Before Game 4, a highly jacked-up Ben Lovejoy gave a great interview on NBC.
"Since Christmas teams have been trying to combat our speed by punching us in the mouth. We’ve been taking it, and we’re going to keep on taking it and force them to turn with our speed."
That quote looks verbatim like a message coach Mike Sullivan might send to his team. General Manager Jim Rutherford has done a masterful job rebuilding the Penguins on the fly to make them an unforgiving fast team.
Then in the very 1st period shortly after those words, Carl Hagelin illustrated Lovejoy's words down to the letter. Hagelin jumped out of the penalty box, collected the puck and rocketed past Matt Niskanen. Niskanen was forced to hook Hagelin and take a penalty, but it was too late, Hagelin's speed got him into the clear and he drove to the net.
Just to get dumped into Braden Holtby on a hit by Dmitry Orlov.
Use speed, force them to turn, get punched in the mouth, keep coming back for more. It was all there.
It was there again for Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnhackl in the 2nd period. Cullen wins a faceoff and races forward. Kuhnhackl takes a hit to make a play. Cullen's speed leaves the decade-younger Nicklas Backstrom in the dust. Goal.
The obligatory and typical "they were built for this" portion. Conor Sheary has flashed his speed and willingness to carry the puck and deke around defenseman, a welcome addition on the first line. Hagelin and Phil Kessel burn down the wings with regularity on the 2nd line. Evgeni Malkin makes any line he's on potentially game-breaking, even if he's the most east-west of all the players. And what can't be said about Kuhnhackl, Cullen and Bryan Rust.
And it helps when every defenseman can skate and support the transition with zone-exits.
The Penguins have to fight to find open ice, push the play and use their speed. They'll have to absorb the Capitals best shots (legal, or not) and keep focused to earn scoring chances. So far, so good with 3 wins in 4 games and 11 goals in less than 13 periods on the presumptive Vezina winner.
If Pittsburgh can keep their collective legs moving they'll be in a position to finish out the series tomorrow night in Game 5.