Early into Halfway into Nearly the entire the way through Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final last night, Guy Boucher and the Ottawa Senators were absolutely sucking all of the fun out of the game and out of our collective lives.
The Senators were stacking 4 players on their own blue line and daring the Penguins to try and wear themselves out and frustrate themselves into oblivion. It’s only been a few days (this can be said at any given time) since we’ve seen a group of Senators working so ridiculously hard to clog things up and slow things down. What a country.
We're all Chris Kunitz, right?
And I guess we’re all Mike Sullivan too.
The Pens needed to light a spark and do something to take control of the game. This all changed in the second and third period, and it paid off.
Took the Penguins a while, but they finally pulled off a 2016-esque domination on the shot front in these playoffs. pic.twitter.com/YycAgODeeP— Bill West (@BWest_Trib) May 16, 2017
Late in the third, with overtime looming, and the thought creeping into the back of your mind that these two teams might play for a few more hours and the scoreboard might still be sitting at 0-0.
On Sunday, during the off day, a friend of mine and I were discussing this stupid 1-3-1 and how to combat it. My thought was to use the “Top Gun Play.” Hope for an aggressive defense pinching when the puck is carried up the side boards, tap the brakes, and then counter with a pass to the middle to a streaking forward with some space in front of him.
Something like this. It kinda happened just like that too, in a way.
It all started with Evgeni Malkin.
He had a quick little entry into the offensive zone and made it look so easy.
As he was gaining entry at the blue line, Cody Ceci started stepping up towards him to meet him at half-wall, along with Mark Stone. Zach Smith was trailing on the play behind Malkin and trying to catch up.
Malkin made a quick little move to get the puck around Stone’s stick and skates and just makes a little chip play to a streaking Phil Kessel. At this point, Cody Ceci has completely taken himself out of the play for no reason whatsoever. Stone got outmaneuvered by Malkin, but he could’ve done that by himself whether Ceci was there or not.
As Kessel is loading up to shoot, you can already see that Malkin took on 3 Senators himself and none of them are anywhere close to being able to make a play. SEND THIS MAN TO WASHINGTON TO TAKE ON MORE SENATORS.
While Kessel is in a shooting position, Dion Phaneuf is off to his right, presumably looking for someone else to hit in the head and finish off a trifecta on the night. J.G. Pageau is right in the shooting lane, ready to try and block the shot. Actually, he does better than try -- he does block the shot. But that’s not all good news for him.
The puck comes right back to Kessel, as the puck tends to find elite players in these situations, and he puts it right past Craig Anderson in one motion. Just like that, it’s blocked, it’s back on his stick, and it’s gone.
Still not sure what Dion Phaneuf was doing, to be honest.
Regardless of what Phaneuf was doing, how the puck was blocked by Pageau, and how Kessel beat Anderson, none of that likely matters or even become a thing if the Senators hadn’t messed up and had 3 of their 5 skaters on the ice occupying a 10-foot space.
Yeah, Phil Kessel is gonna score in this situation almost always. I’d LOVE to see this from Olli Maatta’s perspective right down on the ice watching this all go down as he was crashing into the zone himself.
Thank the Lord that the Penguins were able to break through. It’s excruciating watching this style of hockey clog up a game and series, and a 2-0 series lead for the Senators would have only perpetuated this further.
Now we head to Ottawa for Game 3 tomorrow night.