Thoughts: Eastern Conference Semifinals Game 5 – Rangers 5 Pens 1

Rangers 5  Pens 1

Pens lead the series 3-2.

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

Goals
Malkin (6) from Letang

The Rangers have a very powerful story line in Martin St. Louis right now. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The Rangers have a very powerful story line in Martin St. Louis right now. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Game 5 Leaders
Shots: Letang (6)
Missed Shots: Letang (3)
Blocked Shots: Martin (5)
Hits: Bennett (5)
Ice Time: Martin (25:38) … Vitale (8:18)
Faceoffs: Sutter (13/18) … Goc (5/13)
CF% Rel: Vitale (+24.6%) … Neal (-25.4%)
Team PP: 0 for 4 (0%)
Team PK: 1 for 3 (33.3%)

Playoff Leaders (Min. 8gp)
Goals: Malkin, Jokinen (6)
Assists: Crosby, Martin (8)
Points: Malkin (13)
Shots: Neal (38)
Missed Shots: Crosby (20)
Blocked Shots: Martin (32)
Hits: Kunitz (36)
Ice Time/game: Martin (27:22) … Vitale (9:28)
Faceoffs: Sutter (95/170, 55.9%) … Malkin (34/76, 44.7%)
CF% Rel: Crosby (+10.1%) … Scuderi (-9.5%)
Team PP: 7 for 44 (15.9%), 3 SHG allowed
Team PK: 36 for 45 (80%), 3 SHG for

Goal Assessments through Game 5. Yay Malkin. Boo Scuderi.

Goal Assessments through Game 5. Yay Malkin. Boo Scuderi.

Player Assessment

Good
Malkin loves his spinning bad angle goals. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Malkin loves his spinning bad angle goals. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Evgeni Malkin – Though most of the team seemed uninterested in hockey, Malkin did everything he could to give the Penguins momentum and a chance to compete. He drew two penalties (tripping, slashing), forced two defensive zone turnovers, intercepted two offensive zone passes, had two offensive zone takeaways, and even ran interference for Scuderi in the defensive zone to help Scuderi with a clear. Of course, none of that includes his highlight reel goal as he took on Girardi and Staal 1-on-2, beat them both, and then retrieved his own rebound to score on Lundqvist. Malkin did finish up with two defensive zone turnovers and a neutral zone turnover as well, but he was clearly the best player on the ice for Pittsburgh.

Paul Martin – Martin was the only other Penguin that had a “good” game, though he had some costly mistakes as well. He had two offensive zone turnovers, one of which turned into a 2-on-1 against, and he also had a defensive zone turnover which led to the 2nd Rangers goal. On the plus side though, Martin broke up two defensive zone passes, forced two neutral zone turnovers with poke checks, had a couple of good offensive zone pinches, intercepted a pass in the offensive zone, and also prevented two defensive zone entries by standing his man up. Aside from that 2nd goal against, Martin and Letang continue to be an almost perfect pairing.

Noteworthy
Crosby didn't look hurt this game either, so no excuses this time. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Crosby didn’t look hurt this game either, so no excuses this time. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Sidney Crosby – Crosby was very unremarkable in Game 5. I only marked him down for four plays: a defensive zone pass interception, defensive zone takeaway, offensive zone turnover, and bad coverage on the 2nd goal against. Much like most of the team, Crosby just didn’t seem involved in the play frequently. He had some nice chances in the slot, getting robbed by Lundqvist on a redirect attempt and also having his stick lifted perfectly by Dorsett, but it certainly wasn’t the type of performance where Crosby struck fear in the opponent by any means. I don’t consider goals to be a necessity from Crosby, but he should be more visible than he was.

Bad
Can we impeach Scuderi? (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Can we impeach Scuderi? (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Rob Scuderi – Through much of this series, Scuderi has trended around average to decent and has received more flak than he probably deserved. That went out the door as he took a nosedive in Game 5. Scuderi failed in just about every aspect of the game possible. He lost two puck battles in the defensive zone, got caught in the neutral zone twice to create 2-on-1s against, had three defensive zone turnovers, failed to clear the puck twice on one penalty kill sequence that led to the 4th goal against, and was knocked off of a puck completely in the corner of the defensive zone. For the first time ever, I am left wondering if Deryk Engelland is a better option.

