-When doing our normal game preview post this afternoon, we couldn't help but notice how rotten the Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division is. The Jets are in last place of the seven-team Central Division with 16 points. In the eight-team Atlantic Division, that would earn you third place.
-Normally, when teams roll into Consol Energy Center, they bust out the normal cliche about the Penguins being a "measuring-stick" opponent. That's how we view this game for the Penguins in terms of evaluating the Blues. The Penguins haven't been tested much by their division. The Blues will do more than test you.
This is a really good and more importantly, really deep team. The Penguins, even with the potential return of a few bodies up front, will have a heck of a time with a deep Blues roster.
-Even with former Penguins Brenden Morrow and Jordan Leopold out of the lineup tonight, in addition to Magnus Paajarvi, the Blues can can role a repsectable four lines and three defensive pairings.
-We're eager to see the David Backes-Sidney Crosby match up tonight. Backes is a nasty, tenacious, big and physical defensive center who makes life miserable for the opposing top center and any defensemen in their own zone.
-With Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi each sidelined tonight, Backes could feast on the Penguins' blue line.
-Backes, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk each have a reasonable chances o making the United States' Olympic roster. We would anticipate their best effort in front of Team USA coaching staff members Dan Bylsma and Tony Granato.
-We're really eager to see Alex Pietrangelo. He is as good of an all-around defenseman in the NHL as any blue liner. He'll see plenty of ice time against Crosby. He has that quick, bursting skating ability which allows him to keep up with Crosby.
-Alex Steen has been on fire to start the season with a league-leading 14 goals. During training camp, former Blues forward Matt D'Agostini said Steen was one of the most talented players he's ever been around. Steen is coming through on that statement.
-The Blues will be wearing their third jerseys tonight. Personally, we think they should be their everyday jerseys:
(Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
-It seems D'Agostini will return to the lineup tonight in a third-line role on Brandon Sutter's line. Aside from taking two penalties against the Hurricanes last week, we're not sure what he did to earn a healthy scratch the last few games. With James Neal and Beau Bennett each sidelined, he seemed to generate a little chemistry with Evgeni Malkin two weeks ago. He has a nice shot and he's not afraid to use it. He just needs to find some consistency.
-As we said earlier, the Penguins' blue line will be tested by St. Louis' deep forechecking group of forwards, especially with Martin and Scuderi absent. Olli Maatta and Robert Bortuzzo will need a big rebound after a rough outing against the Rangers Wednesday.
-We're not sure what to make out of the Brooks Orpik-Deryk Engelland pairing. We understand Martin's undisclosed ailment is kind forcing the Penguins to use that pairing but it seems like a suspect duo.
-Neal will return. As we outlined yesterday, Evgeni Malkin's numbers get a boost when Neal is available.
-That said, it appears Bennett will start the game on Malkin's right wing while Neal will begin in a fourth-line role.
-The Penguins' starters are Craig Adams, Tanner Glass, the great Joe Vitale, Deryk Engelland, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Dustin Jeffrey, Justin Megna and Paul Martin.
-The Blues' starters are Maxim Lapierre, Ryan Reaves, Penguins athletic trainer Chris Stewart, Barrett Jackman, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jaroslav Halak.
-Their scratches are Adam Cracknell and Jordan Leopold.
19:57: Right off the opening faceoff, Ryan Reaves, one of the toughest players in the NHL, drops the gloves with Engelland, who is no slouch himself. They size each other up and lockup near the St. Louis blue line. They battle for position and land a few impressive rights while roaming around the St. Louis zone. They eventually tire each other out and pat each other on the hip in acknowledgement. Those two fought one another two years ago in Pittsburgh:
18:01: So much for Neal skating with the fourth line. His first shift is with Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.
17:13: Off a little feed from D'Agostini Sutter lifts a wrister from the left circle. Halak eats it up. Bennett is on the left wing of the third line.
16:11: From the left wing, Crosby deals a cross-ice feed to Letang above the left circle. Letang attempts a quick slapper but his stick breaks.
14:33: Vladimir Sobotka gains the offensive zone on the left wing and snaps off a wrister from above the left circle. Orpik partially deflects it and Fleury kicks it out. Sobotka collects the rebound on the left wing wall and snaps off a sneaky pass to Shattenkirk moving up the slot. Shattenkirk taps a bad shot at the cage. The puck hops up and Fleury gets a piece of it with his left shoulder.
13:55: Bennett gains the offensive zone on the left wing and flings a wrister on net from the point. Halak boots it out. D'Agostini follows up on the rebound and pokes it on net from the right circle with a backhander. Halak scoops it up.
