Penguins – Panthers What We Learned
The Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night escaped with a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
Best way to put it is that it was a fortunate two points for the Penguins.
No player came up bigger than Tristan Jarry in goal.
Jarry was sensational with 33 saves, making a number a number of side to side athletic saves. His quickness on side to side puck movement is prime Fleury-esque.
Pittsburgh was atrocious for several long stretches in giving the Panthers the middle of the ice. From just a couple minutes into the game to the waning, Jarry was bailing his teammates out.
The Penguins did little well in all three zones, including struggles in the faceoff circle, winning just 38% of their draws.
For the Penguins what stood out again in a negative way was how the opposition controlled the play 5 vs 5. The underlying numbers over their last seven gamesunderlying numbers over their last seven gamesunderlying numbers over their last seven games against playoff level teams to top contenders has been very poor and the biggest thing to look for is whether the numbers meet the eye test. It doesn’t always which is why you can’t always give significant weight to poor possession or scoring chance numbers, ect. Those who sit behind a computer and come to conclusions without watching a minute of games continues to be a crazy phenomenon in hockey over the years.
But, what’s been the case of late is that the eye test continues to match the numbers and it’s starting to become concerning.
5 vs 5 #'s
Shot Attempts: FLA 51 – PIT 31
Shots on Goal: FLA 29 – PIT 16
Scoring Chances: FLA 16 – PIT 10
Pittsburgh being at 37% in shot attempt differential and 38% in Scoring Chance For percentage sounds just about right from the hockey game I watched.
Despite the poor 5 v 5 numbers, Pittsburgh came out of this even (2 GF- 2GA), thanks to some fortunate bounces in Kris Letang being handed a breakaway on a platter out of the box and Teddy Blueger getting a fluke bounce land right on his stick.
With limited power play opportunities, Pittsburgh won the special teams game, going 1-for-1 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
Crosby’s power play goal off a feed from Jared McCann was Crosby providing a great read down low in creating a 2-on-1 opportunity in numbers for McCann with Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk having no clue Crosby was creeping right behind him. McCann had two high percentages plays to make there.
Defenseman Kris Letang
25:41 TOI, Goal, Assist, 5 SOG
Kris Letang had such a Kris Letang game in the Penguins 3-2 win. Played 25+ minutes, had a goal, assist, team-high 5 shots and was named the games No. 2 star by the media.
Letang’s first period goal came on a breakaway right out of the box as few defenseman are as special as Letang is with the puck when it doesn’t have to think.
Letang then played a part on the Teddy Blueger goal just 4:14 later as he makes a heads up play in reading the Panthers are changing and opens himself up to gain the zone. This is what Letang often does so well in Pittsburgh’s possession game.
But, what made it such a Kris Letang game was the maddening mental mistakes defensively that at this point in his career, are never going away
#1. Mike Hoffman Goal
Pittsburgh holds a 2-0 lead late in the first period, a game they probably shouldn’t be leading. Late in period when leading, you have to have the mindset to tighten things up, lets to the period with a lead. What Letang is doing here, I have no clue. He completely takes himself out of position on the play as Vantro who is pulling up, hits a trailing Mike Hoffman, a lethal shooter. This was just in-excusable defense and a lack of awareness by Letang that Hoffman was ever there as an option.
#2. Late 2nd Period
Letang has free rein in the Penguins system. Coaches have come to the point where you live with the good and live with the bad. Letting him play a risky style is best for the team they believe.
When the Penguins are cycling up high near the point and Pittsburgh D’ crisscross, Letang will often try to find an open spot around the left faceoff dot.
Here’s an example in the first period. It’s something you want from a skilled defenseman like Letang and it provides spacing against the opposition.
However, thinking this way for 100% of the game is just problematic and it almost caught the Penguins late in the second period. Jack Johnson, not a good puck handler, has the puck at the point with around 25 seconds left and Letang is all the way over at the left wall on the faceoff circle.
It put him in no mans land to defend what happened — a blocked shot and a scoring opportunity the other way by a dangerous goal scorer. In the waning seconds of a period with a one goal lead, you just can’t have mental mistakes like that. And of course this isn’t some one game thing. That’s always been the problem for a player who gets almost 30 minutes a night when you have situational awareness mistakes Letang continues to have.
#3. Final Seconds
More positional awareness issues as Letang was again caught in no mans landing on Pittsburgh’s defensive gaffe in allowing a breakaway in the final seconds of the game. Evgeni Malkin completely botched his defensive alignment as the F3 on the weakside by puck watching and leaving his lane by gliding towards the puck carrier, but again, it’s something to wonder what Letang is thinking here with his spacing.
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