The Pittsburgh Penguins played with just five defensemen for two full periods in Game 4, en route to a 3-2 win. The Penguins defensive exhaustion likely contributed to the Senators push in the final 10 minutes–that and the Penguins nursing a two goal lead.
It was the second time in three games the Penguins have been shorthanded on defense, as the result of Senators contact.
Fortunately, the Penguins found both offense and a spark in Game 4. The line combinations, featured a distribution of grinding, physical play. Carter Rowney drew to the third line, Scott Wilson to the second, and Chris Kunitz to the first. Josh Archibald was a wrecking ball on the fourth line, too.
The Penguins physical play was restrained but effective. The players didn’t lose position to make hits–but they made plenty, which in turn energized the bench.
It feels good to hit back. (Remember that the next time you whine on Twitter about “physical play”).
So–Game 5. The Penguins, battered and weary, but able to rise to every occasion against the Ottawa Senators, who believe they can win and full of trapping, physical energy.
The Penguins got goals from Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta. That won’t happen often. In Game 5, the Penguins forwards will need to fill the net. Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel need to get better chances, more consistently. Jake Guentzel will need to convert the glorious chances he’s been given by Sidney Crosby.
Guentzel has been alone, with the puck, in front of Senators Goalie Craig Anderson several times without converting.
It seems silly to spank Chris Kunitz for not scoring. It appears his shot is gone. He contributes in other ways and the Penguins are better for those.
The Ottawa Senators offense has been about three forwards–Bobby Ryan, Derrick Brassard and Jean-Gabriel Pageu. Norris Trophy favorite, Erik Karlsson has two goals and 13 assists in the playoffs but the Penguins have defended him well…as well as can be expected.
The silver lining in the Penguins 5-D dilemma of Game 3 was the splitting of Brian Dumoulin and Ron Hainsey. The pair has defended well but been a transition game black hole. Almost no offense has occured with them together.
Trevor Daley looked in top form after stumbling through Game 3. That is a huge asset for the Penguins–it would be nearly impossible to win without their three top-Right D. With Daley playing well and the potential return of Schultz, the Penguins are getting closer to healthy…
At least until Dion Phaneuf takes the ice. As physical as the Penguins were in Game 4, a counter-balance to the heavy hitting Phaneuf would be a useful cog in the Penguins machine.
The Senators will make the Penguins work, today. Justin Schultz won’t play. Bobby Ryan will torch Mark Streit, at least once.
Malkin gets a pair. The Penguins win 4-3.