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Insider Only Games 2 was decided elsewhere but special teams will have to play a vital factor again if Pens expect to win anything in this series

By Dave Fryer, Contributor to
Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals is incredibly difficult to explain for Pittsburgh, but it can be summarized pretty succinctly: disaster. Despite a visibly-obvious lack of execution on behalf of the Penguins, the numbers are very misleading. For instance, the Bruins needed the game’s final two shots to edge out the Pens in that category, 29-27. And face-offs only fell in favor of Boston by a single draw, 29-28, despite all the hype about their dominance in the circle. And in a game that saw seven total goals, not a single one of them was scored on special teams. So obviously the game was decided elsewhere, but our analysis of special teams continues since it will have to play a vital factor if Pittsburgh expects to win anything in this series.
Power Play Goals = 0
Power Play Opportunities = 2
Power Play Percentage = 0%
Power Play Shots = 3
5-on-3 Situations = 0 opportunities, 0 goals, 0 shots
Shorthanded Chances = 0 shots allowed, 0 goals against
Minutes of Power Play Time = 4:00
Power Play Faceoffs = 1 of 4, 25.0%
Power Play Goal Scorers = none
  • The first power play of the night for Pittsburgh did not come until just past the game’s midpoint, when the score was already 4-1 in favor of the Bruins. It was a desired opportunity, but establishing something useful was far more necessary. However, the team looked just as awful with the man advantage: unable to complete passes, stabling at loose pucks, running into each other, and general disorganization. Similar to even-strength play, the Penguins beat themselves equally as much as the Bruins were smothering them.
  • The second – and final – PP of the night came with the score at 5-1, but it was far from a meaningless situation. The Penguins desperately needed to start doing more things right to build towards Game 3. The efforts over first half of the power play did not help matters any, but they were able to take a small step in the right direction over the final half by getting to a set position and getting two shots on goal. It was a far cry from what was needed in that situation, but at least it did not completely look like the calamity that they put forth up to that point in the game.
  • The power play alignment again intended to have Evgeni Malkin at the center point on the umbrella, with Kris Letang to the left and James Neal to the right. That did not truly show itself until late in the second power play, though. Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz were low in the zone.
  • There was barely an attempt to get the puck to Crosby during the power play. This may be considered acceptable in this game for how poorly the team captain was playing, but in the grand scheme of things, it is really inexcusable. Plus, Letang was having a worse game than Crosby but still had the puck come his way. This highly-potent power play needs to play with a purpose and play to its strengths.
  • It is certainly a broken record, but Jarome Iginla is still not being given much value to the power play. He did log 1:46 of ice time at five-on-four, but his role is limited to the second unit and seems rather undefined.
  • Overall, the Penguins are a team that is full of self-doubt right now. When a collection of star players that comprise a formidable power play and a valuable strength of the team look to be distrusting of their own abilities, the rest of the team is also going to struggle to find confidence. The power play is capable of turning it around at any point, and that has to come without further delay.
Power Play Goals Allowed = 0
Power Play Opportunities = 1
Penalty Kill Percentage = 100%
Power Play Shots Allowed = 3
5-on-3 Situations = 0 opportunities, 0 goals, 0 shots
Total Time Shorthanded: 2:00
Shorthanded Chances = 0 shots, 0 goals
Shorthanded Faceoffs = 0 of 1, 0.0%
  • Poor execution plagued the Penguins in most of Game 2, but one area in which they did respond positively from Game 1 was discipline. The team took only two total penalties, and only one of those left them shorthanded.
  • The only kill got started with Jussi Jokinen creating a two-on-one chance the other way, but his shot was blocked, preventing any further pressure from developing. Even though the team has only scored once in two games in the series, they have still shown signs of being able to strike for a shorthanded goal against the Bruins, which may prove its worth later in the series.
  • Overall, the PK began to look a bit scattered and less aggressive, allowing the Bruins to make crisp passes and penetrate more into the house. Pittsburgh also had two very poor clearing attempts during the PK, which is very uncharacteristic of how they have been executing for the past few weeks.
  • The first failed clear came from Matt Niskanen, who was presumably getting shorthanded time because Brooks Orpik was in the penalty box. Niskanen was behind his own net with no pressure and the puck on his forehand, but the puck quickly lost velocity because he used too much of the glass to try to wrap the puck out of the zone. It led to the puck coming back to the net and a loose puck in the area, but Tomas Vokoun got the puck from the area quickly. Niskanen had the opportunity to turn his shoulders up the ice and find an easy opening out of the zone but instead exhibited lousy judgment and poise.
  • The second failed clear came from Letang, and this one proved to be deadly. Like Niskanen, Letang had the puck on his forehand with no immediate pressure and needlessly hurried the play. But unlike Niskanen, Letang already had far more options to get the puck out, yet poorly chose to put the puck right up the middle and shoulder-high to a waiting Torey Krug. Krug immediately got the puck back towards the net, and the initial shot was tipped by Nathan Horton, who then buried his own rebound on the doorstep. That goal came right after the penalty had expired, and it could arguably be considered the game’s deciding goal, as the score became 2-0.
  • The most-inexplicable part of the Letang play was that the penalty was expiring as he got the puck, but he still was trying to clear it as if his team were down a man. Even if Letang had executed the play as intended, it would have been an icing infraction with a face-off in the Penguins’ zone. The team also would not have been able to change personnel, which would have left three defensemen and no centers on the ice. It is unclear if Letang was just unaware of the situation or if no one was communicating the end of the penalty to him. But either way, such a play embodied the team’s performance for the night: poor decisions, poor execution, lack of poise, lack of support, and a fatal outcome.

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Dave Fryer

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