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Jake Guentzel, Penguins Bury Flyers: Analysis & Report Card

Jake Guentzel scored and kept scoring, and the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to rally from a two-goal deficit.

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Jake Guentzel Scores: Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire

PHILADELPHIA Jake Guentzel scored and kept scoring, and the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to rally from a two-goal deficit, calm a ferocious Wells Fargo Arena, and finally crack Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth for an 8-5, Game 6, series-clinching win.

The Penguins scored five unanswered goals, including four straight by Guentzel in the final 27 minutes to quell the Flyers and advance to Round 2.

Matt Murray called the game “far from perfect,” but the Penguins didn’t panic, at least most of them did not. The Flyers appeared headed towards a win and Game 7. Midway through the second period, Flyers winger Scott Laughton beat Murray from over 30 feet, and the Flyers led 4-2.

The Wells Fargo Center was rocking. Flyers fans were ready for raw meat.

But, just over one minute later, Patric Hornqvist and Jake Guentzel cranked up the Penguins forecheck. The duo created a turnover and Hornqvist finished the play. It was the first of five unanswered Penguins goals.

The Penguins cracked the Flyers with speed on the rush. The Penguins used a right-to-left cross-ice pass through the neutral zone which allowed the Penguins left wings to attack with speed. The Flyers defenseman were yielding the red line and the Penguins were using the near wall to exit the zone.

The defenseman often had the left wing headman pass available, or the right wing breakout was able to connect, which avoided the Flyers’ effort to collapse on the puck carrier.

Just two minutes into the game, Sean Couturier beat Murray through the five-hole but the puck trickled short of the goal line. Penguins defensemen Chad Ruhwedel and Jamie Oleksiak played a game of “I got it, you take it”, and neither secured the loose puck in the crease before Couturier knocked it over the goal line.

The 6-2 pairing was on the ice for the Flyers second goal, as well. In Game 6, Oleksiak continued to get less ice time. He played just 10:10. Ruhwedel played 14:31.

(By the way, Couturier played Game 5 and 6 with a torn MCL. That performance is one to remember, even if it was against the Penguins.)

Kris Letang … We’ll have Letang’s full explanation of the Couturier cross-checking penalty on PHN Extra. Letang had a good grade before the final 15 minutes. That quickly changed.

Report Card

Murray: C

Backup goalie Casey DeSmith stretched and prepared in the runway, midway through the second period. That fact probably says enough.

“My gut said to stick with Matt,” said Mike Sullivan. “And I’m glad I did.”

Murray was fighting the puck for most of the game. Each of the Flyers first four goals were stoppable, and two of the four should have been stopped. Andrew MacDonald beat Murray from the point, albeit through a screen. Scott Laughton‘s wrist shot slipped past Murray from the top of the circle.

When Murray is playing well, he is steady, calm and quiet. Murray’s original grade after 40 minutes was a D.

Injured? You need a lawyer. Call Joshua R. Lamm.

After Murray allowed the fourth goal, the Penguins took over the game. The Flyers didn’t get many shots, and had very few scoring chances until the final minutes of the game. The mid-game mental reset was vital for Murray, who then made big saves when needed in the third period.

The third period upped Murray’s grade to C.

Sean Couturier: A++++

Count me as one of those who will forever be impressed by Couturier’s performance. It was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen.

Couturier turned in a playoff performance which will one day get his name in the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center. Three goals, two assists…while playing with a torn MCL. In addition to five points Sunday, Couturier scored the game-winner in Game 5.

No matter how much you hate the Flyers, we should all recognize the gritty effort we saw.

Letang: C-

As one of the players who deserved a red “F” after Game 5, PHN watched Letang closely. He was active, but not overly aggressive. He was in position, joined the rush at appropriate moments, and was solid. 

The Penguins would likely trade the high wire act for more of the solid, unspectacular Letang.

The above was written after the second period.

In the third period, Letang compounded a pair of giveaways with a bad penalty; cross-checking Couturier gave the Flyers a four on three power play. Immediately out of the box, Letang rushed deep into the Flyers zone and wildly tripped Couturier, who went flying into the air.

Letang took the puck and set up Guentzel’s game-winning goal. On paper, it looks great. In reality, the Penguins were clinging to a one-goal lead and the Flyers should have received a power play, instead of Guentzel’s goal.

