-Quite a bit has been made about the Penguins perceived lack of toughness on defense following Monday's trades. Make no mistake, they are smaller and less cantankerous on defense minus Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo, their largest and meanest defensemen on the NHL roster.
-How necessary is size and toughness to succeed in the NHL in 2015? Let's take a look at the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. Here are the defensive rosters for the Kings and Rangers from last season's playoffs:
(Players are listed by jersey number, name, position, height and weight.)
-For further contrast, take a look the defensive rosters of the 2013 Stanley Cup finalists:
-Two teams went with cruiser-class defenses while the others went destroyer-class defenses. Four successful postseason runs. Clearly, there isn't one iron-clad approach to having success. The Penguins have simply chosen to go with the cruiser-class approach.
-Still, it would be nice to see the Penguins have at least one defender on the roster who might be better suited to deal with the likes of Joel Ward or Cal Clutterbuck in the high traffic areas.
-If you're mad about the team dealing away Despres, blame Derrick Pouliot. His play over the past month provided enough confidence in management to rely on him and deal away Despres. Short of injuries, expect Pouliot to be in the lineup from here on out.
-Speaking of defense, a lack of it appears to be the Avalanche's biggest issue this season. The Avalanche had an outstanding season in 2013-14 due in part to journeyman like Jan Hejda and Nate Guenin having career years. This seasons, those players came back to earn while No. 1 defenseman Erik Johnson has been sidelined long-term due to a knee injury. The Avalanche tried to bring in Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen as free agents this offseason and were unsuccessful.
-Alex Tanguay is playing in his 1,000th career game. He's the last active player from the Avalanche's last Stanley Cup winner in 2001. When the Penguins are mentioned as underacheivers for only having won one Stanley Cup title with this core, we look at that Avalanche core as having underachieved with only two Stanley Cup titles. With guys like Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy, Rob Blake and younger versions of Tanguay as well as Chris Drury, we wonder how they were capped at two.
-The Penguins' lines and pairing in warmups are:
David Perron - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Blake Comeau
Daniel Winnik - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie
Nick Spaling - Maxim Lapierre - Beau Bennett
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Derrick Pouliot - Ben Lovejoy
Rob Scuderi - Ian Cole
-Lovejoy played a bunch with Cam Fowler in Anaheim. Pouliot is similiar to Fowler so this pairing makes sense.
-EN Reader Ed Munoz is on sight and sends in a few pictures. The ice:
-And Mario Lemieux has a fan on hand:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, David Perron, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Craig Adams and Christian Ehrhoff.
-The Avalanche's starters are Dennis Everberg, John Mitchell, Alex Tanguay, Nick Holden, Brad Stuart and Semyon Varlamov.
-Their scratches are Daniel Briere.
18:56: Hejda rips a wrister from the left point. Fleury eats it up.
18:33: Off some slick passing, Nathan McKinnon rips a wrister from the right circle. Fleury eats it up.
18:23: Bennett rips a wrister from the right wing on net. Varlamov steers it away.
14:03: After a few stagnant minutes, Matt Duchene has a wrister blocked by Letang.
13:25: MacKinnon pushes the puck p the left wing and deals a cross-ice pass to Tyson Barrie in the right circle. Barrie loads up and rips a wrister which Fleury gloves.
13:04: John Mitchell backhands a little pass to the slot. Dennis Everberg is there but taps the shot wide.
12:50: Everberg takes a feed in the slot and hurries a wrister wide of the the cage.
9:59: Lovejoy corrals a puck at the right point and rips a wrister on net. Varlamov snags it despite traffic. That is only the second shot on net for the Penguins.
9:40: A turning wrister by Hornqvist from the left circle is blocked by Nick Holden.
9:09: Off a defensive zone steal, Kunitz motors up the left wing and rips a wrister from the top of the left circle. Varlamov eats it up.
8:17: Martin chops a shot from the left point wide of the cage.
7:05: On a three-on-two, Crosby deals a pass from the right circle to Perron in the left circle. Perron chops a one-timer which Barrie blocks wide.
