The Penguins dominated the Blue Shirts, Sunday. The Penguins and Rangers traded chances in the first period, but the Penguins gained steam while the Rangers counter-attack offense lost its counter. The shots in the second period were 18-7, Penguins. The third period was similar; the Penguins outshot the Rangers 16-8.
The Penguins coaches did not roll four lines consistently. Sidney Crosby began double shifting in the second period, and that increased in the third period, as Crosby took shifts with both his original line, Dominik Simon and Daniel Sprong, and with Jake Guentzel’s line, Conor Sheary and Phil Kessel.
Crosby scored with both lines. It is unclear if Crosby was double shifted because he is on fire, or because the coaches do not trust Jake Guentzel with defensive situations, yet. Indeed, Jessie Marshall of the Athletic trumpeted Guentzel’s play.
Count me in the neutral or opposite corner. Guentzel played less than eight minutes through two periods and finished the game on the left wing of a revamped third line, beside Riley Sheahan and Phil Kessel.
It’s a pretty good indication of the coaches current thinking on Guentzel at the pivot. That game was the right time to deploy Guentzel in a defensive role for extra reps.
Goal #1 Hornqvist Takes Out the Trash
This goal is quintessential grinding hockey. Hornqvist was first to Letang’s dump-in. Hagelin raced in to retrieve the loose puck and got it to the point. Then Hagelin and Hornqvist went to the net.
The Rangers defense could neither keep up with Hagelin or box out Hornqvist.
Goal #2 Grabner’s Breakaway
Evgeni Malkin took the flack on Twitter, but Brian Dumoulin is the goat. Dumoulin, a left-handed shot, had a lane to continue forward on the left flank. When he cut to the center so close to Malkin and high in the zone, its the hockey equivalent of walking on a ledge during a windstorm; odds are something bad will happen.
Nobody will catch Grabner in that situation.
Goal #3 Brendan Smith Slapper
First, this is a goal Jarry will typically stop. However, the defensive breakdowns are a couple of pages thick, too. Note ALL FIVE Penguins below the hash marks on this goal.
First, both Penguins defensemen went behind the net, and both converged on Paul Carey. Mistakes one and two. Simon also converged on Carey, but neither defenseman adjusted.
Someone had to prevent Vinni Lettieri from getting the puck or having space to move it to the top of the zone.
Sprong was caught in the middle of a mess. On the positive, he went to the low position to cover for his defenseman. On the negative, he was so low that he could not recover his position, and his man scored the goal.
Call this one a cavalcade of breakdowns; Sprong’s the least among them.
Goal #4 Simon Says Gimme!
Simon had the first great chance of the game–a one-timer / redirect in front, just over one minute into the game. Simon also had another opportunity in the slot, in the second period. He neatly took a pass from Crosby, slipped the puck through his own skates, and spun away from J.T. Miller, but couldn’t beat Lundqvist.
The Jumanji drums were building for Simon. He battled defenseman Steven Kampfer in front. Brian Dumoulin’s point shot rebounded to the slot and seemingly only Simon read the bounce. Almost as if the hockey gods ordained it. He had a moment, and he knocked it home with authority.
He’s a good kid. You’re going to like him as you get to know him.
Goal #5 Unfair if Kessel Shoots from the Dot
This goal is vintage Penguins hockey. A strong forecheck by Guentzel created a turnover. Conor Sheary pounced on the loose puck while Jimmy Vesey chased the play and Marc Staal was late.
Kessel just stepped into space either Vesey or Staal should have covered. Kessel from that range with that time–it’s almost a free throw.
Goal #6 Sid. 4 Straight Multi-Point Games
The Penguins created the rush with proper puck support out of their zone and through center ice. The Rangers focused on Kessel and forgot Crosby. Four Rangers had their eyes trained on Sheary and Kessel down low with the puck.
Kessel and Crosby worked a quasi-give-and-go to perfection. Speed, hustle and…Crosby on this one. No great study here.