-Earlier this season, the Penguins scratched Olli Maatta for a game in New Jersey on New Year's Eve. Maatta had been involved in a few one-on-one plays where he ended up allowing attacking player to score goals. That move was made with the specific purpose of giving Maatta, a 19-year-old in his first true professional season, a chance to reset mentally and physically.
-Flash forward to mid March and Maatta has played 75 games this season (including the Olympics). The most he ever played in his junior career was 82 with London of the OHL in 2011-12 (including playoffs and the World Junior Championship tournament). Maatta is coming off two games where he hasn't had a ton of success.
-Thursday in Detroit, Maatta was involved in two goals by the Red Wings. On one, he simply fell into Rob Scuderi in the neutral zone and allowed the Red Wings to score on a three-on-one. On another, a puck went off him in a fluke fashion and into the Penguins net. Yesterday, Lightning forward Ondrej Palat ran threw a handful of Penguins players including Maatta and scored a game-tying goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
-Suffice it to say, Maatta hasn't had the best run of luck the past two games. Would the Penguins consider making him a healthy scratch before the end of the regular season to provide him with a mental and physical break like they did earlier this season? Dan Bylsma was asked that question this morning. This was his response:
"Are you trying to get me to answer a question? Would I consider it? I consider a lot of things. If you're asking me if we talk about the lineup every day, we talk about the lineup every day. Olli, the game he had in Detroit, a guy shot one 10 feet wide and it hit off his leg and goes in. We're not going to sit Olli Maatta because of a play that hits off a shin pad that's going 10 feet wide and goes in. [Yesterday], with three and a half minutes left, they obviously score a goal where the guy goes through our four guys that were on the ice. He was the defenseman that the guy went by. Certainly, you can point at No. 3 [Maatta]. There's more people on the play responsible that just Olli Maatta getting beat one one one. But he did get beat one one one in that game. Obviously, it was a big point. But the guy has done an awful lot. Played really well. Been a positive player for us in a lot of hockey games. To say, 'Olli, hey we're going to sit you down because one went off your shin pad," that's not something we're going to say to him."
-We would anticipate a ticked off Blues team today. They were thumped pretty good by the Flyers yesterday. This is a team which is pretty ornery to begin with so they'll have plenty of motivation to play a heavy game against the Penguins today.
-Knowing that, would it be a good idea to play Deryk Engelland today? He has dropped the gloves a handful of times with Ryan Reaves. Dan Bylsma has all but ruled out using him as a forward down the stretch with the additions of Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak so presumably if he was going to play today, it would be as a defenseman.
-Some sights around the barn. The barn:
-Tyler Kennedy Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins St. Patrick's Day:
-We always seem to run into a Craig Adams fan:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are quite a few Blues fans here. Alex Pietrangelo:
-A few Sabres fans made the drive down I-79 to support Ryan Miller and Steve Ott:
-This Dominik Hasek fan might just be lost:
-A Dane Fox Erie Otters t-shirt jersey:
-Jersey of the Day: An old school Brett Hull jersey:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Lee Stempniak, Simon Despres, Rob Scuderi and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Taylor Pyatt and the great Joe Vitale.
-If their lines in warm up are to be trusted, consider this a guess at their lines:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Brian Gibbons - Brandon Sutter - Craig Adams
Tanner Glass - Marcel Goc - Deryk Engelland
Brooks Orpik - Robert Bortuzzo
Matt Niskanen - Olli Maatta
Simon Despres - Rob Scuderi
-The Blues' starters are Steve Ott, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo and Brian Elliott.
-Their scratches are Ian Cole, Dmitrij Jaskin Jordan Leopold, Derek Roy and Vladimir Tarasenko.
-Our iPhone was on the fritz and we missed Jeff Jimerson. Here's Jimerson doing his thing from yesterday:
19:49: Off a feed by Orpik, Kunitz swipes a one-timer from above the right circle which Elliott fights off.