6:20: Comeau chucks a shot from the right half wall wide of the cage.
6:12: Comeau fires a turning wrister from the left circle which Varlamov fights off despite a screen by Kunitz.
6:09: Comeau is called for interference. As Brad Stuart pushed the puck up ice, Comeau gives MacKinnon a cross check away from the puck. MacKinnon goes down in a heap. Spaling, Sutter, Letang and Scuderi take the ice.
4:59: After Lapierre and Martin combine to force a defensive zone turnover, Winnik chips a puck past a pinching Redmond. That creates a two-on-one with Lapierre against Holden. Winnik takes the shot. Varlamov deflects his wrister out of play.
4:38: Duchene weaves his way into the offensive zone and rip a wrister from the slot wide of the cage.
4:04: Off a one-touch crossing pass from MacKinnon, Barrie leans down and rips a one-timer from the left circle. Fleury gets enough of it to deny him.
3:32: Nate Guenin booms a slapper from the right point. Martin gets a piece of it.
2:10: Tanguay grips and rips a wrister from the left wing on net. Fleury kicks it out.
1:52: Joey Hishon races into the offensive zone and rips a wrister from above the right circle which Fleury bats away.
0:37: Comeau takes his second penalty of the period. Redmond forces him into a turnover at the Avalanche's right point and as Redmond tries to puck up ice, Comeau trips him up. That's a tripping minor. Sutter, Spaling, Scuderi and Letang take the ice.
0:13: O'Reilly lifts a wrister form the right circle. Fleury eats it up despite having Landeskog right in front of him.
0:08: Off the ensuring faceoff, Barrie fires a deflects wrister from center point which Fleury fights off. Fleury allows a rebound to his left and O'Reilly rips a wrister which Fleury bats away with his glove. Tough save.
0:00: End of period. Avalanche 0, Penguins 0.
-That was not the most entertaining period of hockey. There were a few chances in tight for each team but for the most part ...zzzzzzz.
-Comeau has had better periods in his career. He needs to be careful with his stick.
-Lovejoy looked pretty comfortable with Pouliot. As he outlined with Root Sports' Dan Potash, Pouliot is similiar to Fowler in Anaheim.
-We can't say we noticed Cole and Scuderi a bunch. That's probably a good thing.
-The Avalanche leads in shots, 9-5
-The Avalanche leads in attempted shots, 15-11.
-Kris Letang leads the game with 8:45 of ice time.
-Guenin leads the Avlanche with 7:05 of ice time.
-Fire Ray Shero.
-The Avalanche leads in faceoffs, 12-10 (55 percent).
-O'Reilly is 7 for 9 (78 percent).
-Sutter is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
20:00: The Avlanche will have 1:25 of power-play time to work with to start the period. Spaling, Sutter, Letang and Scuderi take the ice.
19:47: The Avalanche doesn't waste time. Taking a cross-ice pass, Iginla pushes the puck up the right wing, gains the offensive zone and whacks a slapper by Fleury's blocker on the far side. Oof. Scuderi gave Iginla too much of a gap to work with. Landeskog and Barrie each get assists. Fire Ray Shero. Avalanche 1-0.
16:31: Daniel Winnik chucks a wrister from the left wing which Varlamov steers away.
16:23: Marc-Andre Cliche rips a wrister from the left wing which Cole blocks out of play. Cliche and Cole exchange pleasantries in the left wing corner. A crowd gathers and that results in Downie and Cody McLeod getting involved. Nothing comes of it.
16:14: After Stuart fumbles a puck at the Penguins left point, Perron pushes a puck up ice with Hornqvist on a two-on-one against Stuart. Perron deals a pass to Hornqvist to the right of the cage and Hornqvist taps it on net. Varlamov reads the play perfectly and kicks it out.
15:09: Lovejoy chucks a wrister from the right point. Varlamov eats it up.
15:01: Kunitz settles a puck in the slot and chops a shot wide of the cage.
