“It was a tight and intense hockey game,” was how Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby described the slobber knocker that was the Penguins v. Boston Bruins at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night. Boston got one more goal when Trent Frederic whipped a shot through traffic in the third period, and Boston ended the Penguins’ six-game winning streak 2-1.
The game was a slog. A battle. A 200-foot grind.
The game is difficult to grade because the Penguins were missing Evgeni Malkin for most of the game, and Teddy Blueger joined the injured list “longer-term” before the game. Presumably, Blueger will go on LTIR soon. Without their second and third-line centers and Jared McCann still on the IR, the Penguins lineup was gutted.
If you want the full Pittsburgh Penguins game story, here is the recap peppered with some analysis.
And, here is the Tinordi hit on Malkin which touched off everything.
The Penguins put forth a valiant effort, but they didn’t have enough offensive might to get a second goal against Boston. Not with Patrice Bergeron defending the Crosby line, and not with Mark Jankowski as the second-line center.
We’ll get to Jankowski in the report card, but the Penguins’ inability to score was underscored in the second period when Colton Sceviour dropped the puck to Jankowski in the LW circle. With a prime scoring chance, Jankowski shot the puck softly into Boston goalie Dan Vladar.
Xs and Os
Tactically, the Pittsburgh Penguins always had one Bruin in front of them and one Bruin beside them. ALWAYS. Boston plays an extraordinary defensive game, and they were absolutely on red alert with a rookie goalie making his first start.
Boston’s puck pressure is impressive. They don’t break. The Penguins skated with the puck, but they were rarely on the rush with an advantage. At best, the Penguins breakout created a three-on-two with a hard backchecking Bruins forward.
The Penguins were ill-equipped to win anyway, but Boston wasn’t going to allow a second goal, come hell or high water.
The Penguins will have to learn how to play the grittier game beneath the dots against Boston. The Penguins didn’t lack for effort, but they lacked a bit of know-how. They played high in the zone and tried to work it low, with moderate success. The Penguins managed a fair amount of pokes at Vladar, but not enough Grade A chances. They certainly didn’t make him move laterally (the amazing stick save on Colton Sceviour notwithstanding).
The Penguins didn’t scramble the Boston defense with shots, nor did they get enough screens to take away Vladar’s eyes. Chalk it up to inexperience in that type of game.
When the Penguins got at Vladar down low, they nearly scored, but it’s a unique mindset to get to the net and bulldoze whatever is there consistently. It’s an intricate game requiring as much skill as the pretty puck work around the zone.
The good news is–the Penguins battled. The bad news–Boston outmuscled them in two games. In a playoff series, the Bruins showed they would have the advantage. Can the Penguins handle seven games of this? Jarry stole Game 1. Injuries may have cost the Penguins Game 2, but don’t bank on Boston being so inept offensively for much longer.
Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card
Casey DeSmith: A
DeSmith played very well. Surprisingly well, actually. He made the key saves and kept the Penguins in the game despite a bevy of high-danger chances.
Mark Jankowski: ?
I’m at a loss. Between you and me, he had energy and some purpose to his game, but it was a flatline offensively.
Colton Sceviour: A
The Penguins fourth-liner also had some jump and a little offensive spark. He was playing well in the offensive zone, moving well, and getting good looks. Sceviour lacks the finish to be anything more than a fourth-liner, but he did a pretty good job on Tuesday. He had four shots and two hits.
Sidney Crosby: A
Crosby fought through a sea of Bruins, including multiple-time Selke trophy-winning defender Patrice Bergeron. Crosby was tied for the team lead with five shots. He had two takeaways and won a majority of his draws.
Boston packed the box so tightly that I’m not sure a 105mph Zdeno Chara slapshot on fire could have cleared space.
Kris Letang: B+
Letang had only two shots get through traffic, but Boston blocked three. He had four giveaways, but none became harmful. Letang also had two takeaways and six hits. He was all over the ice. If there was one player who had a good shot at getting the puck into the dirty areas, it was Letang.
Mike Matheson: B+
The Penguins coaches gave him a bump up to the top pairing multiple times. Matheson had a few bobbles with the puck as he tried to escape the Boston forecheck, but his mandate was clear: provide offense. He couldn’t find it either but note that Matheson got the tap.
Anthony Angello: A
I have questions about whether Angello is quick enough for the NHL game but there is no question he is a noticeable presence. He is fighting for a job and fighting hard. As a winger, he’s largely dependent on a center to get the puck to the net or distribute it. He also has to improve his net-front presence–but he’s clearly making an effort. His game is noticeable for good reasons. He got a couple of whacks on the doorstep on Tuesday night. Those will eventually go in, probably.
*Sorry for the shortened and rushed (and late) report card. Too many stories following the game, including Sidney Crosby’s low-key callout of the NHL.