Playoff Thoughts: Game 1 vs. Islanders

Quarterfinal Game 1: Pens 5  Isles 0

Bennett (1) (PP) from Malkin, Martin
Dupuis (1) from Adams, Iginla
Letang (1) (PP) from Iginla, Malkin
Dupuis (2) from Eaton, Jokinen
Glass (1) from Jokinen

| TPN Recap |

Stat Leaders

Shots: Malkin (4)
Missed Shots: Iginla (3)
Blocks: Eaton (8)
Hits: Glass (6)
Takeaways: Adams & Letang (2)
Ice Time: Letang (25:20) … Glass (12:41)  **Neal (8:09) was injured
Faceoffs: Jokinen (7/12) … Sutter (8/19)

The Good

Marc-Andre Fleury: Starting with the man who tied Tom Barrasso’s franchise record for playoff shutouts, MAF was all smiles after making 26 saves to finish a perfect night.  He didn’t have a ton of difficult saves to make, but he did bail out the penalty kill a couple of times when necessary and he had a very flashy glove save late in the 3rd to preserve his shutout.  For as many blocks as the Pens had, the most impressive part of Fleury’s game was that he always found the puck even when he was being screened.

Third Line: The third line as a group played a fantastic game, led by Brenden Morrow who was clearly built for playoff hockey.  While Morrow didn’t find his way onto the scoresheet, he led a very effective forecheck (5 hits) and was simply brutal with the Islanders on every shift.  He was a big reason that the 3rd line spent much of their time in the offensive zone.  Brandon Sutter had a subpar faceoff night (8/19) but was very strong positionally and drew a penalty.  Matt Cooke also drew a penalty (and took one himself too) and was very effective on the penalty kill.  All three players really played solid, especially as a unit.  Expect some big goals from this line in the future.

Beau Bennett playoff goal

Bennett's first career playoff goal suggests talent trumps experience. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Beau Bennett: Dan Bylsma was immediately rewarded by his decision to play Bennett over Tyler Kennedy as Bennett scored the opening goal of the game on the powerplay.  His quickness and pure talent were a very strong match against the Islanders and he looked just as hungry as any other player out there.  There were simply no flaws in his game as I had him marked down for good pokechecks, takeaways, puck battles, and forechecks.  Bennett really had a great game all over.

Jussi Jokinen: Jokinen was solid as usual on faceoffs and added 2 assists in a game which showed off his versatility, which I love to rave about.  After Neal left the game early in the 2nd with an injury, Jokinen was used with a variety of linemates and demonstrated his ability to play with any of them.  He assisted on goals by Dupuis and Glass by winning puck battles on the boards in both instances.  It doesn’t appear that his injury was serious towards the end of the game when Reasoner took a run at him, so he should be ready to go in Game 2.

Pascal Dupuis: Dupuis has shown the ability to elevate his game in previous playoff runs and it appears this year will be more of the same.  He scored 2 goals just by going to the net for loose pucks and added a very solid 3:20 of PK time as well.  He found his way into almost every positive statistical category with 2 blocked shots, 2 hits, and a takeaway as well.  All of this happened while he played with mixed up lines all night too as we saw the rare Dupuis from Iginla and Adams scoring play in the first period.  His quickness to the puck makes him a huge threat against the Islanders defense and 2 goals obviously did nothing to dissuade me from keeping him as my predicted pick for series MVP.

Craig Adams: Adams is another guy who always finds a way to elevate his game in the playoffs.  He was great on the PK and added an assist on Duper’s goal.  He also led a very strong effort from the 4th line as both Glass and Bennett (and rotating skaters) looked good every shift he was on the ice.  He had 4 hits and led the team with 2 takeaways as his veteran presence clearly trumped the youthful and inexperienced Islanders.

Mark Eaton: 8 blocks.  Let that sink in for a second.  The team had 22 blocks and Eaton had EIGHT of them.  Not only was he fantastic in the defensive zone, blocking literally everything that was shot near him, but he also added an assist with a nice low shot that Dupuis finished off.  This is above and beyond what anyone could expect out of Mark Eaton and if he even plays at half that level for the rest of the series, he will have a solid series.  Ice those legs up Eaton, there has to be a bruise or two after that game.

Others: For the sake of brevity, I don’t want to discuss everyone.  But others that belong here: Kris Letang, Tanner Glass, Evgeni Malkin, and Jarome Iginla.