14:43: Malkin races up the left wing, veers to the slot and criss-crosses with Kunitz. Kunitz takes the puck and rips a wrister which Varlamov eats up.
14:38: A one-timer by Sutter from the high slot is off the mark.
14:25: A slapper by Scuderi from the left point is punched away by Varlamov.
14:03: Cole booms a one-timer from the right point off the mark.
13:53: The Penguins get a power play as Hejda is called for holding Downie. Malkin, Crosby, Hornqvist, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
13:40: Everberg steals a puck off Letang at left point and pushes it up ice short-handed against Malkin. Everberg uses Malkin and rips a wrister which Fleury snags.
12:37: Malkin loes the puck at the Avalanche's right point. O'Reilly pushes it up the ice on another short-handed chance. Hornqvist and Letang hound him enough to deny a shot.
12:14: Hornqvist tries to jam in a forehand shot form the left of the cage but can't get a clean shot off.
11:45: As the Hejda minor expires, Comeau whacks a slapper from the left wing which Guenin blocks.
11:29: Barrie conks a one-timer from the center point over the cage.
10:25: Bennett whips a wrister from a bad angle on the left wing. Varlamov smothers it.
8:45: Comeau rips a wrister from the right wing wide to the far side.
8:02: A one-timer by Hornqvist from the right circle is blocked out of play by HOlden.
7:40: Sutter dekes off the left wing and rips a wrister wide to the far side.
6:18: A re-direction by Brad Stuart in the right circle is off the mark.
5:46: A wrister by O'Reilly from the left circle is blocked wide.
5:41: Redman lifts a wrister from the left circle which clanks off the cross bar.
5:31: The Avalanche doubles up. Landeskog deals a pass from the slot to Hejda gliding up the left wing. Hejda rips a shot/pass to the slot. MacKinnon drives to the net from the right wing, gets position on Letang and re-directs it into the cage behind Fleury. Hejda and Landeskog get assists. Avalanche 2-0.
5:21: Pouliot chops a slapper from the center point wide of the cage.
4:54: Scuderi whacks a one-timer from the right point. It appears to hit COmeau and deflects out of play. Comeau looks like he's limping a bit after that shot.
4:29: Working off a cycle, Sutter lifts a wrister from the left circle. Varlamov eats it up despite having Downie screen him.
3:34: Landeskog booms a slapper from the left wing. Fleury fights it off.
2:54: Using Comea and Stuart as a screen, Kunitz lifts a wrister from the left circle which Varlamov fights off.
2:43: Malkin circles the offensive zone and deals a pass to Letang on the left wing. Letang whacks a one-timer which Varlamov fights off. Comeau sweeps the rebound back on net with a backhander. Varlamov eats it up.
2:11: Cole chops a one-timer from the right point wide of the cage.
1:08: Off an offensive zone faceoff wing by Malkin, Martin whacks a one-timer from center point which is blocked by O'Reilly.
0:33: Tanguay hustles up the left twing and chops a slapper from the left dot. Letang closes in, leans in with his stick and deflects the puck out of play.
0:12: In deep on the right wing, Redmond tries to deal a pass but is dropped on an impressive backcheck by Bennett.
0:03: Pouliot air mails a slapper from the neutral zone. Varlamov eats it up.
0:00: End of period. Avalanche 2, Penguins 0.
-Things were still pretty flat for both teams that period but the Avalanche clearly did a better job of capitalizing on their chances than the Penguins did.
-The Penguins have gotten quite a few chances from the second line and even a handful from the third line. The first line has been pretty well bottled up so far.
-Cole was a little more notable that period. He threw his body around a little bit and even fired a few shot attempts.
-We're not sure he's been challenged that much but Varlamov has been pretty sharp.
-The Avalanche has an 18-16 lead in shots on net.
-The Avalanche leads in attempted shots, 38-32.
-Barrie leads the game with four shots.
-Kunitz and Hornqvist each lead the Penguins with three shots.
-Letang leads the game with 16:35 of ice time.
