The hockey gods are cruel. They will only grant one team so many chances, or opportunities before they snatch one back at the worst moment with punishment for failing to convert the gifts bestowed. The Pittsburgh Penguins had an extraordinary amount of chances in Game 5 against the New York Islanders, but in Game 6 it is they who will face elimination, not New York.
The Penguins had an extreme number of chances, shot attempts, and opportunity.
And when the Penguins didn’t do enough with them, the hockey gods flipped the script in one cruel moment. Goalie Tristan Jarry not only made a turnover in his own zone, but his abandonment of technique and wild flop reaction in an unsuccessful attempt to make the following save will be the worst moments of his goaltending life.
An astute viewer on our Penguins Live Chat compared it to Marc-Andre Fleury’s 2004 World Juniors meltdown. It’s not far off.
And so, Game 5 becomes Game 6. The Pittsburgh Penguins skaters were brilliant but failed to finish the job. Jarry was acceptable though a bit unsteady and ultimately finished his own team.
Steve Smith will forever be remembered for ending the Edmonton Oilers Cup runs in 1986 with an errant pass off his own goalie and into his own net late in Game 7 against the hated Calgary Flames in the Smythe Division Final.
Jarry’s gaffe didn’t quite measure the same on the Richter scale as that whoops, but it hurt nonetheless. And now the Pittsburgh Penguins must pick up the pieces, put themselves back together, and charge at the stingy New York Islanders at least once more.
Do the Penguins have it in them?
Teams that lose double OT games typically have a hangover. The winning team feels fresh and invigorated the following day. The loser feels like they were drinking tequila off the belly of a sweaty trucker and woke up in a cheap motel room full of hurt and regret.
It’s not easy to get over. Especially with the nearly unprecedented level of domination the Penguins displayed. At some point, it felt like New York stopped trying for offense and merely waited for the Penguins to make a mistake. It wasn’t a rope-a-dope strategy as much as duck and cover.
The Penguins team leaders didn’t speak to the media on Tuesday. It was Kris Letang and Bryan Rust’s turn to speak Monday night following the loss. And this is one of those cases in which media not being in the locker room was a clear impediment to getting the real story.
“We’re going to take one shift at a time,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think that’s the biggest part of this whole experience, is just staying in the moment, staying on task, keeping the focus where it needs to be and I believe our team has the experience to do that.”
Words only tell a part of the story.
“I think we made a statement, and that’s the way we need to play going in their arena. So I’m pretty confident that if we play the same way, we’ll get the result,” Letang said.
I believe Letang. He’s not one for soft media vagueries and steaming piles of fertilizer.
“This is a team game. Obviously, things happen throughout the game, and obviously, we would have liked to have that win, but I think we’re all going to grow closer as a team,” Bryan Rust said Monday night. “I think we’re gonna work together. I think we’re going to lift our heads up and get out there and try and win.”
However, Rust’s acknowledgment, if you read between the lines, is softer. The loss was still stinging, as it should.
Teams just can’t lose games in which they dominate like that. Not like THAT.
*For the Penguins betting preview, predictions, and odds, our experts also weigh in.
And so I have the same questions that you. We don’t need another X’s and O’s preview. The Penguins activated their defensemen to great effect on Monday. The puck rarely left the Islander’s zone. New York is seemingly permitted to obstruct, hold, and clog as needed. That’s not going to change in Game 6.
Yes, Penguins winger Jake Guentzel has only one point. Sidney Crosby two. And Teddy Blueger has none. But the Penguins degrees of offensive production vary greatly on the lines and roles.
Bleuger’s lack of points is A-OK because he is also taking away Mathew Barzal, New York’s best player. A fourth-liner nullifying a star is just great work.
Crosby’s two points are also acceptable as Crosby’s play has been stellar.
It’s Guentzel, and Jason Zucker, and Jared McCann who need to pick up the slack but have not yet done so.
One other question for Game 6–the Penguins were flat and perhaps overconfident in Game 4 when they had a series lead. Will New York suffer a similar fate; knowing they have a lead, will they try to dish a few extra hits or get loose trying to go for the kill?
The Penguins should be desperate. If they’re not, there will be hell to pay this summer, and GM Ron Hextall and President of Hockey Operations may get an extra big-name trade chip as a consequence.
Look for the Penguins to start cautiously, conservatively. They need to get their legs and regain their confidence. The Islanders will use the extra several thousand fans and go for it.
“I think players love to play in an exciting environment. The fans are such an important aspect of that, whether you’re playing at home or playing on the road,” Sullivan said. “Our guys are excited to play tonight.”
Expected New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins Lines Game 6
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jared McCann||Jeff Carter||Freddy Gaudreau|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Teddy Blueger||Brandon Tanev|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Mike Matheson||Cody Ceci|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Expected Islanders Lines|
|Leo Komarov||Mathew Barzal||Jordan Eberle|
|Anthony Beauvillier||Brock Nelson||Josh Bailey|
|Kyle Palmieri||J-G Pageau||Oliver Wahlstrom|
|Matt Martin||Casey Czikas||Cal Clutterbuck|
|Adam Pelech||Ryan Pulock|
|Nick Leddy||Scott Mayfield|
|Andy Greene||Noah Dobson|