

The Penguins dominated play only to have it taken away by a late penalty, same story as the first period… Sullivan will not be a happy man.

When it’s a tied game at the beginning of the third it’s all about a good start to the period. It didn’t take long wondering who would show up, less than 2 minutes in Dylan Strome gave the Hawks their first lead of the season

Good pass by Patrick Kane had DeSmith frozen, but this goal also shows the glaring thing I hate about DeSmith’s game. Watch the gif, he tracks the pass from Kane to Strome perfectly with his eyes but doesn’t start with his body until after the shot. He sees that Strome has the puck but doesn’t react with a push off immediately, almost like he has to think about how to approach the save. Many people appreciate athletic looking saves, I am not one of those people if it’s a save that could’ve been made with better positioning. Not a good night for DeSmith but with the way he played during Murray’s absence that is all you can chalk this up to, one bad game.

The Pens couldn’t get anything going for them including a third failed powerplay chance with 8 minutes left. Time would tick down and Jonathan Toews padded his stats with an empty net goal to seal the deal.

Game


THOUGHTS:

  • Getting bent out of shape over this game is pointless, Chicago can celebrate this victory in May when they are watching the Pens in the playoffs
  • Riley Sheahan finished with just 9:31, and only 57 seconds of penalty kill time
  • The defensive distribution was as follows: Pettersson & Riikola 15 minutes, Johnson& Maatta 18 minutes, Dumoulin 20 minutes, Letang 27 minutes. Granted Letang had 4:05 on the powerplay and 1:05 shorthanded but still, damn.
  • DeSmith finished with a .867 save percentage, letting up 3 even strength goals (25 saves on 28 shots at even strength). Like I said above, not his best performance but I am not turning heel on him over this.
  • Panthers in the barn tomorrow night, may a new streak begin!

End of Streak. Time to put the clothes back on.

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