18:53: Jaden Schwart snap off wrister from deep on the left wing. Fleury fights it off.
18:47: Working his way out of the right wing corner, Schwartz moves by Niskanen and snaps off a wrister from a bad angle. Fleury smothers it.
18:07: Former Penguin Brenden Morrow pushes the puck up the left wing on a two-on-one with Kevin Shattenkirk against Scuderi. As tries to take away the shot, Morrow saucers a pass to Shattenkirk in the right cirlce. Shattenkirk settles the puck and lifts a wrister which Fleury eats up.
16:43: Roman Polak takes a pass at the right point and fires a slapper which Kunitz blocks.
16:05: Rushing up the right wing, Schwartz wheels around Maatta at the Penguins' right half wall and and releases a wrister which is blocked.
15:33: Brandon Sutter chucks a wrister from the right half wall on net. Ellitott kicks out a rebound. Glass is there but is a step behind the puck. Sutter may have been hoping for a pass-of-pads.
15:14: Taking a pass on the right wing, Patrik Berglund tees up a slapper which Fleury fights off.
14:40: Oshie is in the runway having someone look at what appears to be a skate
13:56: Malkin races the puck up the right wing into the offensive zone and and deals a pass to Neal above the right circle. Neal puts a pedestrian wrister on net which Elliott fights off.
13:20: Malkin has a wrister blocked by Maxim Lapierre.
11:40: A wrister by Oshie is rejected by Fleury.
11:00: A slapper by Crosby is blocked by Barret Jackman.
10:56: Engelland is back on defense with Despres.
9:30: The lines are mish-mashed. Goc is out with Gibbons and Adams.
9:00: As play is halted, David Backes (6-foot-3, 221) shoves Gibbons (5-foot-8, 170 pounds) to the boards. A replay shows Gibbons giving him a slash to the back of the legs prior to that. Backes is the only one penalized as he's sent off for interfernece. Malkin, Neal, Crosby, Kunitz and Niskanen take the ice.
7:00: Two minutes later, the Penguin fail to even get a shot on net with that power play.
6:41: Shattenkirk settles a turnover by the Penguins in their own zone at the right point and booms a one-timer on net which Fleury fights off.
6:19: Berglund rips a wrister from the right win. Scuderi blocks it out of play.
5:09: Jumping on a loose puck at the Blues' right point, Niskanen golfs a one-timer on net. Ellitot fights it off as he tumbles to the ice.
4:49: After Jokinen steals a puck from Reaves in the neutral zone, he feeds a pass to Malkin on the right wing. Malkin sneaks around Jay Bouwmeester in the right circle and attacks the net. His forehand shot is rejected by Elliott.
3:32: Pickup of a drop pass by Crosby at the left point, Stempniak races up the the left wing wall and flings a backhander on net. Elliott holds it out even as Kunitz jabs at his legs.
3:28: Off their patented "quick draw" play in the Blues' right circle, Malkin wins a draw to Neal who rips a wrister which bounces out of play.
3:21: Bortuzzo collects a bouncing puck in the left circle and rips a wrister which Elliott kicks out.
2:26: Off a drop pass by Crosby, Kunitz chops a slapper from above the left circle wide of the cage.
1:31: Sutter helps force a turnove rin the neutral zone and races it back up ice to the Blues' zone. He challenges Carlo Colaiacovo one-on-one down the slot. Coloaiacovo basically checks him to the ice and knocks the puck away. Great play by Colaiacovo.
0:54: Orpik is out with Engelland now.
0:28: Stempniak steals a puck off Oshie in the right circle then forces Oshie to hook him up. That's two minutes for Oshi. Great effort by Stempniak. Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Malkin and Niskanen take the ice.
0:08: The hole gets deeper for the Blues. Malkin pushes a puck through the neutral zone and is tripped up by Schwartz. The Penguins will have a 1:38 of a five-on-three power play to work with. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Jokinen take the ice.
