Playoff Thoughts: Game 2 vs Islanders

Quarterfinals Game 2: Isles 4 Pens 3

Series Tied 1-1

Malkin (1) from Iginla
Crosby (1) (PP) from Iginla, Malkin
Crosby (2) from Dupuis, Eaton

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Stat Leaders

Shots: Malkin (10) followed by Crosby (8)
Blocked Shots: Eaton & Letang (3)
Hits: Cooke (5)
Giveaways: Malkin (3)
Ice Time: Letang (29:04) … Glass (4:55)
Faceoffs: Jokinen (7/8) … Sutter (6/13)

The Good

Sidney Crosby jaw guard

The jaw guard didn't slow him down. It wasn't enough though. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Brenden Morrow: Even Morrow had a disappointing performance after Game 1, but he still played well overall and gave the Penguins plenty of opportunities to succeed.  He drew 6 penalty minutes for the powerplay to work with, registered 3 hits, and blocked a shot in the slot.  Though his line wasn’t as effective as it was in the first game, it was also the only line not making major mistakes.

Sidney Crosby: Crosby had a successful return from his broken jaw, scoring 2 goals and recording 8 shots even with his awkward jaw guard.  He went 14/26 in faceoffs as he took 44% of the team’s faceoffs.  The big downside to his game was 2 recorded giveaways, though both were deep in the offensive zone so they did not result in any harm necessarily.  It doesn’t look like Crosby has lost a step with the time off and the jaw guard clearly doesn’t bother him too much.


Kris Letang: Letang actually played a decent game in the defensive zone but was bogged down just like every other defenseman with the Isles time of possession and offensive zone pressure.  He had 3 blocks, 4 hits, looked great on the PK, and was doing a solid job standing up forwards as they entered the zone.  His one-on-one coverage with puck carriers was outstanding.  On the negative side though, he did lose the puck a couple of times in his own end and released his coverage too early on guys without the puck, most notably on Martin’s goal.  He didn’t have a great overall game, but he certainly wasn’t awful either.

Marc-Andre Fleury: It’s tough to judge Fleury’s value in a game like this one.  He made 38 saves on the night and that’s far more work than he should see, but he was still partially to blame for the loss.  The first goal was the PK’s fault and Fleury really didn’t have a chance.  The second goal is both on the defense and Fleury.  The defense failed in their assignments but Fleury also was a tad too slow to get to the post.  The third goal is on the defense as they let Martin through and Fleury tries to get into position as quickly as he can but is too late with the bounce off the backboards.  Of course, the fourth goal is Fleury’s fault.  It’s a tough situation for him when he knows he has to get back to that post as quickly as possible, especially after the third goal, and the puck just bounces into him and into the net.  I’ll give him credit for keeping the score in the Pens favor when it shouldn’t have been early on, but that 4th goal is completely on him.  More on Fleury later in the post.

The Bad

Deryk Engelland Marc-Andre Fleury

Engelland and Fleury have both seen better days. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Jarome Iginla: I was incredibly disappointed with Iginla’s effort in the defensive zone.  His offensive work was good with 2 assists, but his backchecking and defensive zone work looked lazy.  I had him marked down for failing to help out on a clear on the boards 3 times in the defensive zone and also noted a few backchecks where he opted to glide instead of actually skating.  Either Iginla is unsure of his responsibilities on the 2nd line or he just expected other players to do more than they could.  Few things in Game 2 made me as angry as watching Iginla stare at failed clears and not help out his defensemen though.

Evgeni Malkin: Malkin had a great start to the game with 2 points early on and then he went into full turnover mode.  He still managed to lead the team with a whopping 10 shots, but the bigger story was his 3 recorded giveaways (I had 5 marked down).  With as quickly as the Isles transition the puck going the other way, turnovers against them are brutal.  Many of Malkin’s shifts were quick rushes into the zone, a shot/turnover, and then turned the other way for sustained pressure in the Penguins defensive zone.  Malkin was also far less physically dominating than in Game 1, which certainly didn’t help his time of possession in the offensive zone.

Deryk Engelland: Engelland likely (or should have) played his way out of the lineup in Game 2.  He took two unnecessary penalties in the first period, one of which the Isles scored a powerplay goal during.  He also looked simply awful paired with Paul Martin.  He didn’t stay in his coverage zones, he followed the puck too much, and he wasn’t even a physical force in the game.  Engelland literally brought nothing to the game for the Penguins in Game 2.

Paul Martin: Martin also had a subpar game like his defensive partner.  He was partially at fault for two of the Isles goals.  The first goal on the powerplay went off of his stick and the second goal happened because he lost a puck battle behind the net.  Additionally, he was giving the Islanders a little too much space as they skated in, which allowed them to shift left or right to change the shooting angle and get plenty of shots on Fleury.  It was a bad time for what was possibly Martin’s worst game of the season.  Being paired with Engelland certainly did not help.

Misc. Thoughts

Matt Niskanen fight

Niskanen's fight surely didn't help anything. (Vincent Pugliese/Getty Images)

Officiating: The referees in Game 1 allowed more contact than they should have but at least they were consistent about it.  In Game 2, the officiating was inconsistent (for both teams).  Some of the calls against the Penguins should have been renamed though.  Matt Cooke’s slashing penalty was nonexistent and was actually 2 minutes for being Cooke.  Meanwhile, Jarome Iginla’s boarding penalty should just be called 2 minutes for retaliating.  Interference and boarding both seem to have varying definitions in every situation.