-Barrie leads the Avalanche with 14:34 of ice time.
-Faceoffs are even, 22-22 (50 percent).
-O'Reilly is 11 for 15 (73 percent).
-Sutter is 10 for 14 (71 percent).
-Letang leads the game with four blocked shots.
-Holden and Guenin each lead the Avalanche with three blocked shots.
19:50: Off a feed by Kunitz, Comeau cranks a one-timer from the right circle which is fought off by Varlamov.
19:43: A wrister by Malkin from the right circle is blocked by Landeskog.
18:05: Cole has a pretty open shot from the right point but tries a slap/pass to Sutter which is broken up.
16:51: Lovejoy chases down a puck on the right wing and flings it at the cage but is off the mark.
15:40: After a furious battle for a puck in the right wing corner, Pouliot is called for interference against Duchene. He appeared to drop him with a knee-on-knee hit.
15:27: Iginla snaps off a wrister from the right point which gets blocked wide.
15:13: Iginla chops a one-timer from the left half wall. It's off the mark, hits the boards and clears the offensive zone on its own.
14:02: Barrie cranks a one-timer from above the left circle. It misses the net and clears the zone as well.
13:40: The Pouliot minor expires with minimal threat from the Avalanche.
13:24: Off a feed from Downie, Winnik fires a one-timer from the left half wall. MacKinnon blocks it out of play.
12:54: Mitchell chops a bouncing puck from the left circle wide of the cage. His shot always clears the offensive zone.
12:21: Comeau falls in the left circle and whips a wrister wide.
11:45: Duchene lifts a backhander from the right of the cage. Fleury eats it up.
11:03: Perron goes wide on the right wing and rips a wrister which Guenin blocks out of play.
10:54: Crosby chops at a puck in the left circle which gets blocked wid by Holden.
10:39: Hornqvist has a chance in the right circle and lifts it over the cage.
10:15: Evgeni Malkin to the rescue. Stealing a puck off Mitchel in the neutral zone, Malkin races up the right wing, gains the offensive zone, drives across the slot and rips a wrister from the left circle. Guenin blocks the initial shot. Malkin is able to recover the rebound and whips it by Varlamov's blocker on the near side. What a determined effort by Malkin. The goal is unassisted. Avalanche 2-1.
9:11: Off a feed from Perron, Letang snaps off a wrister from the high slot. It gets blocked in front.
9:03: Hornqvist snaps off a wrister from the high slot. Varlamov eats it up.
8:22: Malkin dances and ekes his way through the neutral zone, into the offensive zone, weaves by Holden and lifts a wrister on net which Varlamov fights off.
8:15: Comeau booms a slapper from above the left circle. Varlamov kicks it out.
7:15: Lovejoy whacks a one-timer from the right well wide on the near side.
6:11: Hornqvist is dumped hard in the Avalanche's right corner by Stuart. Oof.
5:58: Off a feed by Crosby, Letang whacks a one-timer from the center point which is blocked. Letang recovers the rebound and whacks it wide of the cage. The Penguins are pushing.
5:03: Gabriel Landeskog answers the Penguins' late-game surge with a goal which all but wins the game. After Malkin turns the puck over with a bad pass in the offensive zone to O'Reilly. Landeskog takes a feed from O'Reilly pushes it up the right wing, dekes Pouliot out of his undergarments on the half wall and rips a wrister from the slot under Fleury's blocker. Wow. O'Reilly gets the only assists. Avalanche 3-1.
3:45: The Avalanche appears to score again but officials wave it off quickly. Everberg surges up the right wing, makes a nifty move by Martin and tries to jam in a forehand shot but is denied by Fleury's right leg. As the rebound kicks out, Everberg slides into Fleury. Mitchell lifts the rebound from the slot by Fleury's right skate. Officials immediately wave no goal. The Penguins don't seem to protest too much. After a brief review, the officials announce Everberg interfered with Fleury. The Penguins catch a break.
2:29: Sutter rips a wrister from the right circle. Varlamov denies it.