0:04: Kunitz steals a puck in the right wing corner and slides it to Crosby above the crease. Crosby can't cleanly handle the puck and falls over. He had a point blank shot there.
0:00: End of period. Blues 0, Penguins 0.
-That was a pretty brisk period of hockey. There weren't too many stoppages. Each team had a fair amount of scoring chances and there was a good amount of hitting.
-The one area where there was a clear advantage was special teams. The Penguins did a better job of drawing penalties. We would expect a makeup call or two in favor of the Blues as the game wears on.
-Brian Gibbons has a knack for drawing penalties. He suckered Backes into one.
-The Penguins' bottom two lines and the bottom two defensive pairings have been mixed up thus far with Engelland being used as a defenseman.
-Shots on net are tied, 10-10.
-The Penguins have a 19-18 lead in attempted shots.
-Schwartz and Shattenkirk each lead the game with two shots.
-Bouwmeester leads the game with 7:54 of ice time.
-Kunitz leads the Penguins with 7:38.
-Faceoffs are even, 9-9 (50 percent).
-Malkin is 2 for 4 (50 percent).
-Sobotka is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Bouwmeester leads the game with two blocked shots.
-The great (and injured) Joe Vitale is on the cover of Icetime:
20:00: The Penguins will start the period with 1:32 of a five-on-three power play to work with on fresh ice. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Jokinen take the ice.
19:31: Off some perimeter passing, Neal chops a slapper from the right circle. Elliott kicks it out of play.
19:06: Crosby tees up a slapper from the right circle. Elliott eats it up.
18:57: Malkin froces a pass from the righ half all. Backes steals it and clears it down ice.
18:42: Malkin blasts a one-timer form the high slot. Elliott swats it away with his glove hand.
18:27: Another one-timer by Malkin from the high slot is blocked.
18:06: Play returns to five on five. The Penguins wasted a big opportunity there.
18:02: Malkin tries to cut across the high slot and is spun to this ice on a big elbow hit to the body by Backes. Wow!
16:54: Attendance is announced as 18, 662. It is the team's 320th consecutive sellout.
16:12: Presumably due to the players on the power play being a little gassed, the Penguins have a line of Adams, Stempniak and Adams on the ice.
15:27: Bouwmeester pinches in deep on the left wing and is mashed into the corner boards by Bortuzzo.
15:21: Bouwmeester chucks a wrister from the right point wide of the cage.
15:06: The Blues get their first power play as Bortuzzo is nabbed for interference As he sort of dropped Reaves tot he ice near the St. Louis bench as Reaves jumped onto the ice. Adams, Sutter, Orpik and Scuderi take the ice.
14:01: Shattenkirk takes a feed from Alexander Steen and pops a one-timer from center point which is blocked.
13:23: Taking a feed from Shattenkirk. Steen hammers a one-timer from the right point. Fleury eats it up despite a good screen by Morrow.
13:06: The Bortuzzo minor is killed. The Blues had a few decent chances with that power play.
11:49: A slapper by Nisanen fom center point is wide of the cage.
10:32: Off an offensive zone faceoff, Backes chops a slapper from the right circle wide to the far side.
10:08: Backes rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury boots it out.
9:15: A re-direction attempt by Steen is wide of the cage.
8:58: Schwartz whips a wrister from above the right circle. Fleury fights it off.
7:58: Jokinen chucks a wrister from the right half wall which is blocked.
7:37: Off a turnover by Jokinen, Magnus Paajarvi rips a wrister from the left circle which Maatta blocks out of play. Maatta made a nice play by reacting off that turnover and blocking the shot.
7:07: Reaves races with the Puck up ice and is FLATTENED by Adams at the Penguins' blue line. As play moves to the St. Louis zone, Lapierre jumps Adams and they drop the gloves. They mostly wrestle around before Lapierre falls on top of Adams. Both players get roughing minors while Lapierre is also gets a charging major. Chris Porter will serve the second minor for Lapiere. The Penguins will get a power play. Kunitz, Malkin, Niskanen, Crosby and Neal take the ice.
