Maybe, just maybe, a team cannot keep winning without four of its five best players. Maybe even the tight-knit Pittsburgh Penguins with system buy-in and belief they can play above their station for weeks at a time can only hope to stay afloat for so long.
Then again, the Penguins showed plenty of fight against the equally systematic Calgary Flames. Count that as a small moral victory, at least until the middle of the third period.
“…Give Calgary credit. They defended hard, and they made us pay. So I said to the guys after the game, we don’t have to open the game up … we’re in a two-goal hockey game if we score the next goal, we’re in striking distance,” Sullivan lamented. “We’re right there. That’s one of the lessons I think we can take out of … stick to the game plan and just stay the course and not try to open it up and not try to press. We got to play the right way, but we can’t turn into a high-risk hockey team.”
The Penguins adjusted well to Calgary’s early attack. The Flames slipped d-men up the wall to bust the Penguins breakout, and it worked. The Penguins were scrambly in the first 10 minutes, trying to avoid the extra attacker.
Also, for the record, don’t use the word discombobulated when you ask a Czech player about being sloppy or out of sorts (fortunately, I realized my mistake and amended my verbiage to Dominik Simon in the next breath).
“They had really good gaps. It felt like we had to get used to it a little bit because we play against some teams that that didn’t play this way,” Dominik Simon said. “But on the other hand, we knew about it. So that was on us.”
We can break down the tactical ebb and flow of the game, but ultimately the Pittsburgh Penguins loss hinged on two factors.