TORONTO — It was a brutal night for the Pittsburgh Penguins and another surprising twist in the 24-team NHL playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens were the team with the lowest point total in the tournament, yet they are the ones schooling the Penguins, which had the highest point total among teams in the Qualifying Round.
Montreal rallied from a 3-1 deficit, and Jack Johnson drew the ire of Penguins fans and media alike. Johnson was the last guy on the screen for several goals and was left holding the bag like the guy at the bank robbery who missed the getaway car.
In our never-ending quest to be unpopular, PHN will breakdown the Montreal Canadiens’ goals to examine precisely what went wrong and who went wrong.
GOAL 1. Shea Weber
So many yikes on the play. Jack Johnson wound up on the right point, which means he was on his backhand. That’s a bad start. The Pittsburgh Penguins third line, which has been overrun like a squirrel which didn’t see the oncoming tractor-trailer, pushed the puck in deep. Then Lafferty went back to the point, which was Johnson.
Johnson misplayed the puck, and Montreal transitioned. We’ve circled Weber to show you how far back he was.
From offensive zone errors to defensive breakdowns. THIS next picture was where the goal was scored. Patrick Marleau raced back. Justin Schultz is also in a good position. Weber is the trailer and gets the 40-foot shot on Murray.
A 40-foot shot should not get a juicy five-foot rebound. This is what’s called a pizza. Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray served a hot and ready pizza right back into the slot. Schultz or Marleau should have been on Weber, but…well…they weren’t. And that’s a ghastly mistake.
Conclusion: Johnson whiffed at the blue line. Marleau and Schultz let Weber breeze past. Murray gave an awful rebound. The mistakes compounded and compounded again.
Goal 2: Jonathan Drouin.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back our returning champions, Jack Johnson, Justin Schultz, and Patrick Marleau. Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust join them. The play was simple enough, Montreal was cycling around the perimeter after a faceoff win. Marleau didn’t go hard enough after a loose puck, and Byron played it the point.
Byron slipped away from Schultz. Malkin broke for the point with the wingers.
Johnson broke for Byron, who was the more immediate threat. I must admit that’s a tight spot for a defenseman. Johnson’s realization that Byron was open and his quick jump towards him probably didn’t leave enough time for Schultz to switch to Drouin, either.
Conclusion: It had to be a great pass to slip through to Drouin, but Schultz let his man give him the slip while Malkin vacated the low zone and could have been another body to help. We let Johnson slide here.
Goal 3: Paul Byron Wrap-Around
The overwhelming sentiment is this was Jack Johnson’s fault. So, let’s break it down, and there is one moment, and literally only a moment, that will change your perception.
Byron beat John Marino on the wall. We could make excuses for Marino because he’s earned a few hall passes. This play will cost him one of those. Byron got by, and here is the moment that changed the play. Notice Johnson turns his head and looks right at Max Domi. Johnson realized the play was a two-on-one and adjusted his path to take away the shot.
That’s a critical point to understand. A defenseman’s job on a two-on-one is to take away the pass and let the goalie focus on the shooter.
Even to the last moment, Johnson couldn’t leave his post or Byron would have been able to slip a late pass to Domi for an easy tap. Johnson didn’t lounge in the crease, he nullified the two-on-one.
However, Jake Guentzel was a little slow to pick up his man, Nick Suzuki, who was then open for a good one-timer.
The next couple of moments were too perfect for Montreal. Murray kicked the save off Johnson, and it caromed to Byron at full speed for the wrap-around. That play could happen 1000 times, and the carom would never again be as perfect.
That seems like the Pittsburgh Penguins luck this series, though you also make your own luck.
Conclusion: A tough play by a tired Marino, and Guentzel needed to take one more stride to nullify the slot chance. The rest? Bad, bad luck and not on Murray like I initially thought. Certainly not on Johnson like many of you thought. That’s a lot of adjustments for Murray to make in a flash. He thought he made the save but didn’t fully have his anchor set.
You might argue Murray should have absorbed the shot instead of kicking it away, but that’s a hard case to prove.
Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry picked the top corner on Murray, who went to the crouch. No great breakdown there. That’s a sneaky bugaboo in Murray’s game; his technique in that situation has left him vulnerable to several of those goals in his short career.
So, the emotion of the Penguins’ loss combined with the pending doom has created a tense situation. The Penguins have earned that, and we hope this helps clarify the discussion.