Game 2: What We Learned
They say a series doesn’t start until the road team wins.
That’s about the only logic the Penguins can fall back on after a 3-1 loss to the Islanders in Game 2.
Game 2 was very alarming for the Penguins as the Islanders have taken control of the series.
Most concerning is the Islanders pre-series strength’s of a speed, energy game combined with a tight defensive structure have not only out-shined the Penguins strengths of being a much more talented hockey club through two games, the Islanders have even been the superior team in pushing the pace.
They’ve dictated the style of play while also being able to beat the Penguins at their own game in pushing the play off the rush.
Through two games the Penguins have had about one period, the second period of Game 1 where the Penguins can hang their hat on that they were the far better team.
Some tried to tie the Penguins issues in Game 1 as fixable issues but sometimes issues between the ears like the Penguins have are the hardest to fix.
Having the right mindset is more than just coach speak. You have to have the right mindset at this time of the year or you can lose to anybody.
The Penguins not having it is just stunning for a team that won back-to-back Stanley Cups less than two years ago.
Game 2 showed a lack of drive, hunger and there’s just no discipline right now in playing the right way. The Penguins look like a team that just wants things handed to them.
— Eight penalties in a road playoff hockey game is just inexcusable. That’s a hockey team not mentally focused on doing what it takes to win at this time of the year.
Pittsburgh was penalized six times in the first 24:31 of the game. Talk about killing the chance of having any flow by keeping your best players off the ice and trying to dictate terms 5 on 5.
Then there’s the Patric Hornqvist tripping penalty in the defensive zone with the Penguins already trailing 2-1 and momentum trending towards the Islanders. Stick penalties are the only thing refs are going to call in that situation and that time of the game. You just have to be smarter in that situation if you’re Hornqvist. Josh Bailey would soon bury the Penguins with a power play goal.
— Defensive zone collapses continued to haunt this team and they’re nothing more than mental mistakes. If they’ve happened all year as they have, minus some certain stretches, they were more likely going to rear it’s ugly head in the postseason than not.
Here was one situation in the second period.
On a dump-in you have Jack Johnson completely leaving his lane of protecting the middle of the ice as Johnson and Justin Schultz are stuck in the right corner puck watching with the net-front left completely open that leads to a grade-A chance in front.
This is the stuff that has followed the Penguins to the playoffs and for whatever reason the coaching staff has had little success in getting the group to buy-into routine fundamentals of staying in your proper lanes. There is just so much chasing from the d-men to the forwards not back checking to the right spots. It’s crushing the Penguins in this series.
The penalty kill has seen some of the same. Just no structure of rotating properly and players just freely leaving their lanes.
None bigger than Kris Letang on the crushing Josh Bailey third period power play goal.
As the pucks come to Eberle above the left circle, Letang is defending the net-front and completely runs himself out of position by darting towards Eberle and Letang’s over-aggressiveness by running out of his position messes up the whole rotation. You can see it in Zach Aston-Reese’s body language as he doesn’t know where to rotate with Letang going past the dot and taking a big loop. The Islanders then create a 3-on-1 situation at the net-front and boom it’s 3-1 Islanders.
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