The Flyers were so befuddled, they allowed the Penguins to storm the zone moments later and Guentzel scored again. Oh, how the game could have changed. The next time the call goes against the Penguins, perhaps some of you will remember that sequence.

Letang lost his cool and it very well could have been very costly.

Kessel: C

There were times in the game when Phil Kessel looked disinterested but he rebounded in the third. He pounced on Ivan Provorov‘s miscue to tee-up Guentzel for the huge go-ahead goal, 30 seconds into the third period.

Kessel allowed a couple scoring chances because he coasted up ice. Such maneuvers are annoying in December. They can be deadly in April.

The first 30 minutes of Kessel were worth a D, the last 30 minutes were worth a B. So, we handed out a C.

Guentzel: A++

This, hands down, without question, far and away, clearly was Jake Guentzel’s best game as a Pittsburgh Penguin.

Skip past his double goal shift in the third period. Guentzel was a backchecking and forechecking monster, Sunday. His pressure created the Penguins’ third and fourth goal to erase the Flyers deficit. Especially on the fourth goal, Guentzel single-handedly disrupted the Flyers’ breakout plans, won a puck battle, then got a shot on net.

It was a great performance.

Conor Sheary: B+

Several Grade-A scoring chances. He hit a post and created more good looks. Another solid game on both ends of the ice.

Riley Sheahan: B+

The PK was really good. Sheahan was especially strong on the crucial four-on-three kill, after Letang’s penalty. That was the moment the Penguins began to solidify the win.

Zach Aston-Reese: B

Aston-Reese filled in for Carl Hagelin on the second line after Giroux clobbered Hagelin. The rookie had hop in his step and was strong on the wall.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. KC-Pgh

    April 22, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    Not to make light of Letang’s aggressive and sloppy play, he was out of control. But I disagree on your take of the Letang’s trip that led to a Pens goal. The refs got it right with the no call. Letang was making a play on the puck and made obvious contact before Couturier tripped over his stick.

    Rules of hockey regarding tripping: (Note) However, no penalty shall be assessed under this rule if, in the opinion of the Referee, the player was clearly hook-checking or poke-checking the puck for the purpose of gaining possession.

    • Robert

      April 23, 2018 at 8:16 am

      Good points – agree on all. I think a case could also be made for embellishment. Getting hit with a stick doesn’t usually send a professional hockey player flying 4′ into the air, legs akimbo. That said, the officiating stunk again and makes this sport near-unwatchable for the casual fan. We just got lucky on a couple calls this time. We all deserve better than this from the league.

  2. KC-Pgh

    April 22, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    I forgot to grammar check. I think the point got across though. Letang still deserves the criticism for his overall game. Just noting that the one play was actually called correctly.

  3. Robert DesRocher

    April 22, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Congrats Pens, the better team won the series. But let me tell you why Philly hates the Penguins so much. Of coarse, were jealous. Two of the top five players in the league, always strong goaltending and cups. If you watched the series against the Flyers, you saw Letang throw his head back, Hornqivst dive, Malkin thow himself down to the ice, always complain when they have penalties called against them and as always, Crosbly continually whining to the referees working more calls. The Flyers, who were clearly over matched talent wise, probably wouldn’t have been criticized if they tried some of these antics but it was the Flyers who played a better game in the end, regardless of who won the series. Aside from being a fan, I played hockey for 30 years. There are many “unwritten rules” and most importantly, a player should ALWAYS respect the integrity of the game. Although Crosby is a special player, he never has or never will have the respect of hie peers because of the disrespect he shows the game. Once upon a time, if a player threw his head back or flung himself to the ice to draw a penalty, they were dealt with on the ice. Today’s game has changed and so has the player. I’m surprised that the NHL has allowed their darling Penguins to have the supposed right to disrespect the game but I guess I underestimate the almighty dollar. So, this is why we hate the Penguins. Instead of being a champions champion and carrying on the tradition of hockey etiquette, they instead are aided by the league due to the star power and revenue they bring with their big names and TV ratings. Shame on the NHL for selling out the integrity of the game for the sake of money and power. The one thing that has always baffled us is the fact that Pittsburgh is also a blue collar town and has a rich tradition of teams that played the right way led by Mario but they are also blinded by these facts. So, that’s why Philadelphia hate Sidney and the Penguins. Because we not only want to win but we ant to win, we want the playing field to be level.

