TAKEAWAYS AND OBSERVATIONS FROM THE PENGUINS 3-2 WIN OVER THE BRUINS
You’ll often hear some media types say October hockey is meaningless, especially if the Penguins lose which gets annoying, but the players obviously think October hockey isn’t meaningless. Last night’s Penguins – Bruins game was just a great hockey game top to bottom and had playoff type intensity to it. Here are some key takeways’s from the Penguins 3-2 win:
— The Penguins did a lot of good things systematically. The Penguins showed a strong commitment to team defense for almost sixty minutes, collapsing to the middle well in the d-zone and getting in front of pucks as the Penguins blocked 18 shots in the win, led by Matt Niskanen who had a team-high 4. From the Sutter goal to the Iginla goal, the Penguins played stout defensive hockey. The shot attempts in the game were nearly identical with Pittsburgh attempting 55 shots and Boston attempting 52 shots.
— On the breakout and in transition the Penguins were also impressive at times last night. The Penguins continuance to rely on the stretch pass burned them against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals but last night the Penguins were effective at spacing the Bruins out when breaking the puck out and getting the puck up the ice quickly in transition. Surprisingly, the Bruins got caught with poor gap control in the neutral zone from their d-man, and I think that had more to do with the young guys in the lineup on the backend. As good as Boston is defensively, I believe they will be seeking a veteran top-6 defenseman by the deadline due to the loss of Andrew Ference in free agency.
— I thought Bruins coach Claude Julien was spot on with his comments in how the Bruins didn’t play to their identity last night. Was that more to do about the Penguins? I’m not sure but the Bruins didn’t play “heavy” in the offensive zone which is how they caused the Penguins problems in the playoffs. The Bruins started playing heavy in the offensive zone with about two minutes left in the game. “You build your team around a certain identity and one of them is being big and strong on the boards and winning battles, but that wasn’t the case tonight, ” Julien said of his hockey club. “Give them credit, they were a determined team. For at least two periods, they were the better team when it came to that,” Julien said of the Penguins.
— Brandon Sutter’s snipe in the third period was nearly identical to the goal he scored in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was Sutter’s first goal in 13 games and he has a great shot especially coming down the right side. That type of shooting ability is why it’s a disappointment he’s such an inconsistent offensive player, regardless of who he’s playing with.
— Evgeni Malkin had maybe his best game of the season and he was all over the ice in the first period but he’s paid to produce and had no goals or points. Malkin has 10 points in 13 games this year and just 12 goals in his last 44 games.
— You never hear Patrice Bergeron mentioned as one of the top-5 players in the game but I bet there’s only one center in hockey the Bruins would trade Bergeron for and that’s Sidney Crosby, maybe Jonathan Toews. He is that good and if you could pick a center to play behind Crosby of all the players in the National Hockey League, Bergeron would be the perfect type of center behind him and the Penguins would probably have a second Stanley Cup in the Crosby era.
With all due respect to Evgeni Malkin, I’d rather have a Bergeron or Jonathan Toews to compliment Crosby. The Penguins by the way could have had Toews in the 2006 draft.
In regards to Bergeron, those type of two-way centermen who can shutdown a Sidney Crosby in a playoff series and still put up 60-70 points a season are just so rare.