James Neal – Neal had a rough game with the puck and wasn’t helped by the fact that he missed time towards the end of the second period after blocking a shot that sent him back to the Penguins locker room. He had two neutral zone turnovers, failed to get the puck into the offensive zone twice, and was knocked off of the puck in the offensive zone on a sequence where he didn’t cover his man either leading to the 3rd goal against. There is no surprise in Neal producing less since he isn’t on the first powerplay and isn’t even on a line with Malkin consistently anymore, but he has to manage the puck better at least.

Misc. Thoughts

Could we see Tanner Glass in for Beau Bennett on Sunday? (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Could we see Tanner Glass in for Beau Bennett on Sunday? (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Other Player NotesMarcel Goc had a good game but was easily overlooked with the ugly loss. He had two takeaways and did a great job covering for pinching defensemen twice. Beau Bennett had a very physically weak game. He was knocked off of the puck several times and had three offensive zone turnovers. He also caused the too many men penalty according to Bylsma, who said that Bennett jumped on the ice while the changing players were too far away. Kris Letang had a decent game and led the team with shots (6). He had two pass interceptions and assisted on Malkin’s goal. Marc-Andre Fleury let up a bad first goal against and looked shaky with his demeanor through much of the game. There was a notable sequence after it was 4-1 where a puck got past Fleury and slid through the crease out the other side. Fleury’s immediate reaction was to put his head down before realizing the play was still going on. Fleury has fought off several demons this postseason, but that is still something to watch.

Desire – There’s no arguing it, the Penguins lost this game decisively because the Rangers wanted it more and worked much harder for it. Over the past three games, the Penguins looked like a very cohesive group as they won puck battles, provided each other with constant puck support, and won most of the puck races. All of that was missing in Game 5. The Rangers started the game very strong as they had their defensemen pinching from the very first shift. They won most of the puck races in the Penguins zone, earned several takeaways by winning puck battles along the boards, and generally outworked the Penguins. In response, the Penguins stopped working as a supportive five-man unit and started to focus more on individual battles that they kept losing with no support. The final win of a series is usually the toughest to get, but there’s no real excuse for the Penguins to come out as flat as they did and not be ready for the Rangers’ best. Unlike Columbus, who had the desire but not the talent, the Rangers do have the talent to knock off the Penguins if they outwork them every game.

Powerplays – It was just a fleeting thought in the Game 4 post, but now it’s an issue. The Penguins powerplay is officially worse than the Rangers in this series. They have gone 1-for-15 and haven’t looked all that scary. There was some bad luck as James Neal wasn’t available for the 5-on-3 after blocking a shot and Chris Kunitz blocked a Sidney Crosby shot that was surely heading into the net, but this team has too much talent for the powerplay to die off like this. Among the questionable decisions: using Kris Letang on the 5-on-3 and having him on the top powerplay instead of Matt Niskanen. I’m also still against the two-defensemen powerplay (and I didn’t like it initially, so it’s not just based on results), because it takes away a huge scoring threat in Neal, who makes his living on the powerplay. Regardless, the Rangers powerplay was bound to score again and the Penguins powerplay better join in to put New York away.

Now that Ryan McDonagh and the Rangers powerplay are back to normal, this series is much more interesting.

