Perhaps Pittsburgh Penguins all-time great center Evgeni Malkin felt the criticism from the outside. Perhaps the criticism which mattered most came from inside Malkin, but the Penguins big-guns responded to the Wednesday clunker with a solid performance, Friday. Malkin’s give-and-go with Phil Kessel which provided the Penguins second goal was a work of art.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, to bring out the simplicity in Malkin’s game installed grinding forward Zach Aston-Reese on the left wing. It worked like a charm. Not only did the line score a goal, Aston-Reese scored a shorthanded goal, but the line had just one turnover. As Malkin and Kessel go, so go the Penguins. Friday was not Malkin’s greatest game, but it was a simple game and in that simplicity existed a lack of turnovers or defensive mistakes.
There was a mad scramble in the Penguins zone which resulted in the first Boston goal but Friday the debits outweighed the credits.
Also, credit new linemate Zach Aston-Reese for grounding the sometimes spacey duo. Head coach Mike Sullivan also sang Aston-Reese’s praise.
“I thought it was his best game of the season,” said Sullivan who also contributed. “I really liked him on that line.” (There’s more in the Aston-Reese report card below).
The Penguins were schematically solid, even as they were often swallowed up by an aggressive Boston team. It would be a mistake to call the Penguins sloppy. Instead, credit Boston for swarming the Penguins. Absolutely swarming them.
Friday, the Penguins converted their chances and DeSmith took away enough Boston chances.
On the negative side, the Penguins did mismanage the puck in the neutral zone which propelled Boston to 51 shots on goal. And the usual suspects were often at the center of that action.