Playoff Thoughts: Game 1 vs Bruins

Conference Final Game 1: Bruins 3 Pens 0

Bruins Lead Series 1-0


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Stat Leaders

Shots: Malkin (5)
Blocked Shots: Iginla (3)
Hits: Dupuis & Morrow (4)
Takeaways: Dupuis & Kunitz (2)
Giveaways: Murray (2)
Ice Time: Letang (25:34) … Adams (8:19) *Cooke (5:32) due to penalties
Faceoffs: Jokinen (6/10) … Adams (0/4)

The Good

Tomas Vokoun Nathan Horton

Stretch Armstrong couldn't have saved that puck with no defense. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Tomas Vokoun: I imagine many of you who are clamoring for Fleury are now very confused by my decision here.  Vokoun stopped 27 of 30 shots and was mostly let down by his defense.  On the first goal, he was in proper position to stop the original shot but it deflected through him after hitting Martin.  On the second goal, Eaton turned the puck over and then Letang tried to play the puck in midair (eventually running into Vokoun), while Krejci waited for the puck to drop to shoot it past the Letang/Vokoun entanglement.  Finally, Vokoun had no chance at the 3rd goal as not a single Penguin acknowledged there was indeed a right half of the defensive zone.  He came up big on the Bergeron shorthanded breakaway and was solid on the penalty kill.  Vokoun certainly wasn’t the problem in this one and he kept the Penguins in it until they completely abandoned him.


Evgeni Malkin Patrice Bergeron

Malkin may have won the fight, but it was a good trade off for Boston. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Evgeni Malkin: The first two periods of Malkin’s game were outstanding.  He drew three penalties, had a defensive zone steal, and looked very strong in the offensive zone.  The only mistake he made early on was trying to play the puck at the point on Bergeron’s shorthanded breakaway.  After playing a strong first two periods, Malkin made a mistake in taking himself off the ice for 5 minutes by fighting Bergeron at the end of the second.  With the Pens down by a goal and on the powerplay, the Malkin for Bergeron trade off favored Boston.  The Pens ultimately failed to score on the PP and the Bruins added a 2nd goal before Malkin and Bergeron were out of the box.  The second best player in the game should never be sitting for 5 minutes when 1 shot can tie the game.  That was a very shortsighted decision by Malkin.

Jarome Iginla: I can’t blame Iginla for the fact he isn’t used like he should be on the powerplay, but I can blame him for his awful defensive work in Game 1.  On both the 1st and 3rd goals, Iginla got caught drifting around the ice and not committing to a man or even a zone to defend.  On the first goal, Krejci wasn’t technically his man.  However, Iginla definitely saw Krejci sliding into open space away from Crosby and he didn’t take a single stride towards him.  On the 3rd goal, Iggy got caught up in puck watching just like everyone else on the ice (aside from Neal).  He can’t control how Bylsma uses him, but he has to play more responsibly when he does get ice time.

Paul Martin: Martin looked very shaky in Game 1.  He was unlucky on the first goal against, but had a few difficulties after that as well.  He was caught out of position a few times, leading to a couple of odd man breaks, and he looked his worst when Jagr undressed him with some nice stickhandling close to the crease.  Martin’s biggest strength against Ottawa was his ability to determine when to step up on forwards at the blue line.  He didn’t appear to have nearly the same feel or confidence for it against the Bruins in Game 1.  Hopefully he can adjust in Game 2.

The Bad

Sidney Crosby Zdeno Chara

Someone put Crosby's jaw guard back on before he goes too far. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Sidney Crosby: After the first few shifts of the game, Sidney Crosby pretty much disappeared in terms of good things.  He missed his coverage of Krejci on the first goal against and also took two bad/unnecessary penalties.  He finished with 4 shots, and was flat out robbed by Rask at one point, but it was just a disappointing overall game from the Penguins captain.  Also, it’s very questionable how smart he was in jawing with Chara at the end of the 2nd period.  He’s a little lucky that Chara didn’t just pop him in the face, which probably would have been worth it for the Bruins captain to do.  Sid has to play better in Game 2.

Matt Niskanen: Niskanen has been rather disappointing through most of the playoffs and it continued in Game 1 against Boston.  He had multiple turnovers in the neutral zone and one turned into the eventual 3rd goal against.  For a defenseman that has shown decent skating skills and good puck-moving ability in the past, he seems completely unable to find his game right now.  The Pens can win easily without him producing, but he has to find a way to cut down on the mistakes at least.

Mark Eaton: Eaton looked about a half step slow through most of the game and committed a horrible turnover on the boards that led to the 2nd goal against.  One has to wonder if the week off hurt Eaton more than most players with his age and lack of mobility to begin with (though taking a puck to the face probably didn’t help).  He struggled to get into position for blocks and really just didn’t play his typical game.  I’m mildly curious to see if Bylsma eventually replaces him with a bigger defenseman to deal with Boston (read: Engelland).

Kris Letang: Letang had another mind-numbing game as he got way too involved in the offensive zone and played a positioning-optional game.  He was caught completely unprepared at the point when Bergeron went for his shorthanded breakaway.  He also spent much of his time in the offensive zone deep in the corners, where he was as ineffective as possible.  For that reason, he only had 1 shot on net for all of his O zone work.  In the defensive zone, he struggled on the crease and made a very low percentage play on the 2nd goal against as he tried to hit the puck in midair rather than keep Krejci off of it.  He then just abandoned the crease completely on the 3rd goal against.  Much like Crosby, Letang just has to be better in Game 2.

