Key Observations Heading Into Game 5 Between the Penguins and Rangers

The Pens Nation Gameday Report

By: Casey Johnston (@PensNationCasey)

I said heading into this series between the Penguins and Rangers that the key to success for the Penguins would be Sidney Crosby adding some goals to the assists he racked up during the Columbus series and Evgeni Malkin building on the brilliant performance he had to close out that series.  Crosby ended that series with six points, all assists while Malkin had three goals and four points.

Crosby had a slow start to the Rangers series, but finally ended his goal scoring drought in game three when he scored on a breakaway after receiving a stretch pass from Robert Bortuzzo.  On Wednesday night he added two more assists.  Evgeni Malkin’s start has not been so slow.  He has five points (2g-3a) in four games while posting Corsi ratings greater than 65% three times.

Crosby and Malkin are, however, not the only keys to the Penguins’ success in these playoffs.  Jussi Jokinen has an eight-game scoring streak where he has put up five goals and three assists.  This is particularly promising considering the fact that Jokinen was a healthy scratch for several games in last years playoffs and was written off by many fans going into this season.  Whether it was Ray Shero’s confidence or lack of a trading partner, Jokinen has thanked the Penguins by producing 3.55 points per 60 minutes, good for third in the NHL.  He is also third among the Penguin forwards with a 57.8% Corsi rating.

Finally, the contributions of Brandon Sutter cannot be ignored.  After scoring just two goals in 15 playoff games last year, Sutter now has four goals and six points in 10 games.  He has won 54% of his total faceoffs.  He has started only 30.7% of his shifts in the offensive zone but has ended 47.6% of them there.  This incredible turnaround is the reason why Sutter has only been on the ice for one even strength goal against, giving him a goals against per 60 minutes of .52 through 10 games.

Winning at hockey takes a team effort, but that effort is enhanced by individual performances.  Right now, the Penguins are getting those individual performances not only from stars like Crosby and Malkin, but role players like Sutter, Craig Adams, and Brian Gibbons.  For a team that had serious depth problems during the regular season, getting secondary scoring in the playoffs has been a welcome relief for for the Penguins.