In the end, the vaunted Ottawa 1-3-1 trap did more to take the PPG Paints Arena crowd out of the game than it did the Penguins. The Penguins established sufficient zone time and speed through the neutral zone to create offense. However, the Penguins attempted to make plays through Ottawa defenders instead of shots on goal.
Penguins gaffes handed Ottawa a pair of glorious chances, which they didn’t miss for a 2-1 win. Ottawa did not return the favor, and the Penguins continued looking for an open man or perfect setup.
And Evgeni Malkin, who scored the Penguins only goal in what was otherwise a bad night for his line, wasn’t buying it.
The game was marked by strife within the Pittsburgh Penguins. TV audiences were treated video of animated chats between Sidney Crosby and linemates, between assistant coach Rick Tocchet and Evgeni Malkin, and Tocchet and Phil Kessel.
If we’re not ready for the Conference Final, we’re a bad team. –Evgeni Malkin.
Malkin not a happy camper tonight.
— Dan Kingerski (@Budmoonshine) May 14, 2017
Malkin didn’t spare the power play, which was 0-5, “We need the extra pass. They play three guys on top. We controlled the puck on top, but we need to play low. Get the puck to ( Patric Hornqvist) on the goalie line. Maybe use behind the net. (We need) something new.”
Malkin wasn’t done with his critique, “They know (our style), they play close to us. Sid and (Hornqvist) open. We need to use them more.” Malkin continued, “We got frustrated, we were mad at each other, a little bit.”
In his post-game press conference, Mike Sullivan took to task his team’s reliance on creativity, “We had a lot of clean entries. When we didn’t, we put pucks to areas. I don’t think that was the issue tonight.”
So, what was the issue?
“We had a lot of offensive zone time. I don’t think we put enough pucks to the net. We’re looking for that next play, instead of putting pucks at the net,” said Sullivan. His elaboration offered real insight into the team, “That has to be a mindset moving forward that we’re not necessarily looking for the next play all the time. Sometimes the best way to break down coverage is a shot on goal, and the rebound goes somewhere and decisions have to be made.”
In other words, stop being cute. Get the puck on net. Fight for the space. Earn the puck.
Once you learn to speak Sullivan, his answers can make a ton of sense. Sullivan will likely preach the above, though he’s unlikely to do it in the same, family friendly language.
For the Penguins to win Game 2, the team must heed his advice. Senators goalie Craig Anderson looked good, very good, but the Penguins got precious few second chances.
–The Penguins power play went 0-5, including a two man advantage for 1:15 in the first period. The Penguins power play seemingly had more trouble advancing the puck through the neutral zone than did the Penguins, 5 on 5.
The neutral zone drop pass remains an inexplicable tool in the Penguins tool box. The Penguins should ban the play. Never think of it again. It doesn’t work. Has never worked. And, because it slows the play, allows the defense to see the puck and adjust, it will never work.
Yet the Penguins hit a couple posts on the power play, in the first period.
–Patric Hornqvist would be a stout addition to the Crosby line, for this series. Rust’s speed was a decider against Washington because the Capitals gave the Penguins space. The Senators will offer no such luxury. Players will have to create space. Hornqvist is the best the Penguins have at such “space creation”.
Rust and Bonino make more sense against the Senators, too.
–One wonders how much more rope Conor Sheary has in these playoffs. He was pushed around and fought the puck for much of the night. Again. His confidence is gone.
–The Penguins fourth line with Wilson-Cullen-Rowney was probably their best line. Wilson, again, was a spark plug and Rowney provides a strong presence on the ice. The line is pretty good, by any measure. They tilted the ice by getting the puck in deep and cycling, allowing the Penguins top lines offensive zone time. That’s a win for the 4th line.
Their ice time reflected their success. They played over 10 minutes, including a pair of shifts in the final three minutes.
–Thank you all for wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day. hehe. Cheers.
MEDIA CREDIT: Quotes courtesy of PittsburghPenguins.com and NHL.com.