Some quick thoughts on last night’s beating:
- Problems run deeper than goaltending On the surface, the Pens’ biggest issue is getting someone between the pipes who can, you know, stop the puck. However, pretty much every other aspect of their game is failing miserably as well. They can’t complete passes. They can’t get out of their zone with any kind of speed. They can’t generate scoring chances. Nada. Zip. The Bruins are frustrating the hell out of them, and when things fall apart, the Penguins make it worse. Case in point: the Pens get on the board after a wicked wrister from Brandon Sutter, a fantastic shot. The lead is cut to 3-1, the building is jumping. How do the Pens react? Brooks Orpik turns the puck over at the blue line, Matt Cooke is too busy chirping at Brad Marchand to backcheck, and Marc-Andre Fleury just completely whiffs on a wrist shot. The Pens are falling apart.
- That said… The Bruins are also doing so many things excellently. They’re forechecking hard. They’re clearing rebounds out. They’re exiting the zone cleanly. But the best thing the Bruins are doing (besides scoring nine goals in two games, of course) is backchecking ferociously. One could count the number of odd-man rushes the Penguins have had on one hand, as each time the Pens leave their zone their is a trailing Bruin busting his ass to get back in the play. Patrice Bergeron is doing it, David Krejci is doing it, everyone is buying in. That stands in stark contrast to Cooke’s failed aforementioned failed backcheck and Evgeni Malkin’s pathetic excuse for defense on a Nathan Horton scoring chance in the second period. The Penguins are trying to coast by on their skill alone, and it’s not working for them.
- Rask has been solid Tuukka Rask has been getting a lot of help from his defense, but he’s been holding his own as well. The one shot that got past him in this series was borderline unstoppable, and he made a number of top-notch saves last night. Rask looks like a Hall of Famer when compared to the debacle in the opposite crease, and his steadying presence has been immensely helpful for the Bruins.
- So what now? It’s interesting to see where things go from here. Obviously the Bruins have all of the momentum, and they also have experience on their side. They know that winning the first two on the road doesn’t win a series (i.e. Montreal in 2011), and that taking Game 3 is crucial. One can’t help but assume that, by the law of averages, the Pens’ big guns are going to wake up at some point: Crosby, Malkin, Iginla, Neal, Letang, Kunitz, etc. won’t go pointless forever. So it’ll be up to the Bruins to keep doing what their doing: good, sound, fundamental hockey. The Penguins are getting frustrated because nothing is coming easily, and they don’t know what to do.