Let’s start with the injury situation on defense, which seems to be what a lot of people are talking about after this one.
Trevor Daley left with a lower-body injury late in the first period. Mike Sullivan said he’ll be evaluated once the team returns to Pittsburgh. He also said he’s “hopeful with Trevor that it won’t be anything significant,” so this might not be as serious a blow as the injuries to Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz were.
However long Daley is out, the path going forward seems pretty clear to me.
In the short term, Cameron Gaunce, who was a healthy scratch tonight, draws into the lineup. David Warsofsky or Derrick Pouliot could come up from Wilkes-Barre. The well of depth defensemen has not yet run dry.
In the longer term, Jim Rutherford has to go get a couple of defensemen before the trade deadline in a week.
That’s not a revelation. He might have done that even if nobody got hurt. He knows how quickly a couple of injuries can wreck a team’s blue line. He’s not going to get caught shorthanded.
The only question is whether we’re talking about a draft-pick-for-a-rental type deal or a bigger move involving more players with significant cap hits. My guess is the former, since there are so many moving pieces involved with making the latter work, but you could go broke trying to bet on what Rutherford’s going to do at times in his career. This is no different.
— Matt Murray, incidentally, was extremely complimentary of the job the five healthy defensemen did tonight.
“We’ve just got a bunch of warriors back there, I think. It’s happened a couple times now. A couple of games ago, we got down to four defensemen and battled it out. Tonight, losing Dales is a big loss for us, but guys stepped up. Guys played the right way. We didn’t feed their transition, which is big, and got pucks out at our blue line and in at theirs. Just a bunch of warriors back there. It was really fun to watch. It’s a privilege to play with these guys.”
— Furthering an issue that’s been an interesting talking point so far this season, Evgeni Malkin took three minor penalties in the first half of the game tonight.
Listen to Mike Sullivan’s thoughts on the matter. I’ll give you a preview. He seemed not too upset with two of the penalties and diplomatically explained why he didn’t like the other one.
Sullivan on the three penalties Evgeni Malkin took pic.twitter.com/TBLkklsmnj
— Jonathan Bombulie (@BombulieTrib) February 22, 2017
— Looking at the math tonight (though no numbers were required to come to this conclusion), the first period was an abject disaster for the Penguins. They spent long stretches trying like hell just to get out of their own zone. Carolina had a 32-8 advantage in shot attempts, 18-7 at even strength.
Anyway, Sullivan chalked that up to the three penalties the Penguins took and he’s probably on to something. I mean, the Penguins did have a 4-0 advantage in shots when Scott Wilson gave them a 1-0 lead less than three minutes in, before they started visiting the penalty box.
I also think that first period is what happens when a fatigued team is playing its fifth game in eight days with a makeshift D corps, but I don’t want to hammer that tiredness angle home too much.
The Penguins got better as the night went on. Hagelin-Malkin-Kessel drove possession pretty well. Ian Cole and Chad Ruhwedel too.
Whatever the opposite of driving possession is, that’s what Steve Oleksy and Chris Kunitz did.
— How does a team win with a shot-attempt graph that looks like that? Great goaltending and big plays by big-time players. It’s that simple. Matt Murray was brilliant and Sidney Crosby and Malkin scored huge goals.
Here’s Crosby, incidentally, talking about the two minors he took.
“Especially the second penalty, a retaliation penalty, that’s not one you want to take at all. Those are penalties we have to make sure were aware we can’t keep taking. But I thought we responded the right way.”
Bye for now,