Sunday night, Sergei Bobrovsky let his team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, down against the Pittsburgh Penguins just as he did in the 2017 First Round playoff series. Despite playing Saturday night, as well, the Penguins clearly had an energy advantage after Riley Sheahan scored just 1:41 into the game.
The Penguins realized they had Bobrovsky on the ropes, and the Blue Jackets likely did, too. The Penguins had only 12 shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, yet still managed to be in control.
Evgeni Malkin’s line continued to be nothing less than dominant. Patric Hornqvist added a physical element to the line with Malkin and Carl Hagelin, but Bryan Rust adds grit and speed. The line may be the best line in hockey despite a lack of elite talent on the wings.
Goal #1: Sheahan Deflection
The Penguins strategy against the L.A. Kings was to reverse the direction in the offensive zone (per a couple players in the locker room), and they did the same on the first goal against Columbus. Note Ian Cole pinched and Guentzel reversed direction. That gave Oleksiak more room at the top of the zone and in the Blue Jackets shuffle, the defenders did not aggressively body-up Sheahan.
Goal #2: Dumoulin Space
Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin tortured the Blue Jackets defense on the second goal. Note Hagelin’s speed going to the cage and the defensive attention to Malkin. Malkin could have skated to the runway and four Blue Jackets would have followed. It was a soft goal–Bobrovsky should have maintained better body position, but look at the space Dumoulin had to shoot:
The Malkin line has more speed than any defenders in the league. Jamie Oleksiak won a puck battle on the wall and quickly moved the puck ahead to Hagelin, who touched it to Malkin, who had momentum.
Rust drove to the net and took Seth Jones to the net, Hagelin backed-in the Blue Jackets defense with his speed and Malkin had a lot of space:
#3 Panarin Makes Simon Pay
The Penguins breakout was set up well but Simon wasn’t able to control the puck in the neutral zone. Columbus quickly capitalized.
Olli Maatta stepped forward at the red line which created an impossible choice for Kris Letang, who had to defend Artemi Panarin or cover the open wing and leave Panarin alone on Tristan Jarry.
#4 Sheahan from Wall to Red Light
The highlight begins with Riley Sheahan closing off the wall behind the goal line, which created a Blue Jackets turnover. Jamie Oleksiak provided the center drive to clear space, which Sheahan used…
The Penguins didn’t have a lot of shots, but Columbus was not in the game. The Penguins speed established the tenor of the game, early. The soft goals further depressed Columbus.