The Pittsburgh Penguins took the puck early in the second period. They never gave it back. Phil Kessel huffed and puffed at his linemates on the bench, then blew the Senators down with a wicked wrist shot 13 minutes into the third period. It was 1-0 and stayed 1-0. The Eastern Conference Final is now tied 1-1.
That’s enough of a recap. Here’s the analysis:
The Penguins came at the Ottawa Senators. And kept coming. The Senators rarely had a chance to establish the 1-3-1 “forecheck” which is really a trap. In fact, Ottawa decided to forecheck in the first period. Yes, really.
It may have been that hubris which allowed the Penguins to dictate terms of the game. Aside from Game 7, Round 2, this was the Penguins most complete effort.
–Ottawa went without a shot in the third period for about 16 minutes. Maybe more. Can’t shoot without the puck.
–The Penguins 4th line, Scott Wilson—Matt Cullen—Carter Rowney was fantastic. They not only tilted the ice for the Penguins, they answered the Dion Phaneuf assault on the Penguins wingers. Scott Wilson was credited with four hits on one shift and played more than 12 minutes. 12 big minutes.
He told reporters, including 93-7 the Fan, it was “fun hockey”. Wilson’s rampage began shortly after Phaneuf’s second blindside shot on a Penguins winger crossing the blueline (Bryan Rust was first and did not return. Jake Guentzel was second and it looked worse, but Guentzel was spared ill-effects).
Wilson continued, “(Phaneuf) hits super hard. If he’s going to hit guys on our team, we’re going hit guys on their team. Nothing wrong with the hit. It’s a fun style of hockey to play out there right now.” Quote from 93-7 The Fan and also available on video at DKPittsburghsports.com
–Oh, Phil Kessel. On-bench outbursts. Neutral zone turnovers. Turning away from puck battles on the wall which gave the Senators offensive zone time. AND the game-winning goal. With Kessel, there is only one dimension. The Penguins, who have scored only 13 goals in their last seven games need more, lots more, of that Kessel dimension.
The goal was just Kessel’s second even strength goal in the playoffs and 9th since the calendar turned to 2017. Score more goals or play a complete game. Those are the options for a successful team.
–Why is it funny that Kessel went off on the bench? Penguins media made a joke of it in the postgame questions. The event itself wasn’t funny. It’s only funny if Kessel is a mascot or a clown.
Malkin clearly wasn’t happy with Kessel. Sullivan had to calm Malkin, on the bench, as Malkin clearly gestured to Kessel while Kunitz sat between them.
Since Pittsburgh is a jersey culture and the number is often more important than the crest, fans will decide who is right based on who they like.
I will tell you, from a hockey perspective, Malkin played a complete game from the opening face-off. If Kessel wants the puck more often, he would be wise to battle for it, like everyone else.
Dion Phaneuf has been called a dirty player before. In Calgary, he was a notorious hitter. He’s one of those guys who knows how to use the butt-end of his stick and how to catch a guy coming over the blue line.
He certainly gave the young Penguins wingers a lesson. He knocked Bryan Rust out of the game with a head shot as Rust came into the slot, then Phaneuf caught Guentzel with his head down, coming across the blue line.
Phaneuf came close to kneeing Scott Wilson, in the final seconds of the 2nd period.
Question–if either player had their head up, would the hit not have occurred? Would the hit have been less predatory? Why is it incumbent on the skater to make his head not the target of the hitter?
I’m not permitted to print locker room reaction, per media credential rules, as I’m a “radio” reporter. You’ll have to follow Dan Kingerski on Twitter (@budmoonshine) for some of the Penguins comments regarding the hits.
Scott Wilson didn’t have an issue with the hits, nor did Sidney Crosby.
Ottawa actually forechecked in the first period. The Senators legitimately sent a couple guys into the zone. It was a mistake because the move certainly didn’t lull the Penguins to sleep. The energized Penguins then dominated most of the game.
Ottawa would have benefited from lulling the Penguins instead of awakening a sleeping giant.
93-7 the Fan, unfortunately, won’t be covering the games in Ottawa. Chalk that up to the current media climate which makes the cost more than the reward.
So–PittsburghHockeyNOW.com will be very active with podcasts, Facebook Live and anything else we can think to do! Stay tuned.