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5 Thoughts on Pens/Caps Game 6: A false goalie "controversy"

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A look at news and notes around the Pittsburgh Penguins as they prepare for Game 6 in their series against the Washington Capitals tomorrow

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

#1: The big talking point (at least among some media and fans) would be which goalie should be in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night for Game 6 against the Washington Capitals. This should be a fairly easy decision for coach Mike Sullivan, but hey, it's always fun to drum up narratives, stir page views and create controversies.\\

murraystats5916

In 19 career NHL games, Murray has 16 quality starts. According to hockey-reference, league average is a quality start 53% of the time, Murray's tossing 'em out with an 84%. Sure, small sample, but the Penguins only need to win one more game to finish off what was the best team in the league this regular season.

Marc-Andre Fleury, for comparison has a .914 save % in his last 23 starts post-All-Star break. He hasn't played a game in almost 6 weeks. It doesn't put him or the team in a good position to plug him in for Game 6 of a series, especially when the guy in the net has given 0 realistic reasons to be removed from the net. If Fleury saw the same shots Matt Murray saw last game, the Pens still lose, and they probably still lose 3-1. The Penguins do have 99 problems, but a question of which goalie gives them the best chance to win right now isn't one.

#2: One storyline is the forward units. Here's practice alignments on Monday

After the benching in Game 5, Patric Hornqvist was on the ice as normal and in his usual spot with Sidney Crosby . If Hornqvist was injured, it doesn't seem to be anything that drastic.

Still, with the annual 2016 "let's blame Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for all problems real and imagined" tour already getting into motion, it's painful to see their linemates.

  • Conor Sheary, God love him, but has 0 goals (only only 7 shots on goal) in the 5 games. He does have 2 assists, though one of them was the Mike Weber-bungled real assist, another was a secondary assist on Trevor Daley's goal in Game 4. Sheary's added speed and isn't afraid to make a move with the puck on his stick, but against a physical and good Capitals defensive pair that matches Crosby, he's been easily held in check
  • Hornqvist, as mentioned barely saw the ice in the second half of Game 5. Is he injured? It's hard to imagine a coach that raves over this guy benching him, but who knows. Either way, unsettling heading into Game 6 for what has been one of the Pens best forwards early in the series.
  • Chris Kunitz scored a PPG last game, which is great since it's his first goal in 18 games and now has a whopping 3 points in that stretch. He's doing little to support the play or create scoring chances for himself or his center, and he's also had 0 or 1 SOG in 6 of the 10 playoff games so far this spring.
  • Eric Fehr has one goal (an important one that Malkin bounced off his stick in Game 2) and no assists all playoffs. He was hurt with an unknown injury and missed Game 4, coming back for a 0 SOG quiet Game 5.

Not exactly an ideal supporting cast at the moment for Crosby and Malkin to work with.

Which isn't to let them off the hook, the stars need to find ways to generate (and hopefully convert) scoring chances. They have no excuse on what's been a dreadful power play this series. Somehow, someway, Crosby and Malkin have to find a way, it just doesn't look like their support system is going to be very promising to help them out consistently with all that.

The great ones need to find a way though, and tomorrow night will be one more chance. All it takes is a little for these guys to burst out and take over a game, hopefully it is coming sooner than later (because then there won't be a later).

#3 Power play

Speaking of, there's the power play in practice. Pretty much no change, though the team has bounced Hornqvist and Kunitz around a little on the top unit. Not much more to say, other than these guys really have to keep pace with a Capitals PP that has been heating up in recent games. If Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are making more plays than Crosby and Malkin and Phil Kessel here, Pittsburgh's chances of winning go way down.

#4 Maatta matters

Olli Maatta was in a regular jersey, and as you see above played on a power play unit and skated with Brian Dumoulin. Those two only played 26 minutes together in the regular season, which isn't any time at all over a full season. It will be interesting if the Pens run this way tomorrow. And, if they do, Maatta will have to be much better than he was earlier in the playoffs, in a critical game all the while coming off a head injury. Doesn't sound too promising.

#5 Orpik ready to slot back in

From the way the Capitals practiced, it looks like Brooks Orpik will be back with John Carlson , which is hopefully something the Pens can take advantage of. Also of note on Washington's ever-rotating bad bottom pair, today's contestants were Dmitry Orlov and Taylor Chorney, meaning Nate Schmidt (probably the best player of the group) could be headed for another scratch. This could also be a positive development for Pittsburgh if it holds.