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3 Impressions: Red Wings 4, Pens 3 OT

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet shares his three observations from the bench on Thursday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

1. I thought (Thomas Greiss) was great. He played very well. He deserved better. He deserved to win the game.
2. I thought the depth was good. A lot of guys contributed tonight.
3. You have to learn how to win these games. You’re up 3-1 and let your foot off a wounded snake and it bites you. You have to be able to win those games and in control. I thought we lost our composure.

Sam Kasan shares his three impressions from the media level.

Thomas Greiss made his Penguins debut in his first start of the season. Don’t let the final score fool you, Greiss was remarkable in net.

Greiss a big body at 220 pounds. He looks like his upper body takes up the entire net. He played deep in his crease, which made it easier to move laterally from side-to-side, post-to-post. He was calm and composed even in the midst of heavy pressure at times from the Wings and with the Pens scrambling in their own zone.

But the most impressive thing I saw from Greiss was his technique. No matter where the puck is on the ice he has the proper angle (it helps that he play deep in the crease). He relied on that positioning and the butterfly technique to make saves. Pads down, stick covering the five-hole, blocker and glove high. Even when he lost track of the puck, he used his technique to make big saves. 

On plays below the goal line, Greiss had his pad on the ice and tight against the post, his upper body leaning into the post. The Red Wings tried several times to carry from low and attack the net. But because of his positioning, the play never worked. Greiss deserved a better fate than how the game ended. 

I’m convinced defenseman Olli Maatta is a 15-year veteran trapped in a 20-year-old body. His play and maturity level is uncanny for someone of his age. He’s become an all-purpose blueliner that can play in all situations (even strength, power play, penalty kill). He never makes killer mistakes that result in goals against. Even on the mistakes he does make, Maatta is able to quickly adjust on the play and make up for it. Maatta’s most underrated trait may be his hockey IQ. In the first period he read the play and sneaked into open ice and received a pass from Blake Comeau for a shot. He followed his own shot, collected the rebound behind the net, drove to the crease and stuffed in the rubber disk through the pads of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.

The Penguins had a 3-1 lead with less than three minutes left in the third period. But a few of defensive breakdowns resulted in Detroit capitalizing, even scoring with 38.9 seconds left to tie the game and force overtime.

On the first goal Penguins defensemen took too wide of a gap. The middle was filled by Brandon Sutter. Sutter didn’t see Henrik Zetterberg sneaking in behind him because he expected defensive support on the other side. Zetterberg took a pass and had a clear lane to the net. He roofed the shot to make it 3-2.

The Red Wings tied it after Pittsburgh had several opportunities to score into an empty net and seal the game at the other end. Pavel Datsyuk had the puck on his stick in front of Greiss. The Pens over collapsed to him, vacating the circles. Datsyuk made a soft pass to Niklas Kronwall, all alone in the high slot. His shot went off Evgeni Malkin’s leg, Pascal Dupuis’ stick and dipped on Greiss.

It just shows that you can play the game hard for 57 minutes, but it took just two breakdowns and the puck ends up in the net both times.

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