12:20: T.J. Oshie, one of the better skaters in the NHL, tries to sneak up the right wing of the offensive zone but is taken out on a hip check by Letang. Oshie takes an awkward spill into the boards and actually did a bit of split up against the boards. Yikes.
11:14: Neal settle a bouncing puck in the left circle and snaps it on net. Halak traps it against his chest.
10:17: Racing for a puck along the St. Louis end boards, Pascal Dupuis beats Backes in a puck battle and chips it to the left circle. Crosby races to it, shields the puck with his body from Jay Bouwmeester and snaps off a sneaky backhanded pass to the slot. Kunitz gets position in Oshie and Pietrangelo and snaps off a one-touch wrister which Halak kicks out. What a great display of chemistry by the Penguins' top line.
9:05: Using Maatta as a screen, Sobotka snaps off a wrister from the left circle over the cage.
8:36: Patrik Berglund feathers a pass from the right circle to Steawrt to the left of the cage. Stewart is wide open but puts the shot wide to the near side.
7:41: Oshie collects a loose puck in the left circle and snaps off a wrister to the far side. Fleury kicks out his left skate and denies the shot.
6:56: Malkin lines up for a faceoff in St. Louis' left circle with Neal position behind him for their patented "quick draw" play. Maxim Lapierre wins the faceoff easily and prevents the play.
6:18: Off some strong work by Vladimir Tarasenko down low on the end boards, Jaden Schwartz snaps off a wrister from a bad angle in the left circle. Fleury kicks it out. The rebound deflects to the left wall. Jackman sneaks up from the point and whips it on net. Fleury steers it away.
5:20: A wrister by Ian Cole from center point hits a cluster of bodies in front and is cleared away by Bortuzzo.
4:16: As Engelland retreives a dump-in by the Blues along his own end boards, Orpik gets away with a bit of interference against a forechecking Oshie.
4:11: Backes knocks over Dupuis with a meaty check in the neutral zone.
3:45: Oshe ontrols apuck at the left poit and attempts a poor backhanded pass with Crosby pressuring. Crosby blocks the pass and deflects it to the neutral zone creating his own breakaway chances. Racing up the left wing wall, he gains the zone and veers towards the net. He shoots a low forehand shot which Halak kicks out easily. Oshie owes Halak a beer.
3:30: Off transition, Steen pumps a rising slapper which Fleury traps against his chest.
2:05: Backes snaps off a low, heavy wrister from the right half wall. Fleury kicks it out despite being screened by Crosby.
0:24: Malkin races up the left wing, cuts above the left circle and deals a backhanded pass to the right circle. wing. Neal is position in the left circle and rips a quick one-timer which Halak turns away
0:13: Tarasenko tries to control a puck on the left wing wall of his own zone and is blasted from behind into the boards by Malkin, a player he described as his idol. Malkin turned and sort of waved his hand to Tarasenko almost as if to apologize. The Blues give Malkin grief afterwards. Malkin is given a boarding minor. It wasn't a smart penalty by Malkin. Crosby, Adams, Letang and Orpik take the ice.
0:00: End of period. Blues 0, Penguins 0.
-That was a pretty well-played, even period by both teams. There was plenty of skating, a few hits and several offensive chances in both ends of the ice.
-Both goaltenders were outstanding. It seemed like Fleury was little busier than Halak. The Blues had a few more stronger chances.
-So far so good for Neal who had a few decent shots and even knocked down Jackman, the Blues' version of Orpik, while battling for a rebound. Neal had 5:03 of ice time on six shifts and two shots.
-Beau Bennett had a few nice shifts as well. He had 4:48 of ice time on six shifts and one shot.
-Shots on net are tied, 9-9.
-The Blues have an 18-13 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal, Shattenkirk and Backes each lead the game with two shots.
-Letang leads the game with 8:09 of ice time.
-Shattenkirk leads the Blues with 7:54.
-The Penguins have a 9-8 edge in faceoffs (53 percent).
-Sobotka is 3 for 3 (100 percent).
-Crosby is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
20:00: The Blues will have 1:47 of power-play time on fresh ice. Adams, Dupuis, Letang and Orpik take the ice.
18:28: Derek Roy releases a partial wrister from the left circle. It hits off the stick of Letang and deflects on net. FLeury stops it and Letang clears the reound.
18:13: Malkin's minor expires with little threat from the Blues.
