What: Game 2, first round, 2019 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs
When: 7:30 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, MSG+ (New York area), NBCSN Nationally in America, CBC in Canada
Series Refresh: Game 1 was a see-saw of the Islanders taking three one-goal leads, and the Penguins forcing a tie three times. Josh Bailey won it in overtime for NYI joining a storied history of Pens’ OT games of this era.
SBN Team Counterpart: Lighthouse Hockey
Anders Lee - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Josh Bailey - Brock Nelson - Tom Kuhnhackl
Anthony Beauvillier - Valtteri Filppula - Leo Komarov
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech / Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy / Scott Mayfield
Devon Toews / Johnny Boychuk
—Beauvillier was held out of practice yesterday with a “maintenance day” but seems expected to play for Game 2. Otherwise all players participated
Pelech and Pulock blossoming
As Josh Yohe at The Athletic ($) noted, a huge factor in Game 1 was the excellent play of defense pair of Pelech and Pulock:
From Feb. 1 to the end of the regular season, no one had more 5v5 ice time than Pulock (595:37) and Pelech (590:54). They also had the best high-danger chance shares, on the ice for 58.1 and 57.4 percent of the high-danger chances, respectively (stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick).
On Wednesday, Crosby’s line had one high-danger chance for and six against.
“They’re both just growing as you watch them play,” Trotz said. “I liked all our D tonight.”
More on this in the immediate below, but fighting through this pair in order to generate offense is just a “must have” for the Pens. But I mean it’s a 40-goal scorer in Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby is Sidney Crosby. It will be really fun to watch this battle tonight, I’m counting on a much better showing by the Pens’ star players. They’ll definitely need it, because the defense they encountered was really good.
With the edge that comes with home ice for setting matchups, here’s how Barry Trotz deployed his guys (via Hockey Viz):
The bigger the square the more minutes, so he generally speaking was going with:
- Crosby line vs. Cizikas (some Barzal) + as mentioned the Pelech/Pulock pair
- Malkin line vs. Nelson + Leddy/Boychuk
- Kessel line vs. a fairly even mix of all three top lines + Toews/Mayfield
It’ll be interesting to see if that continues, I don’t see much to run from or chase for the Pens, just have to adjust the breakouts a bit to deal with the pressure of the forecheck and bet that Crosby+Guentzel can breakthrough against their matchup.
The Pens’ middle two lines absolutely feasted on the NYI matchups, but left some goals on the table (with help from a great night in net from Robin Lehner). If you close your eyes you might picture Kessel hitting the post on a great pass behind the net from Simon, or McCann making a wonderful sweeping drop pass for Malkin to shoot from point-blank, or Malkin setting up Hornqvist on the door-step. Add up enough like that and hopefully some are ending up in the back of the net.
Despite the result, a lot to like in Game 1
Looking at all the Corsi (via Natural Stat Trick) the Pens basically were in complete control of this game from about the 30 minute mark on
If you look at it from the Malkin goal on (that gold dot), the game is even. By the end of regulation the Pens were pushing an advantage of near 20. That’s some good work.
Obviously a better start will be needed for Pittsburgh in Game 2. The Islanders no doubt fed off the energy of a hyped up Coliseum crowd that was hosting their first Game 1 since April of 1988. Quite a new experience for them to host the open of a series, we’ll see if things settle in a bit quicker and earlier now that all of that is over.
And now for the Pens..
Be the smartest of your friends by sharing some of these tidbits (courtesy Penguins PR):
- The Penguins are 7-3 all-time in Game 2 under head coach Mike Sullivan.
- Game 1 between the Penguins and Islanders produced an 18 local rating on AT&T SportsNet. On a national level, the Pens and Isles generated the best Opening Night overnight rating in five years on national TV rightsholder NBC Sports Network.
- Pittsburgh has just a 4-9 playoff record all-time at Nassau Coliseum.
- The Penguins are 17-5 all-time under head coach Mike Sullivan in the playoffs following a loss (7-1 in 2016; 7-2 in 2017; 3-2 in 2018).
- Penguins goaltender Matt Murray is 11-3 all-time in the playoffs following a loss.
- The Pens are 9-1 all-time in playoff series under head coach Mike Sullivan. His nine playoff series victories are the most in franchise history. His 38 playoff wins are five shy of tying Dan Bylsma’s team record.
- After the review to over-turn a goal for off-sides, the Pens improve to 5-2 this year on video reviews.
- Justin Schultz capped off the fourth multiple-point playoff game of his career by forcing overtime when he scored with just 1:29 remaining in regulation. That marked the second time in his career that Schultz has forced OT with a late goal. He scored with 1:05 remaining in Game 4 of the 2017 Second Round against Washington to tie the score at 2-2 (WSH won 3-2 in OT).
- In addition to Jared McCann making his NHL playoff debut on Wedensday, Garrett Wilson, Nick Bjugstad, Marcus Pettersson and Erik Gudbranson made their Penguins’ playoff debuts.
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby -Bryan Rust
Jared McCann -Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist
Dominik Simon - Nick Bjugstad - Phil Kessel
Zach Aston-Reese - Matt Cullen- Garrett Wilson
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Gudbranson
Expected scratches: Jack Johnson (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (upper-body injury), Zach Trotman (healthy) Teddy Blueger (healthy)
—We have a pretty good idea there will be no personnel changes from Game 1 to Game 2 based off practice yesterday
Jack Johnson, Zach Trotman, Teddy Blueger and Casey DeSmith were on the ice long after everyone else. Would be shocked if any of them played tomorrow.— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) April 11, 2019
This is a good call at this point in the series. As seen above, the Pens controlled the shots over the second half of the game. There are some aspects where they need to tighten up a bit, and hopefully Dumoulin in his second game back from injury will be a lot less shaky than Dumo was in a tough return (another good bet).
Sullivan set this lineup for a reason, and it has all the pieces in the right places to make for a successful team. And yeah, I know a lot of fans wish Blueger was getting those 6-8 minutes that Wilson will get, and it’s no position to argue against Blueger who has played well even on the wing. Wilson offers more size, physicality and against an NYI bottom-six that is crashing and banging, if you remove emotion and check Sullivan’s perspective playing Wilson makes sense.