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Insider Only Game 1 Special Teams Analysis: The use of Jarome Iginla on the power play remains an enigma

R3G1pic1PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PLAYOFF ANALYSIS
SPECIAL TEAMS
ROUND 3, GAME 1
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
It was a night full of paradoxes for the Penguins, who were blanked, 3-0, by the Boston Bruins in Game 1. Sure, an eight-day layoff could take the blame, but at the same time, the team actually got off to a good start and conversely faded from there. The Penguins also looked lost in its own zone several times, but yet they looked very strong on their penalty kill.
Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz had unusually subpar performances, while an energized Evgeni Malkin matched his team-high five shots with five minutes in the box for fighting. The goal posts did not do Pittsburgh any favors, but the team also missed the net seven times in the first period and 12 times in the game. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, most of those negatives are rare, and the positives give the team some level of stable ground on which to regroup, particularly the play of the penalty-killing units.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS POWER PLAY
Power Play Goals = 0
Power Play Opportunities = 4
Power Play Percentage = 0%
Power Play Shots = 9
5-on-3 Situations = 0 opportunities, 0 goals, 0 shots
Shorthanded Chances = 3 shots allowed, 0 goals against
Minutes of Power Play Time = 8:00
Power Play Faceoffs = 6 of 10, 60.0%
Power Play Goal Scorers = none
Analysis:
  • The Penguins gave yet another look to their power play right off the bat, putting Malkin at the center point with Kris Letang to his left and James Neal to his right across the top of the zone. Chris Kunitz took his usual position in front of the net, and Crosby worked the low areas of the zone. However, the team often struggled to get to a set position, and various situations over their final three power play opportunities altered the personnel several times. The power play just never got into gear in this game.
  • Pittsburgh had a clear edge in play to start the game, and a power play 3:54 into the contest presented them a chance to land the first punishing blow. It was ultimately their best power play of the night, but they had nothing to show for it in the end. A strong save by Tuukka Rask on a rebound shot by Crosby actually served to put some significant confidence into Rask’s game.
  • Boston ran 10 players through their first penalty kill and stuck with that kind of rotation throughout the night. A total of 11 Bruins saw considerable ice time while shorthanded, but only four of those players were defensemen. Zdeno Chara (5:02) and Dennis Seidenberg (4:56) saw considerable ice time on the back end, as expected.
  • The Boston penalty kill is far less-aggressive than what Pittsburgh faced in the previous round against Ottawa. The Penguins frequently use a lot of one-timers against this type of penalty kill, as they often did against the Islanders. But those types of shots were rarely attempted in Game 1 and should become an area of focus as the team adjusts for Game 2.
  • The use of Jarome Iginla on the power play remains an enigma. He skated only 1:46 of the 8:00 the team spent with the man advantage, including just 32 seconds of the first three power plays. His increase in time on the last power play can be attributed to Malkin and Kunitz being in the penalty box for most of the advantage. By comparison, Brenden Morrow (2:12 PP TOI) and Jussi Jokinen (2:01 PP TOI) both skated more time with the extra man. Dan Bylsma previously stated that Iginla was not a good match against the aggressive Senators PK in the last round, but that reasoning will not hold up in this round.
  • Malkin’s fight at the end of the second period will surely be a topic of much enthusiastic discussion, but that situation also took him off the ice for the majority of the team’s final power play chance of the night. However, Malkin single-handedly drew three of the four penalties that led to Pittsburgh power plays. He was put in a bad situation by the Letang pass that led to a two-on-none for the Bruins, but overall, Malkin was the best player on the ice for the Penguins’ power play.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PENALTY KILL
Power Play Goals Allowed = 0
Power Play Opportunities = 4
Penalty Kill Percentage = 100%
Power Play Shots Allowed = 4
5-on-3 Situations = 0 opportunities, 0 goals, 0 shots
Total Time Shorthanded: 8:50
Shorthanded Chances = 1 shot, 0 goals
Shorthanded Faceoffs = 2 of 8, 25.0%
Analysis:
  • The Pittsburgh penalty kill remains a steadying and underrated force for the team. Not only did they blank the Bruins’ power play, they completely smothered their attack. Boston only managed four shots in 8:50 of power play time.
  • Boston’s approach seems to be to spread the zone, working the puck around all areas of the perimeter to try to stretch out the penalty killers and open up the middle of the ice. But the Penguins rarely put themselves in a vulnerable position despite staying aggressive on the puck. One over-rotation by the PK in the second period led to David Krejci being left open on the backside, but Tomas Vokoun bailed out his defense on the play by coming out strong towards the puck and forcing the shot to go high.
  • In return, Vokoun never had to worry about loose pucks in the slot or rebound chances by the Bruins as the Penguins protected and collapsed to the scoring area extremely well when it was needed. This trend has been very consistent for the Pittsburgh penalty kill.
  • The five-minute major to Matt Cooke could have been the pivotal moment in the hockey game. The Bruins had a chance to extend their one-goal lead while the outcome was still far from decided. The penalty and accompanying game misconduct also sent one of the Penguins’ primary penalty killers to the locker room for the remainder of the game. But it was business as usual for the Penguins, looking very sharp and aggressive in the three minutes of penalty-kill time and turning a potentially-crucial situation into a largely-irrelevant circumstance.
  • Pascal Dupuis had a very strong game while the Penguins were down a man. He was aggressive on the forecheck, disrupting the Boston breakout several times. He also created some offense from his hard work, setting up a good chance for Cooke and generating a chance at the net for himself.
  • Letang was used a lot less than expected on the penalty kill, logging just 1:58 of ice in those situations. He saw plenty of action otherwise in leading the team in total ice time, which is likely the reason he did not skate more while shorthanded. In turn, Douglas Murray saw more work on the penalty kill, taking in 4:47 as the most among Pittsburgh defensemen. The always-reliable Craig Adams led all players in the game with 5:25 of shorthanded action.
  • As he had done throughout his career, Jaromir Jagr looked to use the power play to get his offensive production back on-track. Jagr often got the puck on the right-wing boards, a very familiar place for him to begin his attack. But the Penguins simply thwarted his every attempt and minimize his overall impact on the game. Jagr’s lack of goals this post-season has quietly been a concern for Boston, and without the ability to generate anything on the power play, that trend will continue into this series, placing more pressure on the volatile winger.

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Dave Fryer

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