Now that Ryan McDonagh and the Rangers powerplay are back to normal, this series is much more interesting. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Series Outlook – The Rangers looked more like the normal Rangers in Game 5, and that’s still without Nash or St. Louis scoring. McDonagh played much better, though Girardi still had some issues on defense. New York still hasn’t reached their peak, and I don’t know if they can/will, but that’s a concerning thought still as they are now trending up. Meanwhile, the Penguins are still more talented and just need to show the same desire that the Rangers did in Game 5 or the same commitment that they demonstrated in Games 2-4. The Pens *should* walk away from Game 5 with a lesson learned and finish the job in Game 6. Watch out for the Rangers rallying around St. Louis, their great performance in Game 5, and mother’s day on Sunday though. Madison Square Garden was quiet in Games 3 and 4, but that place will erupt for St. Louis on mother’s day for an emotional day. It’s impossible to predict who wins Game 6 with the inconsistent efforts the Penguins put forth, but the mental/emotional edge definitely goes to New York.

Fleeting Thoughts – The Malkin penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct was an interesting highlight of “game management” by the referees. I didn’t think it should have been called at all, but I fully understand the refs calling it because they didn’t want the game to get out of hand just seconds after Crosby, Moore, and Letang were in a scrum. Like it or not, those tactics do exist from the refs. … I really liked Bylsma’s decision to pull Fleury with over 5 minutes left in the game on the powerplay. That move forced the Penguins to really play out the end of the game rather than mailing it in. It’s a promising gesture if nothing else. … Based on getting outworked/outhit/out-competed, I would not be shocked to see Tanner Glass re-enter the lineup on Sunday. Sorry in advance.

Goal Assessment

First Goal Against (Kreider)
Robert Bortuzzo is in the penalty box for a delay of game penalty. Paul Martin blocks a shot from the point in the slot and the puck trickles towards the left faceoff dot in the Penguins zone. Chris Kreider, who had been standing on the crease, chases after the puck and makes a diving poke check at it to knock it back to Ryan McDonagh at the left point. McDonagh one-times the puck on net and Fleury kicks out the rebound just below the left faceoff circle, where Kreider has just gotten up. Kreider quickly one-times the puck from below the left faceoff circle and it hits Fleury’s right pad and bounces into the net as Fleury doesn’t keep his pad flush against the post.
Players at fault for first goal against: Bortuzzo (1), Fleury (6)

Second Goal Against (Brassard)
On a faceoff in the defensive zone, the puck ends up in the left corner of the Penguins zone as Paul Martin and Benoit Pouliot battle for the puck. Martin starts to skate out of the corner with the puck but has it knocked away by Pouliot so it slides to the left faceoff dot. Mats Zuccarello shoots the loose puck on net and Fleury makes the save. Derick Brassard is the only man on the crease to play the rebound though since Sidney Crosby did not follow him there and was just watching the play. Brassard grabs the loose puck at Fleury’s pads, pulls the puck across the crease as Fleury tries to stretch out, and backhands the puck past Fleury’s left pad as he trips over Fleury’s stick.
Players at fault for second goal against: Martin (4), Crosby (2)
*One can argue that Kris Letang is partially at fault because he needlessly iced the puck leading to the defensive zone faceoff. However, I didn’t fault him since play starts anew with the faceoff.

First Goal For (Malkin)
Kris Letang retrieves a loose puck in the Penguins zone and passes it up to Evgeni Malkin at center ice. Malkin turns and starts skating full speed into the Rangers zone as Dan Girardi and Marc Staal back up. Malkin continues skating at them, pushing the puck through Girardi’s legs and trying to skate in between the two defensemen as they try to close him off from the puck. Malkin gets past Girardi and Staal misses his attempt to make contact with or slow Malkin down, allowing Malkin to get to the loose puck in the slot. Malkin quickly takes a shot that is saved by Lundqvist, but a rebound pops out towards the right. Malkin gets the rebound almost along the goal line and quickly turns around to fire it on net, putting it under Lundqvist’s glove and into the net as he sprawls out desperately.
Players contributing to the first goal for: Letang (7), Malkin (13)

