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10 Thoughts: Finding Malkin's best fit, Kessel, Murray vs Fleury and more!

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10 Thoughts about the Pittsburgh Penguins, including a rare comeback against the Rangers, plenty of Malkin talk, Phil's great playoff start, Murray vs. Fleury and a lot more!

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#1: The Penguins and Rangers have now played 15 playoff games since May 2014. Before last night, NYR was a remarkable 7-1 vs. Pittsburgh when they scored the first goal of the game. That now becomes 7-2 after last night's Game 3 win for the Pens. It's been almost impossible for the Pens to battle back out of holes against Henrik Lundqvist in recently in the spring.

(The Pens, by the way, are 4-2 in recent Rangers series when Pittsburgh scores first. Which was 4-1 before Game 2 when the Rangers of course overcame the game's first goal).

#2: As the great Brian Metzer pointed out on twitter, Phil Kessel has 33 shot attempts (17 on goal) in the first three games of this series. This is nothing new, as Kessel led the Pens in SOG and shot attempts in the regular season, but the volume of pucks continuing to be put towards the cage is noteworthy.

#3: Speaking of Kessel, and totally "just saying", but....Just saying, the Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Kessel line that's been so good recently has 0 even-strength points together through 3 playoff games. Hagelin is pointless against his former team, Bonino has 3 assists (2 on the PP, to Kessel; 1 while SH), and all 4 of Kessel's points have come on the PP.

As mentioned, Bonino's setup Kessel on the power play, so it's not as if there's no chemistry there, but if this goes 4 games, 5 games and with Evgeni Malkin not finding much traction with leftover wingers, could a change be coming there?

#4: As Dejan pointed out ($), Malkin didn't play the last 5:27 of the game, which is some senses is understandable- it was a one-goal game and he's by far the least defensively responsible of the 4 centers that played.

At the same time though, the Pens don't sit back and play defense and they out-shot the Rangers in the 3rd period. Leaving a player like Malkin on the bench is eyebrow raising. It worked for one game, but it looks very clear that the current team alignment probably isn't optimal or going to last forever.

#5: From all accounts it doesn't look like Marc-Andre Fleury is imminently close to a return, but even if he was cleared and 100%, would he get the net for Game 4? Matt Murray played Game 3 like it was his 100th playoff game and not his first, much like he's played this whole season. No real reason to take him out at this point. Hopefully Fleury's healthy and feeling well soon, but with Murray playing so well, the Penguins are in good hands.

#6: A lot of chatter about the Kris Letang high-stick on Viktor Stalberg. I don't feel the passion to debate or defend anything, it certainly was an ugly incident and how in the world do the refs miss that and not assess a 4 minute penalty on it? To me, that's the more obvious question than whether it merits a suspension, but we'll see what comes out of the NHL's wheel of justice. A star player cracking a 4th liner (where no major injury was suffered) seems to indicate a fine, at most is going to happen, like it or not.

#7: It was just absurd how masterful the last 15 minutes were. More credit to the Pens, or a discredit to the effort of the Blueshirts?

#8: Eric Staal is sticking out like a sore thumb. 0 points through 3 games and he's a -5 on a team where no one else is worse than a -2. It's probably coincidental and certainly doesn't mean too much but it is interesting to see that jump out. At 57.1%, Staal is NYR's best faceoff man thus far, so at least he's got that going for him?

#9: From this point on in the series, every game becomes exponentially more critical, but I've always thought of Game 4's as a turning point to a series. Game 4 almost always happens with a 2-1 series lead for someone, which is going to either tighten up to 2-2 and guarantee a long, drawn out series, or shift to 3-1 and really put pressure on the trailing team to "do or die" so to say. Game 4's are so critical to chart out the path of what's yet to come and always sets up the conclusion or a series, in some form or another.

#10: Could watch this all day. Even though he's not quite as much of complete player, I see a lot of Marty Straka in Conor Sheary and that's about as high a compliment for a smaller guy as you could give.