    • Dan Kingerski

      April 23, 2018 at 2:32 am

      I appreciate the effort of that post, however, to say Crosby doesn’t have the respect of his peers is 10-year-old data and the 180 degrees from true. See the last several years of player polls. The “whining” reputation will forever follow him in some corners but if you’ll take an objective view from a writer who doesn’t have a dog in the fight–Crosby has become one of the most respected players.

    • Robert

      April 23, 2018 at 8:33 am

      This is ridiculously disconnected from reality on all accounts. Watch any game with any two teams, including yours, and you will see dozens of instances of embellishment and diving. The Flyers even got called for it yesterday, and should have been called at least one other time. Players work the refs, the sky is blue, and water is wet. It has nothing to do with “respect for the game,” whatever that means, and has always been the case.

      And if the league “sold out” for money or power, they’re doing an awful job of it b/c comparatively speaking no one in this country watches this sport. Mainly b/c potential fans see clowns like Gudas on the ice trying to hurt star players and wonder WTH is going on. It runs 100% counter to common sense and what happens in every other major sport. The goonery hurts the sport and will one day cause its demise.

      Also Crosby is one of the most respected players in the league. That tends to happen when you’ve won 3 cups, gold medals for your country, and generally play through extra “attention” every game.

  4. il'ja

    April 23, 2018 at 4:20 am

    Agree with KC-Pgh above: risky play but no trip. Not according to the rule. Here’s my qualifying clause from the book: “Accidental trips which occur simultaneously with a completed play
    will not be penalized.” Tanger, astonishingly, got to the puck first. I say “astonishingly” because I don’t know how the ref, at game speed, sees that, but it is what happened on the ice. Couturier going head over heels courtesy of Letang’s stick is incidental.

    Now the only question is: how to get the message to Tanger that this was the Flyers. Risky play against ANY Round 2 team will probably end up costing the Pens. Sully surely will say something. If not, the scolding you’re giving him here at PHN ought to get noticed.

  5. HarkeyPuck

    April 23, 2018 at 7:27 am

    Oh man, that was rich. Show me a star who doesn’t try to work the refs and it’ll be the first. Crosby’s near 2 points a game IN PHILLY is a better reason to not like him. But haters gonna hate, and the Flyers are all angels.

  6. Owtahear

    April 23, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Wow, talk about tired and outdated narrative. Robert, perhaps your views are a bit biased because you guys have an unhealthy hatred of Crosby. This all started when Crosby was a rookie, was cross checked in the mouth, broke three of his teeth and then scored the gamewinner. What was Sid supposed to do, quit after the cross check? How about not crosschecking him in the teeth in the first place.

    Your just an orange clad fanboy. The Pens have been the superior team now for 30 years. Cups count.

  7. Ricardo58

    April 23, 2018 at 9:11 am

    Thank you for the honest comments and grades, especially on 81 and 58. Regardless, what happens in the rest of the playoffs, I don’t see how an honest assessment of 58 can’t happen with the Pens mgt.
    With a salary cap environment, production and play got to match salary. 58 play doesn’t = $7.25 mil
    Congrats Pens on the big series win.

  8. Jack McCrory

    April 23, 2018 at 10:58 am

    I have been posting about 58 all week. Know that at some point he’s going to cost them a game or series. His defense of play has been terrible for a couple years and his gambles Are dangerous. At this point he appears un coachable or they ship it to not have another suitable option to reduce his eye nice time. I was one who was seriously hoping he was going to be traded earlier in the season. But his value compared to his cap hit means he’s going no where soon.

  9. John

    April 23, 2018 at 11:29 am

    A salute to Penguins Game 6 victory 8-5 and slammed the door on the Flyers. The Penguins were not perfect in the Series but no team remaining can match Sid, Geno, Kessel & Company when they play their A games. I give Letang credit as he picked the puck out of the D man’s skates. Made 1 continuous motion. Smart for Letang to keep playing. Sometimes, a player thinks he commits a penalty. He’ll put his head down and stop playing. A+ performance Jake Guentzel 4 goals. Kessel’s pass to Jake was beautiful. A Picasso. Still Jake had to covert. I see guys miss the net there and hurry shooting wide. I’d love to see the Capitals again. All the pressure on WASH. PENS just earned 2 Cups so I don’t think the pressure is on them. Hopefully, the CBJ-WASH series extends to 7. I think 4 OT games already in the Series. PGH should play a weary opponent.

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