Breakdown: Game 5 – Penguins 2, Maple Leafs 1

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Mike Babcock’s Leafs didn’t give the Penguins much trouble.

The Pens got their first look at the new Maple Leafs under Babcock. Kessel got a chance to play against his old team.

A win is a win, and 2-3 feels a lot better than 0-5 would have.

The Leafs are stocked with ex-Penguins: Daniel Winnik, Mark Arcobello and Nick Spaling. All three of those players were wholly underwhelming during their time in Pittsburgh. Doesn’t look like they’re going to do much better in Toronto.

Scuderi was inexplicably back in the lineup for the Penguins. Not sure what HCMJ is thinking right now.

Daniel Sprong should be in the NHL.

I have no shame in admitting I didn’t think Sprong would crack the NHL lineup to start the season, let alone during the 2015-16 season. I’m glad I was wrong.

The offense still looks stagnant. The powerplay is as bad as it was to finish the season last year, if not worse. If not for two colossal mental meltdowns by Jonathan Bernier tonight, the Penguins might not have scored at all.

Sprong looks like a guy who could help out the top six. Chris Kunitz continues to be basically invisible, except when he’s doing something embarrassing.

 

First period

Winnik started the game on the ice. I’ve seen a few articles about how Winnik “fits into Babcock’s system.” Based on Winnik’s brief tenure as a Penguin, Babcock’s system must rely on dime-a-dozen third line grinders.

Maatta took a stick to the face and the Pens went on a powerplay. Another Penguins cast-off, Arcobello, flew into the Penguins’ zone and almost scored a shorthanded goal on Fleury.

Malkin went to the box for something and the game was 4 on 4. Malkin jumped out of the box at the end of his penalty, blew by Arcobello and buried one. Bernier had no idea what even happened.

About five seconds later, the Pens pushed into the Leafs’ zone on the rush. Plotnikov took a shot. Big rebound. Maatta pushed the puck through Bernier’s legs. Don’t know if Bernier was even conscious during that sequence.

During the break after the second goal, Dan Potash mentioned that Babcock was making sure his players are all clean-shaven with short hair. All part of his master plan, along with giving players like Winnik and Arcobello meaningful minutes.

What Malkin’s line giveth, Malkin’s line taketh away. Malkin got pulled down by Dion Phaneuf in front of Bernier and away from the play. Then Jake Gardiner launched one into the Pens’ net while Perron and Malkin were still busy worrying about Phaneuf. Leo Komarov might have tipped it, but Gardiner was credited with the goal.

Crosby took a stick to the face and the Pens went back on the PP. The top unit had good puck movement, but Crosby broke his stick on a shot attempt. Still no goals on the PP.

 

Second period

Just seconds in, Crosby fed Kessel in the slot. Phil’s backhander went just wide of the Leafs’ net.

Maybe getting benched has motivated Plotnikov. He’s been more physical, crashing the net, taking shots, and generally looking a lot more like he cares.

Most of the second was back-and-forth.

Malkin took a solid whack to the face when Roman Polak tried to knock a puck out of the air. The powerplay, predictably, looked like piss.

 

Third period

At one point in this period, Sid took a faceoff to the left of the Leafs’ goal. He looked like he wanted nothing to do with winning it. He stepped back and waved his stick at it.

Still waiting for Crosby to bring his A game. This team will be significantly better when he buckles down and starts playing like Sidney Crosby. In the meantime, maybe Kessel on Malkin’s line?

Root Sports briefly crapped out. When it came back, Sprong almost scored on a wraparound backhand attempt.

Steiggy was pretty confused with the icing rules when the Leafs pulled Bernier. Letang cleared the puck the length of the ice and Patric Hornqvist raced down and beat the icing.

Kessel was part of the five-man unit against the Leafs’ six attackers and looked pretty good in the defensive role as well.

 

Penguins are back in action at home against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, October 20.