Misc. Thoughts

Cooke McQuaid

Penalty worthy? Absolutely. Should have been only two minutes though. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Cooke Hit: It was a penalty, there is no question it was a penalty.  The big question is what penalty it should have been (checking from behind vs boarding) and how long it should have been (2 vs 5).  In my mind, that was a 2 minute minor for boarding, which honestly is not called enough.  Comparing it to the Marchand hit on Neal, I would have given Marchand a 2 minute minor for boarding as well.  Both are dangerous hits.  Both need to be removed from the game.  But, both have also been usually (not consistently) called as 2 minute minors for boarding throughout the season.  In the end though, Cooke knew that was a bad hit to make. He was aware of it as he skated in.  He just shouldn’t have done it.  McQuaid has to be accountable for his actions too, but it all starts with Cooke, who didn’t need to make the hit.  Matt Cooke should know by now he’s going to be called tougher than anyone else on the ice, he needs to act like it.

Officiating: Inconsistency is the name of the game.  Moving away from the Cooke and Marchand hits, the Orpik interference call was an interesting one.  It was interference by the book, a great call….if everything else will be called that way.  Later in the game, Letang, Marchand, Kunitz, and Lucic all got away with textbook interference.  I have no problem with the Orpik call, it’s a penalty, but everything else should be called by the book too.  Both teams should have a gripe about how the referees handled that game, but you’ll only hear it from the Penguins because of the scoreboard.

Faceoffs: The Pens got destroyed on faceoffs (16/48).  Malkin was 1/6, Crosby 6/17, Adams 0/4, Sutter 3/10, and Jokinen was 6/10 as the only guy above 50%.  I hate to say it, but the Penguins simply aren’t going to win a lot of faceoffs against Boston.  Boston dominates EVERYONE in the faceoff circle.  Joe Vitale would be a useful addition in many ways to the lineup, including faceoffs, but it’s a foregone conclusion that the Pens will be lucky to win 50% in even one game.  They already know that, so they have to be smart about how they play off of faceoff losses and they must be prepared for it.

“Composure”: “Composure” was not an issue to me in this game even though it’s the popular narrative when the Penguins lose in the playoffs.  I certainly didn’t like Malkin fighting because it took him off for some valuable minutes, and I think Crosby is just stupid for egging on Chara when he just had his jaw guard removed, but the team didn’t lose because of composure.  They lost because Rask played great and they had 3 big defensive breakdowns.  None of those breakdowns were out of emotion or because of things happening away from the play.  The Pens just need to manage the puck better and keep shooting on Rask.  Composure isn’t an issue (yet).

Goalie Situation: No, it’s not Fleury’s time yet.  Vokoun didn’t cost the Penguins Game 1 and the only goal that was even close to questionable was the first one, which was still deflected past him.  Vokoun played well (see above) and it’s still his crease until he screws up.  He hasn’t yet.  If you’re calling for Fleury at this point, you have blinders on when it comes to how the team is playing vs how the goalie is playing.

Boston Bruins win

The Bruins are certainly much better than the Sens or Isles. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Game 2 Outlook: Though this certainly isn’t a must win, it is a highly suggested win.  Boston already stole home ice and the Penguins will be in quite a bit of trouble if they are down 2-0 going to Boston.  Changes that need to be made: Vitale in for Kennedy would be helpful for faceoffs and just energy for the 4th line, which was extremely quiet.  I would keep the defense as is for now, but I would be watching Eaton closely (and Niskanen, but Bylsma won’t pull him from the lineup).

Series Outlook: Well, Boston stole home ice advantage so the Penguins will need to steal one back in the future, but that’s for the future.  The Pens have to cut down on giveaways (they had 8, Bruins had 1) in Game 2 and just keep shooting on Rask.  I do not view this like Game 3 vs Ottawa though.  Rask played well but the Bruins are a much deeper and much more talented team than Ottawa.  Their defense is also vastly superior when healthy.  The Penguins will score on Rask, their offense is too good not to, but the key is going to be cutting down on defensive mistakes and learning how to win a game 2-1.  Defense is more likely to win this series than pure offense, and after one game, Boston has a leg up on that.  Time for Pittsburgh to find the style they played back in March.

+/- Assessment

1st Goal Against (Krejci): – for

  • Crosby – Moves toward the puck carrier with Orpik instead of paying attention to Krejci who moves to open space
  • Iginla – Didn’t take a single stride between the blue lines in backchecking the play
  • Martin – Goes down for the block but only gets a piece of it, so it deflects through Vokoun

2nd Goal Against (Krejci): – for

  • Eaton – Bobbles the puck on the boards, loses it, and then loses a puck battle to Horton on the boards
  • Letang – tries to smack the puck out of the air with his stick, misses, and then loses positioning on Krejci who is waiting for the puck to drop before scoring

3rd Goal Against (Horton): – for

  • Niskanen – turns the puck over in the neutral zone
  • Letang – leaves the crease area to chase a man that Niskanen is already pursuing
  • Malkin – follows the puck instead of watching Lucic or Horton
  • Iginla – follows the puck instead of watching Lucic or Horton

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