TAKEAWAYS AND OBSERVATIONS FROM THE PENGUINS 5-1 LOSS TO THE RANGERS
— The biggest takeaway out of the Penguins 5-1 loss to the New York Rangers is that the way the Penguins loss Wednesday night is how they lose in the playoffs over the last several years. The Penguins opened the game buzzing and were dictating the play but after not being able to put the puck in the back of the net, the game quickly turned on them as Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan scored a 1:06 apart late in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. From there the Penguins had no answers and were never a threat in the game. The Rangers dominated the final 45 minutes of the game as the Penguins were plagued by poor puck control in the neutral zone, erratic play in the defensive zone, subpar goaltending and even a skilled player like Chris Kreider seemed to get under the skin of Sidney Crosby; Does that storyline sound familiar or what.
— Under John Tortorella the Rangers always came off as a team that really struggled to match up with the Penguins team speed. Last night the Rangers team speed was a huge asset and they gave the Penguins a taste of their own medicine. It was the Rangers not the Penguins that were pushing the play offensively with speed and New York was effective in transition through the neutral zone as their speed guys on the wings in Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, and Chris Kreider were big factors in getting the Penguins spaced out and had the Penguins blueliners on their heels all game. For one night the Rangers played exactly how management envisioned with the hiring of Alain Vigneault. Personnel wise, the coaching change looks to be a great thing for Kreider who is showing star ability again.
— The Penguins by no means played well in front of Marc Andre Fleury but Fleury was due for an off game and last night was it. Fleury seemed to struggle all night in getting set, most notably on the McDonagh goal which should have been an easy save and on the Brian Boyle goal, Fleury also didn’t square up the shooter, while he took a poor angle on Derek Stepan’s goal. It wasn’t a good night for most Penguins, including Fleury. After the one bad game, people are taking their shots at Fleury. Larry Brooks of the New York Posts writes, “Wednesday’s seemed like a playoff game for the Rangers. Come to think of it, the way pucks were going in against Fleury, it seemed like a playoff game for the Penguins, too.”
— The way Kris Letang has played this season is why those rumblings of him being a longshot to be one of Team Canada’s regulars (top-6 on blueline) are likely spot on. He’s a top-10 defenseman in the game but his game remains very erratic. Letang leads the Penguins in giveaways with 12 despite playing just seven games. You can bet the stats that the coaches keep, which are considered more accurate, have Letang’s giveaways around 20.
— The defensive pairing of Robert Bortuzzo and Olli Maatta was atrocious, on the ice for three goals against. Bortuzzo seemed to be fumbling the puck all night and it’s going to be a test how Maatta responds after his first shaky game as a pro.
— A player like Dustin Jeffrey, you have to play a mistake free game. After last night’s performance, Jeffrey and the press box are going to be best friends again. Jeffrey had two brutal turnovers in the neutral zone and was a minus-2 in the loss. It’s still a head scratcher why the Penguins keep him around, especially since they rarely use him as a center. Jeffrey is no fit on the 4th line and the Penguins would be better off having a grit guy like Harry Zolnierczyk up as the fill in player on the 4th line.
— Evgeni Malkin no goals in nine games and just 3 goals in 16 games. Just Unacceptable. His effort last night just didn’t seemed to be there. I get asked what I think is wrong with him and I really just don’t know. I’m not buying the lack of winger theory. He’s still not creating enough on his own.
— The Penguins were great defensively against Columbus Saturday night in front of backup Jeff Zatkoff, but this is now two out of three games where the d-zone play has been very poor. Friday night Fleury bailed them out, last night he didn’t.