RECAP: Game 52. Stars beat Pens 3-0.

 
This was the most sound defeat the Pens have suffered all season. We remember the drubbings in MSG and Ottawa, but at least the Pens were thwarted by stellar goaltending in those games. In this one, the Stars played like a desperate hockey team, and the Pens had no answer. The Pens actually looked shell-shocked for most of the game. 
 
Monday's loss against the Panthers wasn't a big deal. This game? Not a giant issue, but more of a concern that will be a reference point. The loss of Dupuis may have finally kicked in. Crosby and Kunitz were playing with Tanner Glass by the end of this game, and that is just insulting to everyone involved.

A couple of isssues

- Travel schedule. Easy excuse here, but it’s been a long week of games and hopscotching for the Pens. The January grind and the dog days of winter can't be overlooked.
 
- The Penguins are top-heavy. We’ve been beating this drum since the beginning of January: the bottom six is a real problem. Look at this game for example: two shots from players on the bottom two lines. Two. That is awful.

 
- This probably goes with number two, but the Penguins are living and dying with goals on the power play. They have scored only 73% of their goals at even strength. That is 21st in the league. Take a look at the teams around them in those rankings:
 
Not the best. 120 goals is a ton, but 42 power play goals ( and 2 shorthanded) are what’s putting the Penguins in the win column a lot.
 
- Letang and Malkin in the lineup means the Pens play more loosely. There is an overwhelming amount of chatter about this. In the 9 games since Letang and Malkin have returned, the Penguins have given up 30 goals. But the problem with that thought is there is no stat backing that up. Malkin is a plus-7 in that time, and Letang is a -1. Without black-and-white evidence, it has hard for that point to be used in any rational argument.
 

Two things to actually be concerned about

- Brooks Orpik. Orpik has been on the ice for 13 goals against in the last 10 games, penalty kills included That is a concern. By comparison, Letang has only been on the ice for 7 goals against. Is there a reason Brooks Orpik can't be called out by anyone?
 
- As we said above, now that we have a decent sample size, Crosby and Kunitz need some help. With Dupuis, they had 57 points as a line. Without him in the last 10 games, they haven't done much at even strength:
 
 
No question a move is coming after the Olympics, and that move will result in a — gasp — winger for Sid. Hopefully a trade comes through that also puts some talent into the Pens’ bottom six. It’s easy to point to the Pens’ current place in the standings and wonder what there is to complain about, but you can’t be so short-sighted. Hopefully Shero isn't.
 
RECAP of this drubbing:
 
 

FIRST PERIOD

The first 10 minutes were so-so. The Pens got a power play that came up empty.  The Stars came back by forcing the Pens to commit turnover after turnover. And they eventually got a power play of their own. Maatta looked sad in the box. And our old friend Sergei Gonchar rose from the ashes to blast one past MAF thanks to a great play by Horcoff to tie up Letang in front, screening MAF.
 
 
Really miss that shot :( 1-0.
 
And that was pretty much it. The Stars weren’t having any of the Pens’ grinding, and the blue line was harder to cross than the GW Bridge. Pens were outshot 10-4 through one.
 
FACT: One of us watched the Stars broadcast, and it’s one of the better experiences in the NHL. Ralph Sturgis is the play-by-play guy. He stays out of the way and keeps anecdotes to a minimum. Daryl Reaugh is the color commentator, and he’s easily one of the top 5 in the business. Sturgis lets Reaugh mention everything that’s going on in the subtleties of the game. They are awesome together.
 
Great camerawork, too, by Fox Sports Southwest. They never cut to close-up shots when the puck is being carried through the neutral zone.

SECOND PERIOD

Garbutt railed Crosby. Letang answered it by boarding him, so the Stars had a PP. And the Stars converted again. Great pass from Goligoski to Jamie Benn. Open net. 2-0.
 
 
Surreal performance by Jamie Benn in this game. Elite player.
 
Pens couldn’t do anything at all. Seemed like they couldn’t even leave their own zone. Ray Whitney hit a post that echoed throughout Texas.
 
 
Then after another turnover, it was 3-0. Peverley with a subtle hook on Geno. Horcoff picked up the mail and dished it to Peverley, who went Thriller on MAF. May have glanced off Orpik’s stick, but shit happens.
 
 
 
Orpik is staring down Malkin in this pic. Too bad no one had a mirror to hand Orpik.
 
Pens couldn’t get anything going and had to take another penalty. Thankfully, they killed it.
 
That was around the time that you could say, “If the Pens could get one here, look out.” Except that wasn’t going to happen this game. The Pens were getting more and more frustrated with every shift. Tanner Glass decided to go high on Jamie Benn for no reason. 
 
Pens had a late PP. Nope.

THIRD PERIOD

Good news: The Penguins outshot the Stars in third period.
Bad news: The shots were all straight into the chest of Kari Lehtonen.
 
The Pens had a ton of power plays, but Crosby and Malkin looked tired.
When you have no secondary help, this is going to happen eventually.
 
James Neal was in James Neal Jammed Up Mode™, so he was rendered basically moot. He let some scrub suck him into a bad penalty before a faceoff while the Pens were on the power play. We should all consider it a minor victory that he didn’t something stupid again to warrant a suspension.
 
Tanner Glass was running around like a maniac. That promoted him to the first line somehow.
 
Really just a poor effort from the Pens in this game.
Third period was already over.
 
 
GAME.
 
 
- Tough to put any blame on MAF. You start going down a slippery slope if you start putting the blame for PP goals on the goalie.
 
- Jayson Megna had his name called a lot in this game, so that could be something.
 
- Scuderi left the game for a while then returned.
 
 
 
 
 
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