6:42: Nisknen wires a one-timer form the right point wide of the cage.
6:10: Off a feed by Niskanen, Crosby blats a one-timer from the right circle. Elliott fight it off. Kunitz has a chance with the rebound low to the right of the cage. Elliott rejects that as well.
5:14: Off a cross-ice feed by Malkin, Niskanen swipes a one-timer from the right point. A stick blocks it out of play.
5:09: As Porter is about to return to the ice, Maatta strikes a one-timer from above the right circle on net. Elliott fights it off.
4:00: Sutter muscles Polak off the puck on the St. Louis end boards and flings a puck to the blue paint. Elliott smothers it.
3:55: Scuderi strokes a one-timer from the right point. Elliott kicks it out.
2:21: Orpik steals a puck above the right circle and chucks it wide of the cage.
2:04: Bortuzzo teees up a one-timer from the right point. Elliot fight sit off. Crosby can't get a clean handle on the rebound.
1:07: Stempniak races his way into the offensive zone by Bouwmeester and pushes a backhander on net. It hops up and hits Elliott's mask. Elliott is able to smother the rebound as a few Penguins crash in.
0:24: Morrow controls a puck low int o the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone, puts one of his patented reverse hits on Maatta and chucks a backhander on net. Fleury smothers it.
0:20: Gibbons is flattened on a car wreck of a hit by Steen behind the Penguins' net.
0:00: As the horn sounds, Colaiacovo smokes one-timer from the left point which hits a body in front and deflects wide. End of period. Blues 0, Penguins 0.
-Wow. What a boring period. There were a few nice plays a few big hits but for the most part it was Zzzzzzzzzzzz....
-This is typical of Blues hockey. The bog things down quite a bit. They are playing their game to a tee.
-The Blues have done a marvelous job of limiting the clean looks the Penguins have had on the power play, even with the five-on-three the Penguins got to work with early.
-We've liked the look of Stempniak's game today. He's created a few things with his speed.
-The Penguins have a 23-18 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 41-37 lead in attempted shots.
-Crosby, Malkin and Shattenkirk each lead the game with four shots.
-Pietrangelo leads the game with 16:17 of ice time.
-Malkin leads the Penguins with 15:35.
-The Penguins have a 24-17 lead in faceoffs (59 percent).
-Crosby is 9 for 17 (53 percent).
-Steen is 5 for 10 (50 percent).
-Jackman leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Maatta, Kunitz and Orpik each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:25: Taking a little pass in the right circle and whistles a wrister wide of the cage.
17:55: Ott tries to push a puck up the right wing an is slammed to the boards by Orpik. Neither Ott nor Orpik fell to the ice but Niskanen got caught up in the wash and fell.
17:37: Kunitz smokes a slapper from the right half wall which Elliott fights off.
17:30: Kunitz whips a wrister from the right circle. over the cage.
16:01: Fleury kicks out a re-direct by Steen from in front of he crease with his right skate.
15:20: Ott chucks a wrister from the right point. Fleury eats it up.
14:50: Another save by Fleury. Berglund makes a nifty move around Despres in the Penguins' right circle. He dangles the puck then flips a forehand shot which Fleury fights off.
13:44: Maatta takes cross-ice pass by Crosby at the right point and strikes a slapper on net. Elliott reaches out and snags it with his glove hand. Nice save.
13:13: Polak chucks a wrister from the right point which his blocked by Bortuzzo who has lose his lid.
13:06: A wrister in tight by Malkin is denied by Elliott.
12:58: Backes pushes a puck up the right wing and chips it deep. Engelland tries to stand him up and is flung to the ice by Backes' right arm. What a display of strength.
11:41: Off a drop pass by Goc, Sutter flings a wrister from the right half wall over the cage.