17:08: The Blues take the first lead and get it from an unlikely source. Niskanen controls apuck from behind his own net and tries to deke around Steen. Steen pressures him and force a turnover. Niskanen recovers the puck and forces a pass up the right wing which is intercepted by LapIerre. Lapierre controls the puck on the right half wall, draws in a few Penguins and snaps off a shot/pass to the slot. Reaves is cutting through the slot and re-directs the puck with his forehand by glove hand of Fleury. Great play by Steen. Ugly play by Niskanen. Lapierre and Steen get assists. The organ plays "When the Saints Go Marching In." (The best goal song in the NHL in our opinion.) Blues 1-0.
16:42: Off a feed by Jokinen in the left circle, Bennett rips a heavy one-timer which clangs off the near post.
14:31: Off a faceoff win in the Penguins right circle, Backes whips a wrister from a bad angle on the right wing. Fleury fights it off.
14:09: Off a little feed by Malkin, Neal rips a rising wrister from above the left circle well wide of the cage.
13:26: The Penguins get their first power play of the game as Roman Polak interferes with Sutter. Letang, Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz and Neal take the ice.
13:00: After Neal and Kunitz win a puck battle along the St. Louis end boards, Kunitz deals a pass to Letang deep in the slot. Letang rips a wrister which is kicked out.
12:35: Letang take a pass at the left point and golf a slapper which Halak steers away.
11:54: The second line hooks up on the power play. Taking a pass from Crosby down low along the goal line, Neal zips a cross-ice pass through the crease to Malkin in the right circle. Malkin holds then deals a pass to Jokinen in the slot. Jokinen taps it by the left skate of Halak to tie the game. That was some slick passing in a tight space. Jokinen made a nice play to keep the puck in the blue line to set up the entire chance. Malkin and Neal get assists. Blues 1, Penguins 1.
11:32: The Blues get a chance to get it back. Stewart races up the right wing, gets a step on net and attacks the net. He snaps off a low wrister which Fleury fights off. As Fleury makes the save, Engelland runshim over in the crease. Engelland is called for high sticking. It looked like the shaft of his stick struck Stewart in the head. Adams, Dupuis, Orpik and Letang take the ice.
10:52: Oshie flings a simple wrister from the left half wall. Fleury makes the easy save against his chest.
9:59: Bouwmeester sneaks up the right wing and lifts a shot on net. Fleury fights it off despite some traffic.
9:15: The Blues maintain possession on the offensive zone for a 16 seconds after the Engelland minor expires. Bortuzzo is finally able to recover it and skates it out of danger with Stewart chasing from the red line he is able to backhand it down to the St. Louis zone to allow his team a much need change. What a composed, confident play by Bortuzzo.
7:15: Steen lifts a wrister from the top of the left circle. Fleury shrugs it away.
6:55: Stealing a puck in the left wing corner, Lapierre deals a pass to Reaves moving in off the right wing. From the right circle, Reaves pokes the pass wide of the cage.
6:25: Collecting a loose puck on the left half wall, Polak whacks a slapper on net. Fleury gloves it.
5:48: Dupuis has a wrister from the left circle blocked by Bouwmeester.
5:18: Off a strong cycle by Stewart, Roy lifts a bouncing puck on net from the left circle. Halak fights it off.
5:05: Before an neutral zone faceoff, Glass and Stewart mix it up. Officials aren't having anything of it and hand out 10-minute misconduct to each player.
4:32: Jackman golfs a slapper from the right point. Fleury fights it off.
3:45: Berglund collects a puck on the left half wall and chops a rising slapper. Fleury traps it against his shoulder.
2:54: Sutter takes a faceoff with Kunitz and Dupuis on his wings.
2:23: Backes tries to chip and chase ap uck up the right wing by Orpik. Orpik sort of just shoves him and keeps him from pursuing the puck in the right circle. No call.
2:14: The Penguins get another power play as Shattenkirk tripped up Kunitz along the left wing wall. That's two minutes. Kunitz, Malkin, Neal Letang and Crosby take the ice.
1:23: Crosby zips a cross-ice pass from the right wing corner to Kunitz in the left circle. Kunitz rips a wrister high of the cage.
0:33: Niskanen pops a one-timer from the left point. Halak fights it off with his blocker.
0:23: Niskanen whacks another one-timer from the left point which he fans on a bit. The puck hits off Crosby's backhand and flutters off the left post.
0:14: The Shattenkirk minor expires with little threat from the Penguins.
0:00: End of period. Blues 1, Penguins 1.
-Even though the scoring opened up there, things bogged down a bit in terms of offensive chances. Both teams made it tough on one another to get pucks on net.
-Things did get a little chippy with battles before and after the whistle.
-Officials seem to be allowing a lot of little hooks or interference penalties tonight.
-The Penguins' puck management has been really strong tonight. Aside from the Niskanen turnover which led to Reaves' goal, they've been responsible with the puck.