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Third Goal Against (Brassard)
Marc Staal knocks James Neal off of a puck in the Rangers zone for a takeaway. He moves the puck over to Anton Stralman, who makes a long pass up to the Penguins blue line for Mats Zuccarello. Zuccarello carries the puck down the right side boards in the Penguins zone as Matt Niskanen pursues him. Zuccarello fights through a couple of Niskanen’s stick checks and goes behind the net with Niskanen still following him before making a blind pass back to the right faceoff dot. Anton Stralman, who Neal strays away from in coverage, steps in from the right point to one-time the blind pass on net. Fleury makes the save with his right pad and the rebound bounces out to the slot to Derick Brassard. Paul Martin immediately drops to the ice in front of the crease to block Brassard’s initial shot. Meanwhile, Jussi Jokinen skates in front of Fleury and gets tangled up with him slightly, hindering Fleury from making a natural save attempt on Brassard’s shot that was blocked by Martin and sending him into scramble mode. The rebound from Martin’s block goes right back to Brassard, who holds the puck as Martin stays down for another block attempt, Fleury is down on the crease, and Jokinen is facing the net so he has no clue that he should be challenging Brassard. Brassard then lifts the puck and puts it under the crossbar into the net.
Players at fault for the third goal against: Neal (4), Jokinen (4)

Fourth Goal Against (McDonagh)
Evgeni Malkin is in the penalty box serving a bench penalty for too many men, which was caused by Beau Bennett. Off of a defensive zone faceoff win, Rob Scuderi takes the puck behind the net and tries to clear the puck off of the glass. The puck is kept in the zone at the right point by Ryan McDonagh, who then takes a wrist shot towards the net. The shot is partially blocked by Paul Martin and the puck goes to the right corner. Scuderi is the first to the puck but he has his stick lifted by Benoit Pouliot. He then makes a second attempt to move the puck and plays it directly to Derrick Brassard on the goal line in the right corner. Brassard holds the puck there as everyone skates back into normal powerplay and penalty kill formations. Brassard tries to move the puck to Mats Zuccarello at the right faceoff dot, but the puck is poked away by Scuderi. It glides to the right point and McDonagh steps into a slapshot that beats Fleury’s glove as he can’t see the shot initially with Pouliot skating in front of him.
Players at fault for the fourth goal against: Bennett (3), Scuderi (5)

Fifth Goal Against (Klein)
With Marc-Andre Fleury pulled for the extra attacker, Rick Nash plays a puck into the right corner of the Penguins zone. Chris Kreider is the first man to the puck and he tries to skate it out of the right corner up the boards, but he is closed off by Jussi Jokinen following him and Olli Maatta from the other side. Jokinen gets the puck and tries to pass it up ice, but Chris Kreider gets a stick on the pass and knocks it to the middle of the zone. Kreider chases the puck down and keeps control of it despite a poke check from Brandon Sutter. Kreider then moves the puck to the left point for Kevin Klein, who slapshots the puck into an empty net.
Players at fault for the fifth goal against: Jokinen (5)

Penalty Assessment

Bortuzzo (delay of game): Bad-Careless, tries to clear the puck off of the glass from the defensive zone and puts it over the glass.
Penguins (too many men): Bad-Stupid, Beau Bennett plays the puck after getting off the bench before Jussi Jokinen has made it to the bench for a change. In the postgame press conference, Bylsma stated that Bennett left the bench too early.
Letang (roughing): Inconsequential, shoves Dominic Moore in the head as Moore and Crosby have words, drawing Moore to shove him back in the face as they both go off for roughing penalties.
Malkin (unsportsmanlike conduct): Bad Call, takes an extra jab at Lundqvist’s glove after the puck is covered and gets called for unsportsmanlike conduct. It was a weak call, but somewhat understandable as the refs had just dealt with Crosby/Moore/Letang and were trying to force everyone to calm down.
Gibbons (cross-checking): Inconsequential, gets hit a little late by Moore and then proceeds to cross-check him in the face and they both get minor penalties.
Jokinen (cross-checking): Inconsequential, gets into a scuffle with John Moore as they both cross-check each other in front of the Rangers net. Both get minor penalties and Moore gets an extra for slashing.

Next Game: Game 6 @ NYR: Sunday, 5/11, 7pm
Pens lead the series 3-2.

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