The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't mess around tonight, and took out the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 in a workmanlike fashion. The Pens outshot the Sabres 34-24, out-shot attempted them 50-38 and won 31 of the 47 faceoffs (69%). And just those numbers alone don't paint the picture of the actual puck possession dominance that Pittsburgh had. They were a step better and controlled the action for pretty much the entire game.
That said, Marc-Andre Fleury deserves some kudos for recording his 27th career shutout, he made 24 saves, including 19 in the final two periods. Some were of the two-on-one variety, another was a tipped pass from right in front. Fleury was steady and sharp, more than holding his own and allowing his team to coast on to victory against a last place team.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- The goal of consequence for the Pens was their first. After a good shift from the Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons line that saw an significant zone-time with possession, they used passes and their legs to cycle out towards the net. Crosby set Gibbons up on a platter with a cross-crease pass but Gibbons unluckily hit the post square. Luckily though, the puck bounced right to Kunitz for an easy flip in.
- Then Deryk Engelland scored a nice goal, following up a Craig Adams rebound to put a shot up high past a helpless Ryan Miller. The Pens haven't been getting any production from lower lines lately, so it would be a welcome goal.
- Tanner Glass finished the scoring by tacking on an empty net goal after Adams shot and missed the net.
- Discipline was a little bit of a problem for the Pens tonight, taking 3 penalties to the Sabres 1. They were mostly of the avoidable kind too- Glass took a high-sticking in the offensive zone in the 1st, Jayson Megna took a high-sticking minor in the offensive zone in the second period, then Kunitz slashed Christian Ehroff in the third (which I believe was either in the neutral or offensive zone, though I can't quite recall). The PK took care of business against a not very good Buffalo PP, but the Pens could have tightened up a bit with some of those careless, unnecessary penalties.
- Glass (6) and Brooks Orpik (9) combined for 15 of the Pens credited 27 checks on the night.
- A safe lead means ice-time can be divvied up evenly- only two Pens (Kris Letang and Paul Martin) played more than 20 minutes and twelve players played 15:40 or more. Everyone got a little, but none got a lot, which is always a nice break.
- Evgeni Malkin usually only gets pointed out when he gets killed in the faceoff circle, so how about Geno winning 11 of 13 on this night? Pretty good stuff. Brandon Sutter (8 of 10) also had a very good night at faceoffs.
- Five Pens defensemen (all except Letang) blocked at least a shot, but the entire team only blocked eight shots on the night. A nice spread out distribution of that too.
- While 15 out of the 18 skaters Buffalo dressed recorded at least one hit (they outhit the Pens 36-27, officially), the Sabres only had six separate players block on shot each. And, as mentioned, this was a night the Pens fired 50 total shot attempts. Ideally, even for a team struggling, you'd probably like to see them rally around their team defense a little more than they did tonight.
With the Pens taking care of that win against a last place team, it's now time to head back out West again for the rest of the week. And, as a special note, the Pensburgh community raised an incredible $248.50 for Childrens Hospital tonight. Way to go everyone, and there's still time to pitch in and make a donation (even a small one) if you would like to.