2:27: With an offensive zone faceoff, the Penguins pull Fleury for an extra attacker.
1:44: Tanguay flips a puck from his own left wing corner down ice. It skids just wide of the Penguins' net and ends up being an icing call. The Penguins call timeout to get organized.
1:35: Letang drives a one-timer from the center point. Hornqvist re-directs. Varlamov makes the save. Hornqvist has a chance at the rebound but can't get a clean shot off.
1:27: Letang rips a wrister from the left point which gets blocked. Kunitz corrals the rebound from the slot and rips a wrister which Varlamov get a piece of.
1:02: Hornqvist drives a slapper from the right point which is blocked by Guenin.
0:17: Sutter shuffles a little wrister from the right wing. Varlamov kicks it out.
0:00: End of game. Avalanche 3, Penguins 1.
-The Penguins just didn't have it in this game. They were flat most of the night it wasn't until a surge in the third period after a goal by Evgeni Malkin which made things close did the Penguins show much life. They did little to earn a victory tonight.
-Truth be told, the Avalanche didn't do much either. That team just buried a few more chances it had and got the victory.
-The Penguins' first line was mostly a no show. While Patric Hornqvist got seven shots, a few of them came late when the Penguins were playing desperate and with Marc-Andre Fleury. Sidney Crosby and David Perron didn't record a single shot between them.
-Perron's offense has dried up as of late. He has one goal in his past nine games. This might have been his worst game since joining the Penguins.
-Crosby failed to record a point for the 25th game this season. It matches his personal worst he set in 2009-10.
-The second line was easily the Penguins' best in this game. Yes, Malkin drove most of this line's play, but Chris Kunitz and Blake Comeau, his two penalties in the first period notwithstanding, were ideal compliments to Malkin. They took advantage of the space he created and put plenty of shots on net.
-Even the third line of Daniel Winnik, Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie had a few chances.
-Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole looked comfortable in their first game since Monday's trades. Lovejoy was teamed with Derrick Pouliot and they looked pretty natural together.
-Lovejoy had 19:27 of ice time on 25 shifts, including 2:03 of short-handed ice time. He also had two shots.
-Cole was teamed with Rob Scuderi and he seemed willing to lay the body out a few times and even attempted a handful of shots.
-Cole had 12:20 of ice time on 17 shifts and blocked three shots. And, while we don't totally see this as a relevant statistic, he led the Penguins with four hits.
-This wasn't Marc-Andre Fleury's best game. We won't say any of the goals he allowed were soft, but he could have stolen one or two in order to give his team a better chance.
-Games like this show how reliant the Penguins on their power play. They only had one power play chance tonight and looked awful with it. When they don't get power-goals (or just power plays in general), they don't win usually.
-The Avalanche really packed it in their slot late in regulation. They just sat back, let the Penguins attack from the perimeter and blocked a ton of shots and passes. They finished with 25 blocked shots. In contrast, the Penguins had 29 shots on net. Dale Hunter and/or John Tortorella would have been proud of this game.
-If Fleury was a bit off, Semyon Varlamov was really on. Anytime the Penguins did get a clean shot off, it was usually right into Varlamov's body. He didn't allow many rebounds.
-Jarome Igina can still bring it. He's a true treasure of the game.
-Gabriel Landeskog really carried his team's offense. He's such a force.
-With Erik Johnson injured, Tyson Barrie's importance to the Avalanche increase. So much flowed through him.
-The Penguins led the game with 29 shots.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 70-40.
-Hornqvist led the game with seven shots.
-Barrie led the Avalanche with four shots.
-Kris Letang led the game with 26:47 of ice time.
-Barrie led the Avalanche with 22:39 of ice time.
-The Avalanche had a 30-29 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Ryan O'Reilly was 12 for 19 (63 percent).
-Sutter was 10 for 17 (59 percent).
-Nate Guenin and Nick Holden each led the game with six shots.
-They combined for more blocked shots than the Penguins had (11).
-Letang led the game with four blocked shots.