If the Pens were going to win this series in 5 or 6, they were always going to have to lose one or two. Coming in Game 1 of the Conference Final, on home ice, sucks. But the best way to figure out how to break down a team over a 7 game series is to lose a game or two.
Perhaps more important than finding a solution for Craig Anderson, who was lights out last night, or finding a solution for the Guy Boucher trap, which the Pens mostly did last night anyway, is finding a way to fix a powerplay that hasn’t scored since Game 5 against Washington, including going 0 for 5 last night.
Since the start of Round 2, the Penguins have scored just 3 goals in 27 powerplay attempts. And, while the Senators PK clicks at 88.9%, they still take more minor penalties than any team left in the playoffs and have been shorthanded 45 times this postseason, third most among all 16 teams.
All that means for the Penguins is that they are going to get their chances with the man advantage and, if they are going to continue the trend of only getting 17 shots on goal at even strength, they’re going to have to find a way to capitalize.
And they will.
Says it all. They lineup wasn’t broke, so why fix it?
Though icing the correct lineup doesn’t guarantee good decision making. And just 90 seconds in, we saw the way Brian Dumoulin’s rough night was going to go. Sens dropped into their dickhead trap and just waited for a mistake. It came in the form of Dumoulin and Sheary combining to piss the puck away to Clarke MacArthur: Penguin Killer for the feed to Hoffman. Big save from MAF to prevent stunned faces.
At the other end of the ice about 2 minutes later, the Pens nearly opened the scoring on their own with a sexy little tip from Guentzel in the slot off a Hainsey shot-pass that beat Anderson, but did not beat the bar. It’d be the first Pens shot off the post of the 782 in total on the night. That is an accurate and factual representation of the stats.
On the very next shift, the Pens would get their first of 5 powerplays on the night as MacArthur latched on to Malkin like he was in the Iditarod. The Pens couldn’t get shit going until the Sens did them a favor by taking a too many men penalty with 45 second left on the MacArthur minor. The only real chance on the 5v3 (and remaining 5v4 for that matter) came from Hornqvist hitting the pipe. Biggest issue on the 5v3 in particular was the Pens spending way too much time throwing the puck around high in the offensive zone instead of working it low and collapsing the Sens PK. It made it way too easy on them.
On the other side of the halfway point of the period, Fleury was called back in to action to make a big save on yet another one-timer. This time, it was Bobby Ryan popping up for the first of many times on the night, taking an elite feed from Karlsson and finding Fleury’s blocker.
Despite it being mostly all Pens to open the series, largely because of the PP chances, of course it was going to be the Senators to open the scoring, doing just that with 5 and a half to play in the opening period. This time, they were able to capitalize on Dumoulin’s mistake as he tried to reverse it to no one, with Bobby Ryan reading something for the first time in his life to find Jean Gene Pageau all alone in front. 1-0
That look says it all.
Pens got two more powerplay chances before the period expired after Zack Smith threw the puck over the glass and Fred Claesson caught Guentzel with a high stick. Only thing that came out of it was Anderson robbing Schultz at the buzzer.
The carryover penalty to Claesson lasted just 49 more seconds because Malkin negated the rest of it by holding up one of the two shitty Pyatt brothers.
That was about when the Senators started controlling the second period. Anderson was huge when he needed to be, including shutting down the Pens 4th line, which was probably the best line of the night for the Penguins. They set the stage for yet another Penguins powerplay, getting the energy going and forcing Mark Stone to interfere with Bonino. As was the big story of the game, Craig Anderson was Ottawa’s best penalty killer, making 10 of his 28 saves shorthanded.
Then, with about 7 left, the Senators thought they had doubled the lead. Fleury made a save on a Claesson wraparound that Burrows, as the ref was about to blow the whistle, jammed Fleury’s glove into the net. Just the first of many times Alex Borrows will be a total fucking stain in this series. It was about the only thing he did all night.
Right off the hop, the Pens put themselves back behind the 8ball with Weedle taking a hooking penalty just 82 seconds in. Best chance of the man-advantage came for the Penguins after Rowney burrowed his way in and set up Maatta jumping into the play late. Maatta may have flubbed the shot a bit, but Anderson still had a lot to do as he drifted the other direction.
At the midway point, the Pens were getting outshot 10-3. By all accounts, that is bad and also not good. But when all seemed lost and the belief was setting in that this was going to be a typical 1-0 loss to the Sens, Malkin popped up to make Penguins hockey great again. The Pens were doing a good job all night of breaking the trap by getting in on their own chip ins and finally it paid off coming from Ron Hainsey of all people. Even better play from Kunitz to be there in support to turn the puck up the wall and throw it to the cage where Evergene was lurking. But if that deflection doesn’t make your loins froth, you’re either dead or dead. 1-1
Malkin’s goal opened the game up. Ottawa couldn’t just sit back and play boring ass hockey anymore. And with just over 3 left, both teams nearly won the game on back to back chances. First, Fleury had to turn away a MacArthur point blank chance in front that Cole cleared to send Kunitz and Phil off the other way on a rush, but again, Phil’s crank could only find the bar.
For most of the start to OT, the Pens controlled the play. Both Fleury and Anderson were dueling, but a bit of a broken play was going to end it. Started off a a Pens offensive zone faceoff loss that led to Schultz and Crosby losing the initial puck battle along the wall. Bobby Ryan appeared again, jumping in to chip the puck behind Rust and Maatta. No chance Maatta was catching him as he shifted over when it appeared Crosby was batting the puck in deep. Fleury was left for dead on the backhand shelf job to win it. 2-1
Nine times out of 10, Crosby gets that puck between Pageau’s legs and it’s all gravy. This, unfortunately, was that one time he didn’t. Murphy’s Law goal through and through.
- Brilliant game from Craig Anderson. Stole it for the Sens.
- Gotta score on the powerplay.
- Fleury was good again, but drops to 10-4 all time in home Game 1s. Three of those 4 losses have come in OT.
Game 2 Monday night at PPG. Even it up. Go Pens.