Playoff Thoughts: Game 3 vs Senators

Semifinals Game 3:  Sens 2 Pens 1 (2OT)

Pens Lead Series 2-1

Kennedy (2) from Cooke

| TPN Recap |

Stat Leaders

Shots: Malkin (10)
Missed Shots: Letang (3)
Blocked Shots: Martin (8)
Hits: Adams & Cooke (6)
Takeaways: Malkin, Neal, & Sutter (3)
Giveaways: Crosby (2)
Ice Time: Martin (37:16) … Glass (9:56)
Faceoffs: Sutter (21/36) … Adams (1/5)

The Good

Vokoun save

Vokoun made several dazzling saves to keep the Penguins in it. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Tomas Vokoun: Even in a loss, Vokoun was certainly the Penguins star of the night as he made 46 saves on 48 shots through just over 87 minutes of hockey.  Both goals he allowed were on significant defensive breakdowns, so no blame goes to him at all for this one.  He made several big saves and also did a great job of kicking out rebounds to the corners and even behind the net to keep the puck in low risk areas.  Any time your goaltender gets you into a 2nd OT, you know he’s doing something right.

Paul Martin: Martin had a very strong overall game but tarnished it slightly with his work on the game-tying goal.  He finished with a well-earned team high of 37:16 of ice time in which he blocked an astounding 8 shots.  His positioning was great and he has adjusted very well to the Senators offensive strategy.  Instead of utilizing his normally strong poke check, Martin has made the effort to stand up Ottawa on the blue line and it worked repeatedly in Game 3, especially in OT.  The only real blemish in his game though was on that game-tying goal, where he simply let Gonchar skate past him uncovered which forced Kris Letang deep into the defensive zone and unable to completely slide into slot coverage to pick up Alfredsson.

Evgeni Malkin: Just like Martin, Malkin had a great overall game but had it slightly ruined by the game-tying goal.  He had 3 takeaways, 10 shots, played 29:51 (10:09 on the PP), and drew two penalties.  He looked simply dazzling at times in overtime, but Craig Anderson was up to the task.  Malkin’s past two games have been some of his best *overall* defensive games as he has backchecked harder and done a great job of covering guys around the crease or net. However, the one play that people will look at will be the ugliest play.  Unfortunately, Geno didn’t have his head on a swivel like he should have, so he completely ignored Alfredsson skating behind him towards the net for the game-tying goal.

Tyler Kennedy: TK only played 11 minutes in four and a half periods of hockey, but he was more productive offensively than anyone else on the team in that time.  He scored the only goal for the Penguins and generally played well.  He did have a couple of offensive zone turnovers, but balanced those out with solid backchecking and a couple of takeaways in the defensive zone.  Kennedy basically did everything you could want out of a 4th liner and then some with the goal.

Brandon Sutter: Though many are disappointed in Sutter (because he’s not Jordan Staal), he really has just settled into the average 3rd line checking center role.  He was the Penguins main defensive faceoff guy, going 21/36 and he had 3 takeaways in the game to go along with 5 shots.  He was at his best late in the 3rd period as Bylsma kept trotting him out to clog the neutral zone and he did so to perfection with 2 pass deflections in the 2nd half of the period alone.  On the game-tying goal, he was the only player that actually read his assignments properly, first attacking the man who brought the puck into the zone and then attacking the man with the puck at the point.  He’s not producing like you may want, but he’s doing his job well.


Chris Kunitz Senators

The top line didn't look like the top line in Game 3. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Top 6 Wingers: It was a very quiet night for Kunitz, Dupuis, Iginla, and Neal.  Over the past two games, Ottawa seems to be finding a way to shut these guys down completely.  Kunitz did not do much that was noteworthy in the offensive zone, only recording 2 shots.  He was generally strong in the defensive zone with 2 takeaways, but lost track of his coverage on the game-tying goal.  Dupuis had 4 shots and 3 hits, but did nothing out of the ordinary which is a change for him in these playoffs.  Iginla recorded 2 shots in 18:47 (surprisingly low time) and only had 2:48 on the powerplay.  He looked very tired in general during the whole game and still isn’t being used properly on the powerplay.  Neal had 5 shots and 3 takeaways in a very strong positional game, but he looks either injured or uncomfortable with how he is skating and bracing for hits.  As a whole, this group didn’t produce much on their own.

