GAME 2 TAKEAWAYS
Coming into the series, Special teams was the one area where the Penguins had the potential to have a clear edge. Two keys for Pittsburgh to give them a chance in the series was to get strong goaltending and win the special teams game. So far it’s played a huge factor in the Penguins being competitive through two games and the series tied at 1-1
A great penalty kill can play a big factor in winning a series and while history shows you don’t need a great power play to make a deep run, you have to have an opportunistic one.
The Penguins were opportunistic on the power play with two goals from their second power play unit and going 2/4 with only five power play shots.
Chris Kunitz and Brandon Sutter scored power play goals in the win.
“Thought Kuni had a good game overall,” Mike Johnston said of the Penguins struggling winger who was elevated back to the top line and two of his three points came on the power play. “Certainly he scored but that second power play unit was effective for us. We talk about how important power play is and it’s nice to see that unit start to contribute and have a lot of pressure.”
Johnston said afterwards that the key to the win was the play of the four centers.
“The key to our game was our four centers,” Johnston said.
Sidney Crosby had a pair of goals but Johnston was just as impressed with his 200 ft game.
“The big thing for me, still, is he plays 200 feet,” Johnston said. “His battle in our zone was as hard as it was in the offensive zone.”
Crosby had some fire in his eyes in Game 2 and he was a determined player down low in the offensive zone. Crosby was at his best down low in protecting the puck.
The Penguins got key contributions from the four centers. Crosby with two goals and a strong 200 ft game, some key defensive plays from Malkin in the third, while in Game 2, the Penguins bottom-2 line centers were superior to the Rangers for one night.
“Sutter and Lapierre were really good tonight,” Johnston said of the two.
Rangers third line center Kevin Hayes was very good in Game 1 and was a handful for the Penguins to handle, but the rookie struggled mightily in Game 2. Hayes had a key turnover on the left wall, leading to Crosby’s second goal of the game and took a bad penalty at 7:54 of the third period when the Rangers had all of the momentum following the Brassard power play goal. Kunitz would score on the power play to make it 4-2 Penguins.
“In the third, I thought we had a good push,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “But we took a penalty 200 feet from our own net and they made us pay for it.”
Momentum swings strongly favored the Penguins.
“Throughout a playoff series, momentum swings are so important within the game,” Rangers center Derek Stepan said. “You have to do your best not to get hurt through them. Tonight we got hurt through them. I felt like in Game 1 when they had their push, we were able to come out of it.”
— The Penguins took a page from the Rangers in how to defend. The Rangers are excellent at keeping teams to the outside and collapsing to the middle in blocking shots. It was Pittsburgh that excelled in those areas Saturday night.
The Penguins had 20 blocked shots and limited the Rangers to just 12 even strength shots.
“Pit came into our building and tonight did a good job of clogging up our speed,” Derek Stepan said.
Ian Cole led the Penguins with 5 blocked shots.
“I thought other night wasn’t Ian’s best game but he’s played outstanding in every other game he’s played,” Mike Johnston said. “Tonight was one of his best games he’s played for us.”
Johnston also made a point last night to make mention of Ben Lovejoy.
“Lovejoy kind of gets overlooked at times because he does everything the same [every night],” Johnston said. “He’s another guy you have to watch close like Paul Martin. I thought Ian Cole and Lovejoy were really good tonight.”
— 5 v 5 the Penguins basically shortened the bench as the game progressed and played with 10 forwards. Beau Bennett had just 8 shifts, while Steve Downie had just 10 shifts in the game. Both barely played the final 30 minutes of the game.
What you saw the coaching staff do was use Max Lapierre as a specialist on the PK and in the faceoff circle (defensive zone) 5 v 5 and smartly got Sidney Crosby involved more by having him center the 4th line every once in a while.
Crosby even had two shifts on the penalty kill.
Haven’t been able to say this much, but the Penguins coached a smart game, though, the players didn’t play a smart game in taking seven penalties.
— Is Alain Vigneault coaching with too much arrogance? The Rangers coached and played like a team that was too relaxed in Game 2. Rick Nash only having 5:27 of ice time on the power play was a head scratcher.
Vigneault is not a believer in line matching when it comes to the forwards and is playing with fire when he has the Rangers 4th line (that includes Tanner Glass) on the ice out against Sidney Crosby’s line, which has happened multiple times through two games and Pittsburgh was able to get the Crosby line out against Dan Boyle on Crosby’s first goal of the game when Patric Hornqvist drove to the net and Crosby scored a tap-in goal as Boyle never picked up Crosby.
Boyle is a real weakness on the Rangers blueline and Keith Yandle is not playing up to his ability has been a problem for New York so far. The 4-6 guys on the Rangers blueline are a very vulnerable group defensively, especially when the Penguins can work the cycle.
Kevin Klein could fix a lot of that for New York if he’s back by Games 3 or 4.
— Christian Ehrhoff (concussion) and Derrick Pouliot (shoulder strain) continue to be listed as day-to-day and if both are ready to play this week, don’t look for the coaching staff to open up two spots in the lineup to insert both. One but not two.
The coaches continue to love what Taylor Chorney has brought to the table and the staff favors Chorney over Ehrhoff.
They’re not taking Paul Martin, Ben Lovejoy, Rob Scuderi or Ian Cole out of the lineup, despite fans surely wanting Scuderi or Lovejoy to be sat. The coaching staff values Scuderi too much on the PK and they feel Lovejoy has more value than what the eye test says.
Brian Dumoulin is the only defenseman at this point that the Penguins are willing to take out for Pouliot or Ehrhoff.
Could change but that’s where things stand right now.