Playoff Thoughts: Game 1 vs Senators

Semifinals Game 1: Pens 4 Sens 1

Pens Lead Series 1-0

Martin (2) (PP) from Malkin, Morrow
Malkin (3) from Kunitz, Neal
Kunitz (3) (PP) from Iginla, Letang
Dupuis (6) (SH) from Murray

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Stat Leaders

Shots: Crosby, Dupuis, & Martin (4)
Missed Shots: Dupuis & Malkin (3)
Blocked Shots: Murray (5)
Hits: Cooke & Kunitz (5)
Giveaways: Letang (2)
Ice Time: Orpik (24:03) … Morrow (10:31)
Faceoffs: Malkin (8/13) … Vitale (2/7)

The Good

Evgeni Malkin: Geno took his strong 3rd period and overtime performance in Game 6 vs the Isles and continued with it in Game 1 against Ottawa.  He had a goal and an assist in only 15:56 of playing time.  He also went 8 for 13 in faceoffs and had zero giveaways, both by my count and the NHL’s count.  The only blemish in his game was a tripping penalty while the Penguins were on the powerplay.  It was an ugly play and he got caught scrambling into the wrong defensive position.  Overall though, it was a solid game for Malkin and a better full game than we saw him play at any point in the first round.

Tomas Vokoun save Ottawa

After the pregame beers wore off, Vokoun played quite well. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Tomas Vokoun: Though Vokoun finally let up a “bad goal” when he was slow getting back to the post, he also shut the door on every other chance in making 35 saves on 36 shots.  It’s impossible to overlook how shaky he was with rebound control and playing the puck in the first half of the game, but he settled down as the game went on and put up the results necessary for a win.  The only goal he allowed certainly puts a dent in his armor a bit, but you can’t argue with his overall performance right now.  Vokoun should stay in net for Game 2.

Brooks Orpik: Orpik played his best game of the playoffs by far and probably his best game since the first month of the season.  I didn’t mark him down for a single mistake all game.  He had a couple of good poke checks, a key stick lift in the slot, and looked fantastic in 1 on 1 situations.  To top it all off, he put a monster hit on Eric Gryba, which both demonstrated that his physical game is still there and also made him the savior of Montreal.  If Orpik can keep up this level of play, then the defense just got unexpectedly deeper.  He even led the team in playing time with 24:03.

Paul Martin: Orpik’s partner also had a very solid game.  Martin finished with a goal on 4 shots and also looked very strong in the defensive zone.  He utilized his poke check more than any other part of his game and was quite successful with it on the PK especially.  There isn’t a ton to say about Martin; he and Orpik just made the perfect pairing in terms of positioning and forcing the Senators into low risk areas.

Special Teams: The penalty kill went 5 for 5 with a shorthanded goal and the powerplay went 2 for 4.  I would imagine the winning percentage for teams with those types of special teams numbers has to be extremely high.  The penalty kill gave the Senators very little to work with and often didn’t let them set up at all.  Sutter, Adams, and Dupuis were especially good on the boards and at the points to keep the scoring chances down.  On the defensive side, give Murray and Orpik a lot of credit for letting Vokoun see the puck and also for chasing pucks down when necessary.  You know things are going well when Murray is winning races to the puck.  As for the powerplay, there is simply too much talent to not score…so they just score.  There is no special recipe to it, every player is just so talented that everyone creates on the powerplay.


Deryk Engelland: Engelland was a little bit good and a little bit bad as he re-entered the lineup and joined Murray’s side.  He was absolutely embarrassed on the Senators’ only goal.  He was knocked off the puck, missed his coverage, and then didn’t slide to help out quick enough around the net.  Aside from that though, he wasn’t all that bad.  He had a nice block and a couple nice poke checks.  More importantly, he was there when the game got a little ugly late in the 3rd period.

The Bad

James Neal: Though the officiating in general was questionable, Neal took too many penalties regardless of which ones were fair, unfair, justified, or unjustified.  He did have some good moments as he threw 4 hits, provided a strong forecheck, and assisted on Malkin’s goal.  However, he’s good for a Stupid Neal Penalty™ (thanks @lauren10_1993) a little too frequently.  Whether people want to admit it or not, we’re at the point where Neal takes worse penalties than Malkin and is a penalty risk up there with Cooke.  That’s certainly going to be a storyline to watch in this series.  Neal has a temper.

Misc. Thoughts

Dupuis goal Game 1 semifinals

Pascal Dupuis, undercover superstar. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

More Player Notes: Pascal Dupuis for Conn Smythe? Kennedy and Vitale are developing a lot of chemistry despite being thrown around on the lines and their shifts together were very successful in Game 1.  Brandon Sutter may have played his best overall game in the playoffs. He was quite adept at reading what the Senators were going to do on zone entries.  Brenden Morrow had a decent game but received the least ice time of anyone on the team. I was surprised by that.  Matt Niskanen and Kris Letang played well in general and much better than in the first round, but both need to be careful about their turnovers still.

