Game 1: Eye Test vs the Numbers
1. The Columbus Blue Jackets had a 48-34 edge in 5 v 5 shot attempts in Game 1 and over last two games (1 regular season/1 playoff game) between the Penguins and Blue Jackets, Columbus has out-attempted Pittsburgh 108 to 64 at even strength.
Yet, Pittsburgh has outscored Columbus 5-1 over that span during 5 v 5 play.
Wednesday night was a classic case talked about before the series where if the Penguins get out-attempted, it’s not going to be a big deal.
In Game 1, Pittsburgh had the high danger scoring chances edge, 6-3, in 5 v 5 play and in all situations Pittsburgh had a 9-4 edge.
Pittsburgh allowed just 3 high danger chances at even strength. What a testament to their defensive team play.
From the forwards to the defensemen, to Marc Andre Fleury, everybody did their job. This was a game where you could count the Blue Jackets grade-A chances on one hand. There were very few of them.
The key for Fleury was no leaky goals that often plague him over the length of a playoff series and when he needed to make a big save once or twice, he came up with it.
“Fleury comes out of the bullpen and has a real good first period, made some timely saves,” head coach Mike Sullivan said afterwards. “What can you say about his character and compete level? To step in and be as good as he was, he was key for us.”
A play that could have changed the game early was a Fleury first period save on Zach Werenski where Fleury came out to take away the angle and that save got Fleury in a comfort zone.
“You gain a little confidence from it,” Fleury said of the Werenski save. “I felt alright after that.”
2. The Penguins top defensive pairing in Ron Hainsey/Brian Dumoulin were hemmed in their own zone for much of the game.
Brian Dumoulin 28 CF% (7CF/18CA), Ron Hainsey 21 CF% (5/19).
13 of the 26 Blue Jackets Shots For at even strength came against Dumoulin/Hainsey.
Blue Jackets top line center Alexander Wennberg had a 100 CF% when on the ice against both Dumoulin-Hainsey. Concerning? Maybe a bit if it becomes a trend to the extent where Dumoulin are hovering around 0% against Wennberg but the pairing only allowed 1 high danger chance against. What matters is the high danger scoring chances against.
What played out in Game 1 is a trade off I think the Penguin coaches would take.
Let Dumoulin/Hainsey handle the grunt work defensively, have Justin Schultz pairing more active offensively.
Ian Cole and Justin Schultz were under 40% (9/14) in Corsi% but the pairing was +1 in Shots For/Shots Against (7/6), 50 percent in Scoring Chances For% (4/4) and 50 percent in High Danger Scoring Chances For% (2/2).
3. The advanced stats will say Olli Maatta was the Penguins best defenseman in Game 1. The eye test says no way.
The numbers were very good for Maatta.
19:56 of ice time, 4 blocked shots, 54 CF% (19/16) and was credited with a 100 High Danger Scoring Chance For%, on the ice for 4 high danger chances, 0 against. Maatta was also on the ice for 2 Goals For and 0 Against.
The first period for Maatta was a disaster. Columbus attacked him on the forecheck with great success as the slow foot speed was problematic and he lost multiple puck battles that kept plays alive for the Blue Jackets in the Penguins end. There were prime opportunities there that could have resulted in some grade-A chances against but Pittsburgh’s team defense covered them up.
Maatta had some good moments in periods two and three, some strong stick checks defensively but he remains vulnerable when the Penguin forwards are not slowing up the Jackets incoming forecheckers through the neutral zone.
It’s still questionable whether the Penguins are dressing their six best available defenseman for this type of series. Mark Streit’s quick decision making and skill on the backend would still be a nice asset to have.
4. The Sidney Crosby line was held pointless but there were some encouraging signs to watch moving forward.
The line was 60 percent in Scoring Chances For% and they drove possession against the Blue Jackets best players who must produce offensively for the Jackets to make this a competitive series.
Sidney Crosby vs Opposition:
Vs Zach Werenski | Crosby on the ice for 10 Shot Attempts For, 6 Against.
Vs Seth Jones | Crosby was on the ice for 9 Shot Attempts For, 4 against and was +5 in scoring chances (6/1).
Vs Brandon Dubinsky/Cam Atkinson| Crosby had a 75 CF% on the ice for 6 attempts, 2 against and +4 in scoring chances.
Vs Boone Jenner | Crosby had an 83 CF% (5/1).
The line that had the strong numbers vs Crosby was the Sam Gagner – Scott Hartnell line.
Crosby 0 CF% (0/7) when on the ice vs Gagner, 11 CF% vs Scott Hartnell (1/8).
At this stage of Hartnell’s career when he hasn’t scored in 34 games, that’s another trade off the Penguins would take in a big way.Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"