The Pittsburgh Penguins could not match the effort of the Chicago Blackhawks. When Chicago grinders pressed the Penguins top lines, the Penguins made mistakes, such as not covering hard-handed Marcus Kruger in front of the net on the eventual game-winning goal.
Not even a Bryan Rust hat trick could lift the Penguins (13-11-6), which remain out of the playoff seedings.
Instead, the Penguins looked like a team which didn’t take the Chicago Blackhawks, who lost their previous eight games and 17 of 21, seriously enough. Chicago was able to pressure the Penguins defense and created a multitude of turnovers, including four from Kris Letang and two registered turnovers from Olli Maatta.
The Chicago forecheck and puck pressure was disruptive all night. From the opening moments, Chicago pushed the Penguins scheme into a defensive 1-2-2, instead of seeing that system unleashed to become an aggressive three-stick forecheck.
Chicago played the night before but it was the Penguins who looked like they ate an entire Lou Malnati’s deep dish carnivore pizza (I temporarily gained four pounds in one sitting, at the 2017 NHL Draft). Chicago outskated the Penguins, outworked the Penguins, and even looked more creative.
The Penguins grinders, Zach Aston-Reese, Derek Grant and especially Rust were the high points for the Penguins.
For a team fighting to get into a playoff spot, it was an otherwise unacceptable game against the worst team in the Western Conference. Though in fairness, the win leapfrogged Chicago into next-to-last in the Western Conference.
A good opportunity to pick up points wasted.