The Bad

Jussi Jokinen hurt Game 1

Jokinen went down hard but should be okay for Game 2. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Injuries: Both Jokinen and Neal left the game injured.  Bylsma refused to provide injury updates and that will be the norm during the playoffs so get used to it.  Jokinen practiced on Thursday and said he will be ready to play on Friday.  Neal did not practice on Thursday and I would not expect him to play Friday.  Rumors were spread that he was limping as he walked but nothing concrete was said.  Looking at the replay, it looked like Neal hurt his ankle, though it reminded me of some of the high ankle sprains we have seen over the years.  I won’t guess on his injury though, luckily the team has enough talent to survive without him.  Orpik and Crosby both practiced with the team on Thursday, so their returns look very close.

Officiating: I’m aware playoff officiating is much different than the regular season and whistles are often put away, but the refs made a huge mistake in how they went about Game 1.  Once the score was 4-0, I was rather concerned that the Isles would start taking runs at the Penguins or try to dirty things up a bit because logically, it would have been the smart thing for them to do.  Game 1 was lost at that point for them, they were playing to set the tone for the rest of the series.  The refs called less and less as the game went on in terms of interference and roughing penalties (both teams got away with a lot), and that set the tone for things to get ugly between the teams.  Of course, things did get ugly as Jokinen was awkwardly hit (not kneeing though) and everyone got into a scuffle.  If Game 2 is lopsided again, the refs will really have to take control of the situation early.

Misc. Thoughts

Lineup: I had no complaints about the lineup beforehand since Bennett was in over Kennedy as he should have been.  I would like to have seen Despres in over Engelland, but I cannot argue Engelland’s inclusion in the lineup either.  He has earned it.  With Neal likely out for Game 2, I would imagine Kennedy comes back to the 4th line if Crosby does not return.  Bennett should then move to a top 6 spot.

Playoff Hockey: As the Penguins made very clear against the Isles, playoff hockey is just a completely different breed of hockey.  The Pens were ready for it and the Isles weren’t.  Most of it was in the hitting game, where the Pens whole roster from Malkin down to Bennett really threw the body all night.  John Tavares took an absolute beating throughout the night and the Islanders will need to protect him moving forward if they want to have a chance in this series.  Game 2 should be a different story – the Islanders received their wake up call and they know what they are into now.  Game 1 looked like a very awestruck Isles team though.

Game 2: I would expect the Isles to come out flying in Game 2 in an attempt to set the tone in the physical game and create some room for Tavares and the other top 6 forwards.  Their forecheck was largely ineffective against the Penguins in Game 1 and you may see a shift in their efforts towards clogging up the neutral zone instead of trying to steal the puck in the Penguins zone.  They also struggled with slowing down the Pens breakouts, which is another reason that I would expect to see a man hanging in the neutral zone instead of forechecking hard.  Expect a lower scoring game and one that might be frustrating to watch at times.  As for the Penguins, just try and repeat everything.

+/- Assessment

1st Goal For (Bennett): + for

  • Martin – gets the puck in the neutral zone after it hits the linseman, passes it up to Malkin
  • Malkin – takes the puck across the blue line and moves it along to Bennett
  • Bennett – beats MacDonald to the corner and put a wrist shot over Nabokov’s shoulder

2nd Goal For (Dupuis): + for

  • Adams – jams at a rebound at Nabokov’s feet and pulls the puck away to pass to Iginla in the slot
  • Iginla – fires a quick shot on Nabokov who came out far to challenge the shot
  • Dupuis – swats at the rebound and puts it in the net

3rd Goal For (Letang): + for

  • Malkin – keeps the puck from going out of the zone after Iginla shot wide, passes it to Iginla
  • Iginla – immediately taps the puck back to Letang at the top of the faceoff circle
  • Letang – beats Nabokov high on a wrist shot

4th Goal For (Dupuis): + for

  • Jokinen – wins the faceoff to Eaton and circles down low, then passes the puck back to Eaton when he gets it
  • Eaton – throws the puck down low to Jokinen, then puts a low shot on net when he gets it back from Jokinen
  • Dupuis – stops Eaton’s shot in front of the net and takes it around to Nabokov to backhand it in

5th Goal For (Glass): + for

  • Jokinen – cut off the Isles clearing pass and kept the puck on the boards
  • Glass – joins the puck battle and takes the puck out of it, throws a low shot that beats Poulin

Playoffs +/-:  Click here for the Playoffs +/- Spreadsheet