By: Meesh Shanmugam
Pens 4 Rangers 3
Series: Tied at 1
Sutter (1) (PP) from Downie, Kunitz
Crosby (1) from Hornqvist, Cole
Crosby (2) from Kunitz, Martin
Kunitz (1) (PP) from Sutter, Perron
Click here to read the goal assessments
Cole (high-sticking) – Careless (reaches out to poke check Miller and hits Miller in the face as his stick rides up Miller’s stick, hits him in the chest, then hits him in the face)
Kunitz (high-sticking) – Careless (tries to stick-check Nash with one hand and ends up hitting Nash in the face)
Hornqvist (slashing) – Overly aggressive (tries to pull his stick over Kreider’s to get to the puck and slashes down on Kreider’s stick, breaking it for a penalty)
Spaling (boarding) – Unnecessary (lines up Hunwick and hits him in the back into the boards during a puck battle)
Cole (hooking) – Unnecessary (wraps his stick around the midsection of Brassard as they battle for a loose puck at the crease in the Penguins zone, but the puck was behind both of them so Brassard never had a chance to play it anyways)
Comeau (slashing) – Overly aggressive (tries to get his stick on Staal’s as he plays the puck in the neutral zone, but ends up slashing him across the arm)
Sutter (hooking) – Overly aggressive (tries to chase down Hunwick in the neutral zone and gets his stick into Hunwick’s hands, pulling him back and down to the ice)
- Good: Scored two goals on three shots, broke up two plays in the defensive zone, forced two turnovers, intercepted two passes, and recorded two takeaways.
- Bad: Gave the puck away twice in the offensive zone.
- Overall: Much has been said about Crosby’s goal-scoring troubles in the playoffs, but that all went out the door with a strong performance in Game 2. Crosby scored his first goal of the series on a backhander at the crease after Hornqvist made a perfect pass to him skating to the area. Crosby’s second goal of the game was even flashier as he redirected/shot a pass from Kunitz in the slot as he fell to the ice, putting the puck past Lundqvist just inside of the post. His game wasn’t all offense though as he contributed by breaking up and intercepting passes defensively. It’s about time that Crosby was rewarded for the solid performances that he has been having down the stretch.
- Good: Scored one goal on two shots, recorded two assists, and intercepted a pass in the neutral zone.
- Bad: Had three giveaways, lost track of a defensive zone coverage, and took a careless high-sticking penalty.
- Overall: Oddly enough, Kunitz had his most productive game in months despite not having the best puck management game throughout the night. He may have had three giveaways, but points win games, so kudos to him on the three-point night. He assisted on Sutter’s goal by taking a shot that hit Downie in front, causing the puck to land in front of Sutter in the slot for an easy goal with Lundqvist losing track of the puck. He later assisted on Crosby’s second goal with a perfect pass into the slot where only Crosby could get a stick on it. Finally, he scored a powerplay goal on the 2nd powerplay line as he backhanded a rebound from Sutter’s initial wraparound attempt past Lundqvist’s glove. If Kunitz can keep creating offense, the Penguins will be a more formidable opponent than anyone expected.
- Good: Forced two turnovers in the defensive zone and drew a penalty.
- Bad: Lost a puck in the neutral zone, had a failed clear, lost track of a coverage in the defensive zone which partially led to Stepan’s goal in the first period, and took a slashing penalty, which led to a goal against.
- Overall: Comeau’s struggles continued into Game 2 as he was partially at fault for two of the three goals against. On the first one by Stepan, he came onto the ice as the last man on a line change and skated straight to the opposite side of the ice despite both forwards in front of him doing the same thing, which left an entire half of the ice for Stepan to skate through uncovered before his goal. Comeau was then later in the penalty box for slashing as the Rangers scored another goal. He did have a couple of nice plays in the defensive zone with two turnovers, but his overall play has clearly suffered with his lingering wrist injury and demotion to the 4th line. He is definitely making matters worse by taking penalties on top of it.
- Good: Recorded an assist, blocked five shots, intercepted four passes, broke up four plays in the defensive zone, forced a neutral zone turnover, and drew a penalty.
- Bad: Lost two coverages, lost the puck twice, gave the puck away once, and took two penalties.
- Overall: Cole was involved in seemingly every play from start to finish as he was all over the defensive zone and contributed offensively, as usual. He read the play extremely well when he didn’t have the puck, which led to five blocks, four interceptions, and four broken-up plays. He also figured in on two goals by retrieving a rebound and getting it to Sutter to start the play on the first goal, and sending a perfect pass through the neutral zone to spring Hornqvist into the offensive zone on Crosby’s first goal. On the bad side, Cole was a little careless with high-sticking and hooking penalties and he did struggle with New York’s speed at times in the defensive zone. In the end though, it was a productive game and he did much more good than bad in a solid effort.