11:17: Gibbons gains the offensive zone pulls up in the high slot and deals a pass to Maatta above the right circle. Maatta chucks a wrister which is blocked.
10:58: Malkin chips a wrister from the right circle which is blocked b Shattenkirk.
10:46: Malkin dekes around a check the right circle and lifts a wrister which is fought off by Elliott.
10:43: The Blues get a power play as Malkin is called for high sticking Backes after his shot. Malkin protests the call. Scuder, Orpik, Goc and Adams take the ice.
9:44: After a stoppage, the Blues call time out to get organized.
9:27: Oshie flings a backhander form the left cirlce trhough the sot and wide to the far side. It looked like hw as hoping for a re-direction by Backes.
8:40: We have a goal. Just as Malkin's minor expires, the Blues strike. Taking a pass at the right point. Steen tees up a slapper. It rises up and is deflected by the glove hand of Fleury. What a shot by Steen. Backes gets credit for the goal. Steen and Pietrangelo get assists. It gives the Blues the first lead of the day. Blues 1-0.
7:29: Malkin races up the right wing and flings a backhander from the right circle. Elliott knocks it dead and covers to freeze play.
6:18: Niskanen whacks a slapper from the right circle which is blocked.
6:11: Sutter whips a wrister from the right circle which his blocked. He recovers the rebound and puts a another wrister on net. Elliott denies.
5:56: Crosby sneaks a pass from the right circle to Stempniak to the left to the cage. Stempniak can't get a clean shot off. Polak may have blocked that a bit. Wow.
5:50: Crosby plays a puck from the right of the cage to the other side of the crease. It hits off Polak's skate and bounces wide.
5:25: HUGE save. Schwartz sneaks a pass from the left circle to Porter to the left of the crease. Porter tries to jam a forehand shot but Fleury stretches out to deni him wit his left leg. Porter fanned a bit on the shot but it was still a big save by Fleury.
4:44: A big chances here for the Penguins. Malkin is tripped up by Bouwmeester deep on the right wing of the offensive zone. That's two minutes for tripping. Kunitz, Crosby, Neal, Malkin and Nisknen take the ice. A goal here is a must.
4:28: Niskanen tees up a slapper from ther gith point. It rattles around a little bit before Backes clears it down ice.
3:48: Crosby chips a wrister on net from the right circle. Shattenkirk clear sit down ice.
3:16: Chasing down a loose puck at the Penguins blue line, Oshie dekes around a chip by Crosby and flings a wrister on net. Fleury fights it off.
3:05: Steen rips a wrister from the right circle off the side of the cage.
2:44: The Blues smother the Penguins' power play once again and kill off the minor. What an effort.
1:58: Sutter chips a backhander from the right of the cage on net. Elliott fight sit off despite traffic.
1:27: Fleury is pulled for an extra attacker.
1:16: A wrister by Maatta from the right point is blocked.
0:27: Niskanen chucks a wrister from the right point wide on the near side.
0:16: From the right point, Niskanen slides a pass to Neal low int he right circle. Neal fires a one-timer which Elliott kills and smothers. The Penguins call a timeout to get organized.
0:08: A slapper by Neal from left half wall is blocked.
0:00: End of game. As the horn sounds. Malkin and Pietrangelo exchange punches. A scrum develops. Officials break it up. Blues 1, Penguins 0.
-We said the opposite of this yesterday in our postgame notes for the win against the Lightning so pardon us if we sound like a broken record being played in reverse. If the power play won the game for the Penguins yesterday, it lost today's game against the Blues today. Despite ample opportunity, including a five-on-three for over a minute and a half at the start of the second period on fresh ice, the Penguins could not do much with their talented power play against an impressive penalty kill by the Blues.
-It's not very complicated what the Blues do on their penalty kill. They pack things in and really clog up the shooting and passing lanes in their zone. What makes their approach a little special is that they have some really skilled players who participate on their penalty kill. T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Alex Steen and Alex Pietrangelo are some of the most complete players in the NHL and they're out there blocking shots and passes.