Matt Cooke: Cooke led the team with 6 hits and did a good job through much of the game in playing a solid two way game.  It was quite surprising to hear that his assist on the Kennedy goal was his first point of the playoffs.  That is how well Cooke has played this year; it’s a rare situation that a player can go pointless through 8 games of playoff hockey and still receive the praise that Cooke has gotten.  However, his defensive work fell apart on the game-winning goal as he didn’t keep his head on a swivel (much like Malkin on the tying goal) and allowed Benoit to get behind him uncovered.

Tanner Glass: Glass only played 9:56 and finished with 2 hits and a penalty.  The only reason he isn’t listed under bad is because he simply didn’t play enough to be considered bad in this game.  If Bylsma doesn’t trust Glass to play and is limiting his time that much, I’m not sure Glass belongs in the lineup right now.  Even if Jokinen is hurt as rumored, there are still plenty of other guys available to take 4th line minutes (Jeffrey, Bennett).

The Bad

Sidney Crosby Senators

Crosby was a little on the quiet side in Game 3. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Powerplay: While Craig Anderson played a very strong game, the powerplay simply cannot go 0 for 6 AND let up a goal.  When it comes down to it, this game was lost in the special teams battle as the Penguins failed on numerous opportunities, including a 5 on 3, while the Senators scored shorthanded with their backs against the wall in the last minute.  The powerplay was slightly too predictable, which allowed Anderson to read and anticipate the play far better than he did in the first two games, and I will continue to harp on the fact that Iginla should be on the left point.  If you’re insistent on pointing out one thing that led to the Penguins loss, it has to be the powerplay.

Sidney Crosby: Let’s face it, Sidney Crosby was not Sidney Crosby in Game 3.  He was limited to 3 shots, had 2 giveaways, and took a high sticking penalty in a little over 33 minutes of ice time.  He was decent in the defensive zone but he was unable to take control of the team in the offensive zone, especially on the powerplay.  On multiple occasions, Crosby tried to skate into/through the Senators defense to no avail and proceeded to lose the puck for a break the other way.  The difference in Crosby’s game between Game 2 and Game 3 was that in Game 2, the Senators were giving a lot of space and Crosby was taking advantage of it.  In Game 3, the Senators gave him very little space, but Crosby still tried to use his Game 2 methods instead of working with what the Senators were giving him.  It’s Crosby though, so I’m certain he will adjust for Game 4.

Matt Niskanen: I’m not sure if bad is the right word or if underwhelming would be more appropriate for Niskanen.  He finished the game with 2 shots, a giveaway, and a tripping penalty in overtime.  He also made a very odd play on the winning goal that ultimately led to the Pens losing in the end.  Nisky ended up skating through/grabbing Eaton’s stick and tossing it aside, causing Eaton to lose his positioning and killing the coverage down low.  It was an unfortunate play but also a very unaware one.  Overall, Niskanen’s transition game hasn’t been anything special and his positioning hasn’t been as sound as you would like to see.

Misc. Thoughts

Mark Eaton Senators

Greening gets the game winner past Eaton and Vokoun in overtime. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

Goal Breakdowns: They’re covered below, but for those who never read the goal assessments – here’s your summary.  Game tying goal – Martin doesn’t stay with his man and hangs Letang out to dry, Kunitz doesn’t cover anyone, Malkin doesn’t slide to Alfredsson like he should, Letang is stuck covering 2 guys and is screwed.  Game winning goal – Niskanen throws Eaton’s stick, Eaton gets out of position trying to get his stick, Cooke doesn’t slide to Benoit like he should.  Just remember, they were both due to defensive breakdowns by multiple players.

Manner of Loss:  The worst part about this loss was just how the Pens gave up the lead on the powearplay with less than a minute left in the game.  I certainly do not understand Bylsma’s personnel decision in the end.  Player by player: Sutter – made perfect sense, as a center for a defensive line.  Malkin – would have made sense as a center, but didn’t make sense as a winger as he doesn’t naturally know what to do on defense there.  He had played well defensively all game, but that was asking for trouble.  Kunitz – defensively responsible, but not one of the top wingers you would want in a defensive situation. He could have been replaced by Dupuis, Cooke, etc.  Martin – makes perfect sense, no arguments there.  Letang – the most skilled defenseman so that’s understandable, but it may have made more sense to go with Orpik or Murray for a crease guy with Martin.  When it comes down to it, the biggest glaring issue is why do you place Malkin out at a wing position in a defensive situation.  Moving on –  In regards to how badly the game stings because of how the loss came about:  It’s playoff hockey, these things happen.  It’s the same reason we all love the playoffs as much as we do.  The Penguins hopefully learned a lesson, be fully alert and aware until the final buzzer.  Bylsma hopefully learned a lesson, use your defensive guys in a defensive situation.  Take the lessons and move forward, it still only counts for 1 loss and this team has enough veteran leadership and captains that it shouldn’t faze them in the end.  If this is the loss that undoes everything, then this isn’t the team that should win the Cup anyways.  A bad shift does not make a bad game, just an unfortunate result.