- Good: Blocked three shots, forced a defensive zone turnover, broke up a play in the defensive zone, and drew two penalties.
- Bad: Had one defensive zone giveaway.
- Overall: Chorney won’t be mistaken for a top-four defenseman anytime soon, but he had another strong performance on the 3rd pairing. He has played smart and simple hockey in the defensive zone and he has protected the puck well, which led to him drawing two penalties. He and Cole were both very smart about blocking shots in the slot and crease areas (to be discussed further below), which is certainly one of the reasons that both ended up as positive noteworthy players. Chorney just needs to keep doing exactly what he’s doing for the Penguins as they await Ehrhoff and Pouliot.
- Good: Blocked two shots, had two takeaways in the defensive zone, forced a defensive zone turnover, and broke up a play in the defensive zone.
- Bad: Had two giveaways, failed to clear the puck three times, and lost track of two coverages, one of which led to the first goal against.
- Overall: Scuderi’s issues are essentially the same ones that he’s had all season, but they certainly look worse at times against a team as fast as the Rangers. He struggled with the puck, giving it away twice and then failing to clear it along the boards an additional three times. With how quick the Rangers are, his board clears from below the goal line struggle to get out of the zone before someone can cut it off. He also had issues at times covering the speed of New York, which was one of the factors in the first goal against as Stepan skated freely down the right side of the zone. Scuderi had no ability to step up on the pass or step near Stepan to defend him on that goal. With Cole breaking up as many plays as he has, hopefully he can just continue to take care of Scuderi and that pairing.
Penalties – As Johnston addressed in today’s media availability, the league has told everyone that stick infractions will be called more frequently and the Penguins simply have to cut down on them. Most (if not all) of the team’s penalties were completely avoidable. The amount of high-sticks, hooks, and slashes that this team has taken is careless and generally stupid. It’s just a matter of keeping sticks lower, which should not be a hard lesson to learn or proceed with in this series. If nothing else, the high-sticks need to disappear for how utterly careless they are.
Special Teams – Despite the constant rotation through the penalty box, the penalty kill did a wonderful job to kill six out of seven penalties and the powerplay did their part with two goals. The PK was extremely strong for the most part as they kept the Rangers to the perimeter and blocked shots in front of the net. Fleury also made a couple of great one-timer saves on Stepan as he read the puck movement by the Rangers perfectly. The goal that the PK did allow was a messy minute of PK time as the Rangers kept getting rebounds and it finally worked out that a rebound went directly to Brassard next to the net. Overall though, the PK kept the Penguins ahead and the Rangers seemed to lose their game flow after most of their powerplay chances (sound familiar?). Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s powerplay looked solid, especially when the 2nd unit came on. Perron, Sutter, and Kunitz did an excellent job of moving the puck around and it resulted in two goals for them (Sutter and Kunitz). They kept it simple and tried to get the puck on net, so hopefully the first unit takes a page from that. Between the PK and the 2nd PP unit, special teams turned into a strength quickly.
Defensive Posture – One nice thing that the PK and the entire defense did all game was to keep the Rangers to the outside. Most of New York’s dangerous shots were limited to the areas around the faceoff dots or further out and most of the defense did a wonderful job of blocking shots all night. Any time the Rangers did get the puck in the high slot, there was usually a defender ready to drop at the top of the crease to block it (most notably, Cole and Chorney). The other nice thing that the defense did was to work in tandem to hit the opposing forward entering the zone along the boards just to slow him down enough so the second defenseman could grab the puck and the forwards could come back to help. It was a solid effort at just slowing down the attack of the Rangers and supporting each other when possible. All of this will need to continue for the Penguins to take this series. One thing the defense will need to watch out for though – screening Fleury. Several of New York’s best chances in the first period came because Fleury couldn’t see the puck. Playing the block-the-shot game can be dangerous for the goalie if the defenseman misses.
Series Outlook – The Penguins stole a game on the road and head back to Pittsburgh in great shape for this series. They have played the entire series tight except for the first period in Game 1, proving to everyone, and most importantly themselves, that they can keep up with the Rangers. Special teams will continue to be the key and the powerplay scoring was an unexpected twist to add to the Penguins offense. Malkin looked healthier in Game 2, so if he continues on that path, the powerplay continues to look good, and Crosby/Kunitz find the back of the net, the Penguins will be in great shape moving forward. The opportunity is there for the Penguins; it’s time to see if they can take advantage of it at Consol, which has not been kind to them in years past.
Next Game: Game 3 vs NYR, Monday 4/20, 7pm
Thanks for reading!