-Where that skill really came through was on a late power play by Penguins when Oshie and Steen controlled the puck deep in the Penguins' zone and kept it away from the Penguins' players.
-Overall the Blues' defense just smothers everything. It's not terrible entertaining (it's boring actually) but it's fascinating. This team has a deep roster. It has four strong liens and three solid defensive pairings but it rarely allows its players to stray from the structure. This team's discipline is why it was able to eke out a one-goal win today.
-If nothing else, it clearly illustrated the value of an elite penalty kill. The Penguins shredded the Lighting's penalty kill - currently ranked 25th in the NHL at 79.8 percent - for three goals, including the game-winner, yesterday. Today, the Blues' penalty kill - ranked third in the NHL at 85.8 percent - stopped the Penguins dead cold.
-The cliche "measuring stick" gets used a lot with games like this. If that was what this game ended up being the Penguins measured up well, albeit one goal short. They played on of their best defensive games in a long time. They rarely strayed from their defensive structure and didn't really allow the Blues to generate much in terms of sustained offensive pressure. Granted, the Blues are hardly the 1984-85 Oilers in terms of how much they push (or don't push) their offense, but they still have a lot of talent and the Penguins limited them.
-This game was almost reminiscent to the two games in Boston in last season's Eastern Conference final series. The Penguins played a really strong overall game. They just couldn't figure out the opponent's defense.
-It seemed like the Penguins' second line had a little more success creating some quality chances which was a little odd because it seemed like the Penguins did an okay job of getting Sidney Crosby away from the high-end defensive pairing of Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo. Evgeni Malkin's line appeared to get a fair amount of shifts against them and still managed to create some things down low.
-We're usually slow to give too much credit to a goaltender on a Ken Hitchcock team. His brand of defense can make life easier for a goaltender. That said, Brian Elliott played a fine game today. He didn't stand on his head a great deal today but he saw plenty of shots and kicked out some pretty safe rebounds.
-Ditto Marc-Andre Fleury. The only puck which got behind him was a deflection on what was essentially still a power play. He has nothing to be ashamed of.
-The third and fourth lines were a mishmash much of the night with Engelland in the lineup playing on the blue line mostly.
-We realized Engelland was in the lineup to help counter a physical opponent but considering Dan Bylsma has not been a big fan of using seven defensemen in the past, it was a bit surprising to see Engelland used mostly as a defenseman today.
-The Olli Maatta-Matt Niskanen pairing was static most of the day. The other two pairings were a mish-mash with Engelland.
-This game certainly took on a physical tone. There was a TON of hitting. Each team is going to be using more than a few the next day or so.
-All due respect to the Blues and their remarkable discipline and structure, we really aren't eager to watch them in the playoffs. This is not entertaining to watch. They almost remind us of the Devils in the late 199s which had a ton of talent but rarely allowed their players to stray from their structure and be creative. Clearly, this approach had allowed the Blues to be one of the best, if not the best, teams in the NHL this season but.... Zzzzzzzzzzzz....
-From our standpoint, this was the most entertaining part of the day:
Darren Pang uses a milk carton to interview David Backes: pic.twitter.com/28gt1xSoKQ— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) March 23, 2014
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 33-27.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 63-54.
-Malkin led the game with seven shots.
-Kevin Shattenkirk led the Blues with four shots.
-Pietrangelo led the game with 25:52 of ice time.
-Malkin let the Penguins with 24:32.
-Faceoffs were even, 27-27 (50 percent).
-Sobotka was 11 for 14 (79 percent).
-Crosby was 11 for 23 (48 percent).
-Barrett Jackman led the game with four blocked shots.
-Chris Kunitz led the Penguins with three blocked shots.
-The last time the Blues shutout the Penguins was a 1-0 win in St. Louis, Oct. 10, 2011. Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves for St. Louis.