Islanders at Penguins 1/29/13 Game Recap and Report Card
Tuesday January 29th 7:40 start
Islanders at Penguins
During a night when not even Jay Caufield's telestrator worked and the highlight may have been the arena organist taunting Rick DiPietro by playing Led Zeppelin (whose symbols appear on the helmet of former-Penguins' goalie Brent Johnson, who broke DiPietro's face) the Penguins fell, frustrated to a better-coached Islanders club.
Fleury in net
Offensive Grade: D
For much of the game, the Penguins offense was not as bad as the final score might lead you to believe. Crosby's line, the only line to score against the Islanders, was clearly the best of the four offensive units. Frequently they took the zone, sent players to the goal-mouth and threw pucks at a sharp Evegeni Nabakov. Although Malkin made plays and set up Neal, Malkin's unit struggled to find consistency and momentum. Malkin also continued a recent trend of bad passes. Brandon Sutter played well in all of the zones but didn't receive much meaningful help from his line-mates.
Through much of the first period, the Penguins had problems gaining and keeping the offensive zone as the result of an effective Islanders' neutral-zone trap. When the Penguins did finally sustain some offensive-zone possession in the 2nd period, they could not turn it into a goal and instead ended up icing the puck. Though the Penguins blocked significantly more shots, it was their shots that were seemingly never making it through the Islanders' stingy defense.
In a move that surprised nobody, Bylsma told the thus-far ineffective Eric Tangradi to have a seat in favor of Dustin Jeffrey, whom, prior to being repeatedly injured, had looked promising in parts of two season with the Penguins. After failed experiments with Tyler Kennedy and Tangradi on the Malkin-unit, Bylsma stationed Jeffrey there instead. The result was much of the same. In addition to not effectively contributing offensively, Jeffrey looked rusty in his own end and turned over the puck in front of Fleury; it likely would've led to a goal were it not for a sliding shot-block by Letang.
Defensive Grade: D
The defense was stifled by a strong Islanders' fore-check for much of the game. Outsized and outworked, the Penguins frequently found it difficult to get the puck out of their own zone. The "shut-down" unit of Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin were on the ice for three of the Islanders' four goals, including two Islanders' power-play goals. Although Martin had been playing better this season than last, he allowed the first goal of the game by giving up a turnover at his own goal-line to Islanders' checking-line forward Casey Cizikas who then stuffed it into the goal from behind the net. The Lovejoy-Engelland unit was victimized by Michael Grabner's speed when Engelland turned it over at the offensive blue-line; Grabner beat Lovejoy in a foot-race and buried the puck below Fleury's glove.
In what figures to be the possible first defensive-pairing of the future, All-star defensemen Kris Letang was paired with Penguins' 2009 first-round draft pick Simon Despres who was filling in for injured defensemen Matt Niskanen. Despres' performance was the lone bright spot in a game that was largely disappointing. In his previous games this season, Despres had looked timid and opponents had game planned to hit him early and often. Against the Islanders, it was Despres who was throwing the hits with his 6'4" frame. Despres played strong in both ends of the ice; he didn't miss the opportunity to put the puck on net. When Despres is on his game, he looks quite a bit like a larger version of Letang; skating with his head up, making strong first passes and using a shoot-first mentality in the offensive zone. At age 21, he looks to have real potential.
Goal-tending Grade: D-
Fleury must've been having a bad day, plain and simple. At times, he clearly had no idea where the puck was at. Fleury's glove-hand remains his weak point and showed that again tonight as Grabner whizzed a puck right by it. The Cizikas and Tavares goals were not Fleury's fault but the Grabner goal and a later goal where Fleury fell over and failed to regain his footing before the puck found the back of the net were both clearly on him. Additionally, Fleury very nearly cost the Penguins another goal when he mishandled the puck behind his own net and sent it to the front of an unmanned goal.
Power-Play Grade: F
The Penguins and their power-play had absolutely no answer for the highly-regarded penalty-kill of the Islanders. The Penguins recent problems with entering the offensive zone on the PP continued and when they did occasionally take the zone, they failed to keep it. During all three of their power-plays, the Penguins failed to make crisp passes or rotate sufficiently; the power-play looked stagnant.
The most flagrantly frustrating moments though were during a 5 minute game-misconduct that was assessed to Colin McDonald for the attempted decapitation of Ben Lovejoy. For much of the 5 minutes the Penguins couldn't get the puck out of their own defensive zone. During three power-plays that totaled nine minutes, the Penguins produced a paltry three shots-on-goal.
Penalty-Kill Grade: F
The Penguins allowed the Islanders to go two-for-two on their power-play. During the Islanders' first power-play, they enjoyed crisp, cross-ice passes. Twice the Islanders were allowed to pass across the front of the goal to a loaded Tavares; he missed the first time but the second time he found his mark. Fleury never stood a chance. On the second penalty-kill, Fleury fell over and former Penguin draftee Matt Moulson batted it into a wide open goal.
Coaching Grade: F
Bylsma tried everything that he could think of but nothing got the attention of his team. If Bylsma can't start producing with better regularity, it would surprise nobody if the Penguins started shopping for a new coach. Let's hope that it doesn't come to that.