Sorry for the delay, we had some technical issues (involving things I don't understand) about the site all around SBN hockey yesterda and today...But here's a new feature with various thoughts on the Pens this morning..It’s kinda like Elloitte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts, without being so numerous in points…Or having the inside knowledge…Or insight….So yeah, maybe it’s not a lot like Friedman…
--For the Penguins, it was all systems go in a 4-1 Game 1 win over Ottawa. They were led again by their special teams, with the playoffs top ranked PP going 2 for 3 and the penalty kill going a perfect 5 for 5 (plus Pascal Dupuis netting a short-handed goal). That’s a recipe for success in just about any playoff game.
--Speaking of Dupuis, for the moment at least, he leads the league in goals right now with 6. Enjoy him in a Penguin jersey while it lasts. Watching him evolve in the past five years from trade throw-in to one of the league’s most versatile and capable wingers at both ends of the rink truly has been a treat.
--Staying out of the box, as always, will figure to be important. And hey, who knew Corey Conacher was doing a Brad Marchand impression these days? The diminutive Conacher got his rat on and drew the ire of several Penguins, notably Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang. Conacher and Letang got matching minor penalties for dueling after the whistle- that’s a good trade for Ottawa. Staying smart (James Neal) and not putting the team down a man should be a point to concentrate on.
--Interesting stat provided by Pens communication guru Jason Seidling: Pittsburgh is 26-28 all-time in Game 1’s of playoff series. What stood out to me was the profound difference between their home record (19-12) and away record (7-16).
--One interesting sub-plot will be the adjustment game. With an extra day break, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean will have extra time and instruction opportunities to get his squad regrouped. We all saw the Islanders come back in a big way in Game 2 last series, and it’ll definitely be interesting to see how the Senators will decide to mix it up and how Bylsma and the Pens will counter what they see. It’s a big chess match if you take the macro view.
--The speed and energy added by Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale has been eye-popping. Both look like a fire has been lit under them after being healthy scratches for the first four games of the playoffs, and both certainly know that if they can’t find ways to stand out, they’re risking a return to the press box during games. But when every opportunity is maximized and scrutinized in the playoffs, Vitale needs to do better in the faceoffs, a skill he’s known for. Just 2 for 7 last night (29%).
--Tomas Vokoun had an interesting quote about how he wasn’t worried about the high number of shots the team is giving up in front of him (Vokoun has seen 106 shots in three games, or 35 per game). Vokoun indicated that 1/3 of Ottawa’s shots came from far outside and weren’t very big scoring chances. Just something to think about if/when you see statistical analyses later on in the series, all shots and chances are not created equally.
--Perhaps as expected, since they’ve only had a few games to mesh, but the chemistry between the top lines is growing right before our very lines. Dupuis looks fine on the left wing (a change for him) and Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla are gelling more and more every shift. For the other big line, there’s no doubting the chemistry between Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. What’s surprised me has been how Kunitz, this year, is seeming to this eye to out-shine Neal (a reversal from last season). Neal has just returned from injury, so we’ll give him the benefit of time, but just an interesting point that Kunitz has been more visible.
--Paul Martin has also returned from a broken bone in hand and hasn’t missed a beat. His transformation in 12 months from deserved goat and turnover machine to invaluable point-scoring member of the team has been incredible. He’s steady and unnoticeable but has made the right play more often than not. Also, Martin’s only been on the ice for two goals against since Game 2 vs. NYI. He’s playing some really heavy ES and PK minutes (131:45) and is helping to keep the puck out, which is just as important as his timely scoring.
--A team doesn’t often change while winning, but the Pens 3rd line hasn’t had as much impact as perhaps I’ve thought. And even their shots on goal or chances aren’t there. Brenden Morrow got a PP assist, but has had a quiet postseason. He’s not needed to be a focal point- a griding 3rd liner that wears down opponent’s defense in a long series is probably enough, but it’d be great if the Pens could get a little more at even strength out of this line.
Links of the day:
Sens series round-table featuring myself and some others on Faceoff-Factor
Brooks Orpik GIF of laying out Eric Gryba from The Pensblog
Really, really bad Ottawa Senators promotional video on Puck Daddy…Hopefully all a precursor to that bizzare Roman warrior guy from a few years ago coming back out