clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pens Set Free, Letang Delivers

New, comments

This season under former Head Coach Mike Johnston, Kris Letang was rarely seen joining the attack but since Mike Sullivan took over, Letang and his teammates were set free to attack. The change paid off with 2:33 to play in the third period as Letang was down low behind the goal to set up the game-winning goal by Nick Bonino.

Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports

All these Pittsburgh Penguins wanted were to be set free, much like they experienced when Dan Bylsma took over in 2009 for Michel Therrien.

After Mike Johnston was fired in December, Mike Sullivan did what any good leader does, he assessed the situation by listening to his players.

Sullivan simply set these Penguins free by playing a speed game.

Their journey culminated in a Stanley Cup Final against the San Jose Sharks.

Personnel Match-ups

Prior to game one, I wrote about Sharks Head Coach Peter DeBoer being faced with a tough decision in matching lines, specifically his third defense pairing of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak.

DeBoer was asked about dealing with the speed and depth of the Penguins by strongly but nicely saying that he wasn't going to change anything.

It was pretty clear, San Jose wasn't ready for the relentless attack by the Penguins evident by their two goals in the first period in which they put up a 15-4 shots on goal and 27-14 shot attempted advantage.

The wave after wave after wave after wave attack by the Penguins had the Sharks on their heels, which had San Jose trying to rush back and collapse down low. It gave the flying Justin Schultz with all kind of ice to make a play, a shot blocked gets directed to the net with Bryan Rust driving to the goal and collecting the garbage into the net behind Martin Jones for the 1-0 lead.

Then Sidney Crosby does what only Sidney Crosby can by skating hard into the left-wing corner, stopping and turning on a dime to leave Justin Braun in his ice shavings to find a wide open Conor Sheary to send his snipe city shot through a screen for the 2-0 lead.

It was evident in the first period, the San Jose Sharks were so adamant to play their game, they forgot the team on the other side is pretty good and playing a heavy possession game  with skill isn't going to work like it did against the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators or St. Louis Blues.

Both goals were against the top defensive pairing (Vlasic and Justin Braun).

Total Ice Time for San Jose's defense

Vlasic 21:04 - Braun 18:39

Martin 23:11 - Burns 24:07

Dillon 15:33 - Polak 14:24

Numbers like this will wear down the top 4 of San Jose.

Second Period Hiccup

As strong as the Penguins were in the first, they didn't have it in the second as all the good work in their defensive zone to get the puck controlled and out quickly away from the pressure points of the Sharks forecheck seemingly was forgotten.

Sharks got on the board on the Power Play as Ian Cole was caught hooking Melker Karlsson and a lucky bounce for Tomas Hertl made its way behind Matt Murray as the puck deflected off the stick of Olli Maatta, whom was trying to block the pass.

The team had many strong performances in the second period throughout the regular season but in these playoffs, they've had few a hiccups, this time it cost them with a game-tying goal that Murray will want to have back as he overplayed the puck to his left giving himself little in the way of a push off the post to get back across the crease. I would have liked to have seen more of an effort to use his stick coming across the crease to stop Patrick Marleau on the wraparound attempt.

Period ended with San Jose leading in shot attempts 41-40, this after Pens had 27-13 advantage.

If Crosby did this... can you imagine the comments that he's not a leader but since it was Little Joe Pavelski

And while that was happening, Jumbo Joe Thornton and Evgeni Malkin were jousting....

Crosby Shooting or Lack-there-of

On a few chances, Crosby appeared to have time and space to get a puck on net but instead opted to make the extra pass that wasn't open and created an opportunity for San Jose to settle down and counter attack. He wasn't the only player guilty of such but as the Captain goes, so goes the team.

Power Outage

After San Jose managed to tie the game, Penguins had 2 power plays chances and did nothing with it. The answer is on the bench but that might offend their number one defensemen. Penguins finished the game 0-3 with 5 shots on goal. No idea why the Penguins didn't keep the same type of attack after their first power play controlled the puck in the zone and had a few chances for both units.

Meanwhile, San Jose was 1 for 2 with the man advantage but only generated two shots on goal. A good battle for the Penguins penalty-killers.

Marleau hit on Rust

I've given up thinking the NHL's Department of Player Safety will do their job, so I'll just leave this here for you to assess the hit by Marleau on Rust in the third period that was penalized just two minutes for an illegal check to the head. Rust came out for one shift and then didn't return.

Letang Shift = Goal

With 2:33 to play, Nick Bonino scored off a Kris Letang pass behind the goal with Paul Martin late to react. The play was setup by Letang joining the rush and getting the puck deep on Brent Burns, who lost his stick, which allowed Carl Hagelin to support along the boards and the loose puck got to Letang, you see what Bonino did with the rest.

A Bounce Back Third Period

After a very shaky second period, all these Penguins did was be their resilient selves in the third period finishing the game with a 67-58 shot attempt advantage.

Hugs All Around for this Game 1

And don't ignore the goaltending performance by Murray. He shut it down in the third period.