-Crosby's line with Dupuis and Kunitz has been bottled up much of the night.
-It would be a stretch to say either goaltender has been tested.
-We like how Root Sports touched briefly on the Penguins-Blues rivalry from the late 1960s and early 1970s. That was a real rivalry as the teams were in the same division in their early days and all of their games seemed to get nasty. Penguins forward Glen Sather used to antagonized St. Louis's Plager brothers - Barclay, Bob and Billy - regularly. That wasn't a manufactured NBC rivalry.
-The Blues have a 20-15 lead in shots on net.
-The Blues have a 37-26 lead in attempted shots.
-Jokinen, Shattenkirk and Backes each lead the game with three shots.
-Letang leads the game with 19:05 of ice time.
-Pietrangelo leads the Blues with 16:31 of ice time.
-The Blues control faceoffs, 23-15 (62 percent).
-Sobotka is 6 for 7 (86 percent).
-Crosby is 6 for 12 (50 percent).
-Bouwmeester leads the game with three shots.
-Adams leads the Penguins with two shots.
18:38: Malkin sneaks up the left wing and flings a backhander from the right wing wide of the cage.
17:45: The great Joe Vitale takes a shift with Sutter and Bennett.
16:14: Steen wins a battle down low against Engelland near the Penguins' end boards and sneaks a backhanded pass to Oshiein the slot. Oshie punches a quick shot on net which Fleury fights off.
14:24: Battling for a puck on the left wing wall of the Penguins' zone, Engelland sort of drives Porter from behind into the boards. No call.
13:45: A quick one-timer by Jackman from the right point is blocked by the great Joe Vitale.
13:35: Roy booms a one-timer from the right half wall. Fleury gloves it easily.
12:32: Backes controls the puck on the right point of the Penguins' zone has it stolen on a nice effort by Kunitz.
12:05: Malkin tries to roard down the St. Louis slot with the puck but a nice bachcheck and steal by Jaden Schwartz prevents that.
10:54: Letang controls the puck in his own left wing corner and tries to fling a backhanded pass to Niskanen behind the net. The puck takes a bad hop off the boards and Oshie is all over tie. Oshie fends off Letang to maintain possession and sneks a pass to Backes in the right circle. Backes swipes a one-timer which Fleury appears to get a piece of.
10:08: Kunitz rips a wrister from the left circle which Polak blocks wide.
9:09: Niskanen races for a puck in the left wing corner of the Penguins' zone but loses a battle to Schwartz. Schwartz controls the puck and deals a pass to Jackman at the left point. Jackman snaps off a cross-ice pass to Shattenkirk who floats a wrister through traffic. It squeaks through Fleury's gear and rolls into the net. We're not sure if it was technically a turnover but Niskanen lost that puck to Schwartz and allowed the Blues to set up that chance. As for the shot, it appears to hit something before hit Fleury and squirted through to the net. Jackman and Schwartz get assists. Blues 2-1.
8:18: The Blues can ice this game. Crosby tries to pressure Steen in the neutral zone in front of the benches and hooks him up.
8:10: A shot in tight by Shattenkirk is eaten up by Fleury.
8:05: Sutter wins a faceoff in his own right circle. Orpik flings it down ice. Sobotka pins hm to the ice as play continues down ice. No call.
6:19: A one-timer by Oshie from the left circle hits something and deflects out of play.
5:14: Fleury comes up big and keeps his team in it. On a two-on-one against Maatta, Pietrangelo slides a pass to Steen int he left circle. Maatta doesn't defend it particularly well and Steen, the leading goal-scorer in the NHL, rips a rising wrister which Fleury snags. That gives his team a chance to tie this.
4:24: Letang has a slapper blocked by Shattenkirk.
1:25: After an icing call, the Penguins call a timeout to get a breather.
0:59: The Penguins pull Fleury for an extra attacker.
0:48: Letang chops a one-timer from the left poitn which is blocked by Oshie.
0:00: End of game. Blues 2, Penguins 1.
-That had all the excitement of a mid-2000s Flyers-Senators game. In other words, this was an ugly, brutal game to watch. This was Ken Hitchcock hockey. He had his team smother the Penguins' offensive weapons and limit the quality of shots the Penguins could put on net. This is how the Blues play. It's not pretty. It's definitely not entertaining. But it's undeniably successful.
-The Penguins' lack of depth on defense really hurt them tonight. With Rob Scuderi and Paul Martin unavailable, the Penguins' blue line really struggled in the third period down low. The Blues' forecheck forced a few turnovers. The game-winning goal was set up by a forecheck and a decided victory by Jaden Schwartz against Matt Niskanen. The Penguins just couldn't keep up with St. Louis tenacious forecheck as the game wore on.