What Went Wrong: The Penguins looked like a team that wasn’t hungry to win.  The wingers weren’t doing extra work in the defensive zone to help with clears, nor were they taking that extra stride to make a play happen.  In Game 1, many of the Penguins big moments occurred due to their quickness to the puck and the effort they were making to get to it first.  They failed to replicate that effort and the Isles took advantage of a team sitting back.  The Pens as a whole looked too relaxed about how things were going.  There was too much gliding, not enough extra effort.  I also have no clue why Niskanen accepted Okposo’s fight.  It was after a clean hit and Niskanen would have done well to turn the fight down.  That is one instance where I don’t understand NHL fighting protocol.

Credit to the Isles: That being said, give credit to the Islanders for putting in the extra effort, even when things went horribly awry for them within the first 4 minutes of the game.  They didn’t let up and they knew they had an edge in play as the game went on.  Nabokov also had a very strong final 40 minutes after looking shaky early on.  The Isles earned that win as much as the Pens earned that loss.

Ice Time: Save this one because I’ll likely never say it again – I was very disappointed Tanner Glass was limited to 4:55 of ice time.  Beau Bennett also deserved more than 7:19.  The Penguins lacked the same energy and physical presence that they had in Game 1; that was clear early on.  Tanner Glass is perfect for that role and should be a solid guy in the playoffs for that reason.  It made little sense to me that his minutes were limited when the team looked flat and he could be a spark plug.  Bennett had 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in his 7:19 of ice time.  I didn’t see any flaws in his game, and though he was hobbled from a blocked shot, he still did play afterwards.  Bennett is another guy who deserved more ice time for what he brings to the game. He’s clearly responsible on defense, so I do not understand the fear in using him.

Looking at Game 3: The Isles are a team that struggled at home and were great on the road this season, so don’t forget that heading into Games 3 and 4.  Meanwhile, the Pens should have received the ultimate wakeup call after reading about how great they were in Game 1.  It’s better than the Pens go through this now against a VERY beatable team rather than learn these lessons against a team like Boston that could take over a series with a shift in momentum.  The Isles will be pumped up by the home crowd in Game 3, but if the Pens protect the puck, they have too much talent to not win.  Lesson learned, hopefully.  As many have said, the Pens had to lose eventually if you picked them to win in 5 or 6.  While true, you certainly don’t expect the top seed to give up home ice advantage in the first 2 games of the playoffs, especially after how Game 1 was played.

Moving Forward: As I noted before the playoffs, Simon Despres had 2 of his best games against the Islanders this year, so hopefully he will play in Game 3.  I had no problem with Engelland playing Game 1, or keeping the lineup the same for Game 2, but Engelland has played his way out now.  Despres is a swifter skater and a better puck mover, both necessary things against the Isles.

Goalie Controversy?: No, there shouldn’t be one at all.  Fleury should start Game 3 without question.  Reasons: 1) Game 2 wasn’t completely his fault, the team played awful, 2) Break his confidence now and you may lose the ability to go to him for the rest of the playoffs, 3) He has to have a longer leash than one mistake if you are going to use him as a starter.  If Fleury commits a gaffe that costs the Penguins Game 3, then it will be time for Vokoun.  Until that moment though, there is no question in my mind that Fleury is still the starter.  If the switch is made to Vokoun now, that will likely be detrimental to Fleury’s postseason, his future in Pittsburgh, and the Penguins’ odds of winning the Cup.  I have more faith in Fleury getting through 4 rounds than Vokoun, that’s for sure.

Finally:  We count to 16 wins, no one counts the losses.  A Stanley Cup Champion can finish with anywhere between 0 and 12 losses.  The Pens are at 1.  Relax.

+/- Assessment

1st Goal For (Malkin): + for

  • Iginla – feeds the puck across the crease to Malkin
  • Malkin – prevents the Islanders from clearing the puck and pokes it to Iginla behind the net, then goes to the front of the net and gets multiple shots on Nabokov, putting a rebound in

2nd Goal For (Crosby): + for

  • Kunitz – draws 2 Isles defenders as he and Iginla fight for a loose puck, leaving none on Iginla
  • Iginla – taps the loose puck across the crease to Crosby
  • Crosby – taps the puck into the net

1st Goal Against (Moulson): – for

  • Engelland – in the penalty box for cross-checking
  • Cooke – drifts too far to the point and isn’t in position to cover Tavares on the boards
  • Murray – slides up towards Tavares but leaves the passing lane open between him and Moulson
  • Martin – fails to tie up Boyes and ends up having the puck go off of his stick and in

3rd Goal For (Crosby): + for

  • Letang – moves the faceoff win over to Eaton
  • Eaton – takes a low hard shot on net that rebounds back out
  • Kunitz – draws the defenseman away from the rebound with body contact
  • Dupuis – puts Eaton’s rebound back on Nabokov, which rebounds out to Crosby
  • Crosby – wins the faceoff, gets the rebound next to the net and scores

2nd Goal Against (McDonald): – for

  • Martin – loses the puck battle behind the net
  • Engelland – doesn’t make the switch to cover Martin’s side when Martin goes into Engelland’s corner for the puck
  • Malkin – sees that Engelland doesn’t go to Martin’s side, but follows Engelland instead of covering the other post to help Fleury

3rd Goal Against (Martin): – for

  • Iginla – doesn’t keep up with his backcheck on a 3 on 2 situation
  • Letang – releases on Martin and lets Martin get past him to get the puck bouncing off the backboards

4th Goal Against (Okposo): – for

  • None – all on Fleury with unfortunate bounce

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

Also, here is my write up on the regular season +/- at TheHockeyWriters.