It was the Penguins forecheck and low-zone pressure against the Toronto Maple Leafs blink-of-an-eye transition game. It was two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference on Hockey Night in Canada. And it was everything the game should have been as both sides brought their A-game and pushed the other to respond.
Toronto scored three straight then held on for a 3-2 win. Check out the postgame story from our newbie, Sam Anthony.
However, playing their fourth game in six nights, the Penguins couldn’t maintain the pace, at least in the second period. The Penguins faltered. Or did Toronto overwhelm them? Mitchell Marner lived in the back pocket of the Penguins defensemen. He was all over them. The Penguins just couldn’t stop Toronto in the second.
Toronto stormed the Penguins zone with controlled zone entries and was back on pucks the Penguins tried to push forward. Toronto also crashed the Penguins net and worked the low-to-high game after the gained the zone.
Toronto scored a pair of goals immediately following faceoff wins. Head coach Mike Sullivan felt Travis Dermitt’s point blast had eyes, but the game-winner by Hyman, “we could have defended.”
Sidney Crosby shouldered a heaping of the blame.
“I’ve got to win at least one of those (faceoffs). The faceoff winds up in our net,” said Crosby. “It’s a game of mistakes. You know, I made a couple there and they ended up in our net.”
Give the Penguins credit for resiliency in the third. They owned the scoring chances (10-7) and high danger scoring chances (3-1). The Penguins again began pushing the puck forward and winning puck battles. The Penguins gritty game played well against Toronto but the Penguins were one shot short. Jake Guentzel was in good position but zipped a few shots wide.
Tactically, the Penguins mucked it up. They went right at their new identity, at least in the first period. With a lead, and Toronto daring them to skate, the Penguins succumbed to the temptation. It was a much higher quality than firewagon hockey, but the advantage was clearly with Toronto. The Penguins defense was in the crosshairs, and Marcus Pettersson struggled to keep up.
The Penguins are still shorthanded and playing with a pair of guys who don’t yet know the system, so the simple game was both beneficial but also limiting. There are the makings of a playoff-built team beginning to form in Pittsburgh. Read below for grades more detailed personal analysis on Phil Kessel, Nick Bjugstad, Teddy Blueger, Marcus Pettersson, and several more.