-Ultimately, the Blues just outlasted the Penguins physically. That's what the game came down to.
The Blues bottled up Sidney Crosby's line pretty well. Crosby saw a lot of shifts against Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo. Additionally, David Backes took plenty of shifts against Crosby. Crosby, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz didn't have much open ice tonight.
-Crosby did get a prime offensive chance in the first period with his breakaway off the left wing. He didn't have a great angle to shoot from with that chance and Halak is a pretty good goaltender but a goal there gives this game a different course.
-Evgeni Malkin's line saw a fair amount of the Kevin Shattenkirk-Barrett Jackman pairing. The return of James Neal seemed to energize Malkin a bit and they created a few scoring chances five-on-five early one, but they too seemed to have their scoring chances dry up as the game wore on.
-Neal had some of the best scoring chances for the Penguins. He looked pretty fair but a bit rusty in his first game in over a month. He had 17:02 of ice time on 19 chances, two shots on net, three attempted shots and one assist.
-Beau Bennett had a few strong shifts early but kind of faded as the game wore on. He had 11:03 of ice time on 13 shifts and one shot on net and two attempted shot. One of his shot attempts in the second period rang off the left post.
-Alex Steen seemed to rattle the Penguins a bit as several members of the Penguins seemed to focus on him with some physical play. It was a rare display of poor team-wide discipline.
-Special teams weren't an issue for the Penguins. They went 1 for 2 with the power play and 3 for 3 on the penalty kill.
-We don't mean to totally trash the Penguins blue line. It did a fair job of limiting the quality of St. Louis' offensive chances.
-Niskanen had a rough game. He was involved in puck possession plays which led to each St. Louis goal.
-Anytime Niskanen had a game like that, it become fashionable to uphold that game as undeniable proof that he needs jettisoned from the roster. The only problem with that premise is that it ignores his previous 16 games of the season in which he has been on of the team's 10 best players.
-Olli Maata and Robert Bortuzzo leveled off after a rough game Wednesday. They were responsible most of the night.
The Penguins' bottom two lines were a bit of mess as 10-minute misconduct to Glass forced some mixing a matching of lines.
-In contrast, elements of St. Louis' fourth line generated the first goal of the game.
-It would be a stretch to say Matt D'Agostini stood out. He had 9:47 of ice time on 12 shifts and one shot.
-Engelland and Orpik were okay. They allowed a few quality chances but certainly snuffed out a few chances by the Blues.
-If T.J. Oshie played for a more offensive-minded coach and in a more high-profile market, he'd be a superstar. For the time being, he'll have to settle for being an entertaining whirlwind of energy who creates things with his speed and is a terror in both ends of the ice.
-Fleury was strong. One could fairly expect him to make a better save on the game-wnning goal but he was screened and it appeared to be deflected in some regard after Shattenkirk released the initial shot.
-There appears to be some question on who should get credit for the goal:
Here's the latest on GW goal: Tarasenko said he doesn't know if he touched it. No one else knows either. Expected to stick for Shattenkirk.— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) November 10, 2013
-Jaroslav Halak beat the Penguins once again but it would be a stretch to say he was tested a great deal.
-The officials let a lot go on both sides. In no way shape or form are we suggesting it was the reason the Penguins lost (the Blues clearly earned this win) but a game with a lot more interference plays into the strength of the Blues' style.
-The Blues led in shots on net, 32-20.
-The Penguins led in shot attempts, 55-37.
-Shattenkirk and Derek Roy each lead the game with five shots.
-Jussi Jokinen led the Penguins with four shots.
-Kris Letang led the game with 29:04 of ice time.
-Pietrangelo led the Blues with 26:31 of ice time.
-The Penguins lack of depth on defense tonight was really evident if you look at the ice time totals for each team's defensemen. The Blues didn't lean on their top defensemen quite as much as the Penguins:
|Kris Letang (29:04)||Alex Pietrangelo (26:31)|
|Brooks Orpik (23:00)||Jay Bouwmeester (25:08)|
|Matt Niskanen (22:59)||Kevin Shattenkirk (20:08)|
|Deryk Engelland (15:21)||Barrett Jackman (18:56)|
|Olli Maatta (14:55)||Roman Polak (15:43)|
|Robert Bortuzzo (12:17)||Ian Cole (13:43)|
-The Blues had a 34-29 lead in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Vladimir Sobotka was 11 for 14 (79 percent).
-Crosby was 13 for 22 (59 percent).
-Bouwmeester led the game with three blocked shots.
-Niskanen and Craig Adams each led the Penguins with two blocked shots.