Officiating: The officiating was inconsistent and useless as usual.  It started with the opening shift slash by Kunitz that wasn’t called, continued to the holding call on Phillips that was very weak, went further on the very weak roughing call given to Smith when he had the lane on Malkin, and ended with a missed high stick as Cooke hit Karlsson in the face.  Notice something?  The Penguins definitely got the breaks when it came to the officiating.  Ottawa has a legitimate gripe about how that game was called.

Lineup: Even though it didn’t work out in the end, I liked the Eaton for Engelland move and thought it worked out pretty well overall.  I wanted Jokinen instead of Glass, but amid rumors that he is injured, perhaps that explains it away.  If Jokinen is not injured, then not playing him is flat out stupid since the Penguins need a faceoff guy and Jokinen can also play every forward position and both special teams.  Moving to Game 4, I would keep the defense the same and sub in Bennett for Glass if Jokinen is unavailable.  Glass just doesn’t add enough to the game, Bennett at least has the potential to do that.

Brandon Sutter goal celebration

The Pens did have one goal to celebrate at least. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

Etc: It’s interesting to note that faceoffs were really down to 2 players.  Sutter took 36 and Crosby took 43.  Next highest was Malkin with only 8.  That is also why you saw some crazy line combinations, because those two were taking faceoffs for every line.  Another number to look at is turnovers.  The Senators had 37 (20 giveaways, allowed 17 takeaways).  The Penguins had 13 (7 giveaways, allowed 6 takeaways).  While those numbers are absurd and it really points out how the Penguins missed a chance to win a game in which they outplayed the Senators, it also has to remind you of last round when the Penguins snuck away with that 4-3 OT victory they didn’t deserve.  Basically, it happens.

Goalie Decision: After a shaky Game 2, Vokoun earned a longer leash in Game 3 and pretty much erased his mistakes from the previous game.  This is his team until he falters in a loss.  There was no faltering in Game 3.

Game 4 Outlook: Ottawa has plenty of momentum after the double OT victory but two days off likely slows that down a bit.  Both teams played very strong games, but the goalies really stole the show.  As expected, Anderson and Karlsson played much better in Game 3.  You can bet they will have strong games in Game 4 as well, but the Penguins played up to them in Game 3, so it should be another tight game.  I would not be shocked if we see overtime again.

Series Outlook: This is how things are supposed to go in a best of 7.  The way the Pens lost was infuriating, but it still counts in the series the same way.  Ottawa was expected to win Game 3 and they will also have an edge in Game 4 as the home team.  Things are just going according to plan, unless you picked the Pens in 4 like someone who has never watched the playoffs before.  There’s no reason to panic, the Penguins now have 3 of a possible 11 losses they may pick up on the way to a Stanley Cup win.  Stop panicking.

+/- Assessment

1st Goal For (Kennedy): + for

  • Cooke – intercepts Michalek’s clearing attempt and tries to pass the puck over to Sutter
  • Sutter – is open at the left faceoff circle and draws the attention of Methot so he doesn’t cover the slot
  • Kennedy – ends up in the slot with the puck after it bounces off of Michalek from Cooke’s attempted pass and TK rips a wrist shot past Anderson

1st Goal Against (Alfredsson): – for

  • Kunitz – peels off of Alfredsson as they enter the Penguins zone and doesn’t pick up anyone else
  • Martin – lets Gonchar skate past him leaving Letang to potentially cover 2 guys down low by himself, then misses the pass to Alfredsson
  • Malkin – doesn’t have his head on a swivel so he misses Alfredsson skating behind him to the net
  • Letang – gets caught playing the 2 guys down low too deep and doesn’t have his stick out in any position to defend the pass or Alfredsson

2nd Goal Against (Greening): – for

  • Niskanen – takes Eaton’s stick out of his hands and throws it out of the way in front of the net
  • Cooke – doesn’t pay attention to his assignment as Benoit sneaks in from the point to the faceoff circle to get the puck
  • Eaton – gets out of position when he goes to retrieve his stick and doesn’t tie up Greening in time

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