Let's take a trip down to memory lane to last May. Yeah, I know, it's not going to be a fun trip.
Game 5, the Penguins up 3 games to 1 in their second round series with the New York Rangers. Pens get off to a slow start, fall behind 2-0 in the first period and sleep-walk their way to a 5-1 loss. Game 6, again in the first period the Pens go down 2-0 within the first 6:25 of the game, and can't catch up, Rangers force a Game 7. That Game 7, guess who would score first and again early in the first period? Yep, the Rangers.
Moral of the story: don't fall behind to the New York Rangers. They play a good system and are well coached and have one of (if not the) best goalie in the game. Get in a whole too deep too early and it's almost impossible to claw out of when NYR is on their game.
The Penguins allowed a goal 26 seconds into the game today.
And a second less than 6 minutes later to go down 2-0.
The recap can probably stop there and be complete.
We can analyze every little thing, but right now the Penguins just look like a team in bad need of the All-Star break that's coming up next week. Sure, they have a couple of injuries, but they're not nearly as crippled now (especially on defense) as they were earlier in the season.
But we'll give a few more thoughts before we put this one behind us once and for all:
- If there is a positive note, it's the play of David Perron , which continues to be strong. He was directly responsible for both goals the Pens scored- throwing a great shot/pass down to Sidney Crosby on the power play and then having the moxie to split the defense and poking the puck by Henrik Lundqvist . And one of Perron's best plays came later, on a 2-on-1 where he didn't pass the puck to Crosby and fired a nice high shot that unfortunately Lundqvist made a nicer stop on. Great to see him have the confidence not to just defer to Sid and try to make the play on his own.
- Difficult to pile on Marc-Andre Fleury, but for a guy supposedly in the Vezina competition, would have been nice to make that save on Rick Nash early in the game. Nash ripped a beauty of a shot, no problem on the goal, but MAF looked tentative and out of position, as if anticipating Nash to pass. Fleury also couldn't find the puck on Derick Brassard's stick on the second goal after losing control of a point shot that beat him but hit the crossbar. It's impossible to pile on Fleury when Rob Scuderi tips a puck right in front of him, but MAF, like the rest of the team, weren't sharp early and the Rangers made them pay.
- Pens are still trying to find that third member on the Evgeni Malkin / Beau Bennett line. And they just can't seem to get it quite right. Mark Arcobello, Nick Spaling and Steve Downie all had about a period to prove their case in the spot, and none really did well, which is a shame because Malkin and Bennett had some nice touches and plays between each other in the offensive zone. Help will surely be on the way when Patric Hornqvist and Blake Comeau return.
- After getting the game's first 3 power plays (and scoring on the third), all in the first period, Pittsburgh wouldn't get another shot. 6 straight power plays for NYR. Ooookay.
- Some of those penalties are hard to argue (like Simon Despres ail-mailing a puck in his defensive zone while on his backhand when he had the time to make a better play). But it's almost impossible to make a comeback while spending 10:57 short-handed and giving up a PP goal against. Another kiss of death.
- 10:57 of killing penalties and nary a second for Robert Bortuzzo, even with lots of defensemen- Despres (x2), Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff going to the penalty box. In fact, the Pens top 4 PK'ers ( Craig Adams, Marcel Goc, Scuderi and Kris Letang ) all played at least 5:51 short-handed. Lotta pressure on those guys, and other than Letang can you really be confident in any of them playing big, key minutes?
- 5 shots again by Perron, who's been a machine since joining the Pens. 5 more for Crosby too. 4 for Malkin. Nice to see the big guys firing pucks on net, at least. That's grasping for a silver lining but still the process is more important than the results.
Welp, that's that. The Pens road won't get any easier, they go to Philly for Tuesday night and then Chicago on Wednesday before the All-Star break, mercifully, will give a 5 day break. Can't come soon enough.