Goalie Debate: There really should be no debate at this point. Vokoun earned another start and I imagine Bylsma will give it to him.  At this point, the situation is this – Vokoun is the starter on a game by game basis and will lose that status as soon as he has a bad game.  Nothing else matters – not Fleury’s future, not “who can win the Pens the Cup”, not what any plan was.  All that matters next is how Vokoun plays in Game 2 and that will determine Game 3.

Lineup: I did like the move to bring Engelland into the lineup for toughness and size.  Despres is a better skater and better with the puck, but that isn’t necessary against the Senators.  Though I will not be surprised if the forwards stay the same while the team is winning, I think Jussi Jokinen could play a much bigger role in this series.  People will hate me for saying it, but I would rather Jokinen play against the Senators than Vitale.  His skill could be a big asset in this series, more so than Vitale’s speed since team speed isn’t a problem this round.  The decision to pair Engelland and Murray together was curious.  It’s almost like Bylsma is dreaming of that Scuderi-Gill shutdown pairing that he’ll never have again.  It’s fine in home games when Bylsma can pick the matchups, but that pairing will get destroyed on the road.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Eaton play for Engelland in this series, especially if Orpik is physically healthy and hitting like he did in Game 1.

Top 2 Lines: In the third period, Bylsma put Iginla back with Malkin and Neal and reunited Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis.  Honestly, I liked the move.  Neither line was doing a lot 5 on 5 and the instant chemistry with Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis is impressive.  I know people say Malkin needs Kunitz more than Crosby does, but that seems like a flimsy argument for breaking up the top line to me.  When all is said and done, the top 2 lines will be successful no matter how any of those 6 forwards are mixed and matched.  Personally, I think the drop off from taking Kunitz from Crosby’s line is more significant than the gain for adding Kunitz to Malkin’s line.  I can’t say enough about how much I like Kunitz-Crosby-Dupuis in all 3 zones, not just for offense. Can we just clone Kunitz?

Officiating: The officiating was inconsistent and terrible.  The game should have been called tighter early on as Orpik, Conacher, Neil, and Malkin (yes, players from both teams) all got away with things that should have been called.  If the refs aren’t going to call things early, things will get ugly late.  That’s all going to escalate as the series moves on.  I would rather see everything called than nothing called.  What’s the point of having a rule book?

Pens win Game 1 Ottawa

The team congratulates Vokoun while fans argue about it. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Early Series Thoughts: Watching Gonchar and Malkin bicker and slash each other on the ice is hilarious.  Chris Neil and Matt Cooke are 2 of the top 3 ultimate “love them on your team, hate them on 29 other teams” players.  Don’t tell me you wouldn’t like Neil if he was on your team, you cheered for Ruutu once upon a time.  The 80 days off between games should bring Jason Spezza back into the lineup in this series, so the Pens better try to close the door on this series as early as possible.  Craig Anderson looked okay in Game 1, but not like a game-stealing goalie.  I think we’ll see him improve as the series goes on.  Bylsma did a fantastic job by keeping Malkin and Crosby off the ice late in the 3rd period as the Senators looked to send a physical message. Give him plenty of credit for that.

Series Outlook: Things are going as planned with a Game 1 win at home.  Just remember, best of 7.


+/- Assessment

1st Goal For (Martin): + for

  • Malkin – chases his own rebound into the corner and passes out to Martin at the point
  • Morrow – sets a screen in front of Anderson that keeps him from getting into position
  • Martin – blasts a shot from the point that hits the far post and goes in past Anderson

1st Goal Against (Greening): – for

  • Engelland – gets knocked off the puck on the boards and can’t keep up with his man, then fails to cover Greening going to the net
  • Murray – isn’t at the slot/crease where he should be and gets caught chasing Condra to the corner
  • Crosby – can’t out-muscle Greening as they are jabbing for the loose puck
  • Vokoun – doesn’t have his post covered

2nd Goal For (Malkin): + for

  • Neal – takes the puck away behind the Ottawa net on the forecheck, passes to Kunitz in the corner
  • Kunitz – passes the puck across to Malkin at the top of the crease
  • Malkin – gets the inside position on Cowen and taps the puck in past Anderson

3rd Goal For (Kunitz): + for

  • Iginla – keeps the puck in at the point, passes down to Crosby on the boards, heads towards the net to receive Letang’s pass and backhands it on net (causing a rebound)
  • Crosby – draws 2 defenders with the puck and passes the puck over to Letang on the other point
  • Letang – passes the puck to Iginla heading towards the net
  • Kunitz – puts Iginla’s rebound past Anderson

4th Goal For (Dupuis): + for

  • Murray – races to the puck in the corner and beats 2 Senators to it, then passes up to Dupuis exiting the zone
  • Cooke – enters the offensive zone on a 2 on 1 with Dupuis, drawing the defender (Gonchar) to the pass
  • Dupuis – waits for Anderson to commit to going down and then rifles the puck up high past him

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