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Stanley Cup Final: Preds’ Pekka Shrinks, Pens Stink but Win

Jake Guentzel. By Shatteredlenstx (Own work) | CC BY-SA 4.0

How do you win a hockey game with only 12 shots on goal? Answer: When the opposing goalie gives up four goals. Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, the best goalie in the playoffs to this point, was little more than a Game 1 bystander. The Pittsburgh Penguins did not put a shot on net, thus Rinne did not make a save for nearly 37 minutes. When he was tested, Rinne allowed a pair of stoppable goals and played Nick Bonino’s wide backhand shot off his own defensemen into the net. The Penguins also scored an empty net goal.

The Penguins were barely present for much of the second period, registering zero shots and only seven attempts, but a three-goal first period and just enough defense in the third was a winning formula. Jake Guentzel scored the game winner with 3:17 left in the third period for a 5-3 win. The Penguins now lead the Stanley Cup Final, 1- 0.

It was one of the worst Stanley Cup Final games in the modern era. Perhaps THE worst.

The Penguins did not register a shot on goal after Nick Bonino’s luck bounce goal at 19:43 of the first period (Bonino was later incorrectly awarded a shot on goal for his effort) until Guentzel beat Rinne late in the third period. It was historic futility for the Penguins; exactly 37 minutes of game action without a shot on goal. It was the first time since the NHL began keeping track of shots in 1957 that a team had zero shots for one full period in a Stanley Cup Final game.

The Penguins finished with 12 shots on goal. They had just seven shot attempts in the second period.

While the Penguins were busy not shooting, the Predators caught some of the virus. For the first 10 minutes of the third period, neither team had a shot on goal. The Predators finished with 26 total.

Nick Bonino, who was credited with the Penguins third goal after Rinne swatted the puck off Mattias Ekholm and it caromed into the Predators net, added the empty net goal.

2 goals…without beating the goalie.

Jake Guentzel declined to admit he shot top shelf on the GWG. Matt Gajtka, of DKPittsburghSports.com, deftly asked the question, but Jake ‘N Bake (his twitter handle, almost as good as Bud Moonshine) simple said he was trying to use the defenseman as a screen and get the puck on net. By Guentzel’s description, it was a lucky shot or bad goaltending.

Rinne was down early on the shot, but I don’t think it was as lucky as Guentzel portrayed.

Imagine if the Penguins were able to generate offense?

Nailed to the Bench: Kessel, Wilson and Malkin

On a night when most Penguins struggled, Phil Kessel’s lack of work ethic and engagement was glaring. Evgeni Malkin and Kessel played nearly nine minutes in the first period but played just over six minutes over the final two periods.

Here’s why: On the Penguins first-period 5-on-3 power play, Kessel would have had the position on Roman Josi behind the net, for a loose puck. Kessel didn’t make an attempt for the puck, which allowed Josi to clear the zone. It was also Kessel who coasted through the neutral zone toward his own zone while P.K. Subban beat Penguins goalie Matt Murray on a wrist shot from the point. It was essentially a 5-on-4 without Kessel, and the point man scored the goal.

There is no sugar coating that.

The Penguins were very fortunate the goal was overturned because Filip Forsberg’s right skate was slightly off the ice as the puck crossed entered the zone. If that goal counted, it would have been a different game, entirely.

Kessel also finished with zero shots on goal.

Scott Wilson was likewise relegated to spectator, after the first period. Wilson played about two minutes in each of the second and third periods.

Malkin appeared to have some jump, but little efficacy. It was his ill-advised slash on P.K. Subban in the third period which gave Nashville a power play, and their second goal.

More Rough Games

Ron Hainsey and Olli Maatta were burned in the first period for a couple chances, each. The Predators speed disrupted Maatta’s game, as forecheckers were able to catch Maatta going back to his own zone. Austin Watson’s set-up of the tying goal was the most notable example, but it wasn’t the first.

Hainsey also struggled with the Predators forecheck and closing speed. Hainsey was not able to play the puck forward several times, despite initially having room to do so.

Trevor Daley left his position to “help” Maatta battle Watson on the game-tying goal. If Daley had stayed home, Frederick Gaudreau doesn’t get a shot.

Speed, X’s and O’s

The Nashville Predators showed speed and “compete level” befitting Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. For the first time since early in the Round 2, the Penguins looked old and slow.

Without a full accounting from the Penguins, it is difficult to breakdown the X’s and O’s and Game 1. The Predators mixed in their trap, but realized quickly they could pressure the Penguins with good results. The Preds took away the walls, like Washington did in Round 2, and were fast enough to pressure the Penguins all over the ice.

The Pens didn’t have much room.

Nor did the Penguins move their feet enough to create room.

From 93-7 the Fan, Conor Sheary offered the most hopeful response:  “Maybe it’s a good thing they haven’t seen our best. If we can come out Game 2 a little bit stronger and get to our game as much as we can, maybe we can surprise them.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins–the team which cemented many’s belief in Corsi last year and are murdering it this year. Go figure.

 

Kenna James at Blush
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