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Pens/Bruins Recap: Undermanned Penguins don’t put up much a fight, lose 4-1

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The Penguins take to the ice, fall behind and never really make a comeback as the powerful Bruins control them all game long.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins are up to using their 10th defenseman in the year in just the season’s 8th game. They’re digging DEEP into the organization now, being forced to turn to Kevin Czuczman, who hasn’t played in the NHL since 2014.

The Bruins have a few lineup changes as well, with forward Jake DeBrusk knocked out with an injury and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk returning from an injury.

First period

Tristan Jarry is trying too hard to help the defense by tripping up Patrice Bergeron just 52 seconds into the game. The refs don’t take to that too kindly and ring Jarry up for the rare goalie penalty. The Pens kill it off and away we go.

Boston gets the game’s first goal though, 6:10 in. Czuczman fans on an attempt to clear the puck right up the middle of the ice, and that’s just not going to cut it in the NHL. Chris Wagner intercepts the pass and shoots hard with Czuczman also providing a bit of a screen on his goalie. 1-0 Bruins.

The Pens get their first power play a bit later and don’t do much with it, but at least get some zone time and don’t give up any chances against! #babysteps

Pittsburgh strikes back and it’s Cody Ceci stepping up and looking aggressive in the o-zone. Kevan Miller doesn’t step up to Ceci, so he rips a shot that beats Jaroslav Halak. 1-1 game.

The Bruins are able to get the lead back before the end of the period, Teddy Blueger loses the puck in the NZ, and then Brandon Tanev peels off Anders Bjork when his stick breaks and Bjork uses the open space to get towards the net and throws a bouncing puck to the cage that jumps off of Sean Kuraly’s leg and in past Tristan Jarry. 2-1 with 1:03 left.

Shots in the first are 9-6 BOS. Similar to last game, the Bruins do a great job of keeping the Pens quiet early. Natural Stat Trick has Boston up 72.7% - 27.3% in Corsi% in the first frame, indicative of where most of the period was spent — in the Pens’ d-zone.

Second period

After a stronger start in the second for the Pens who put together a few nice shifts of pressure, they have it fade away with another fairly weak goal against. Jarry looks uncomfortable in his crease tracking a puck back and forth and again gets caught leaning a bit of the wrong way and can’t get to the other post where Patrice Bergeron sends a low backhand shot that slides into the net. 3-1 Boston.

The Pens get two more power plays before the end of the period and...do nothing with it.

Shots in the second are 6-5 Boston. That’s doubly bad considering Pittsburgh had a 4 minute -0 advantage with PP time. 5v5 shots were 6-3 Boston. Bruins have held the Pens to 11 SOG through two periods.

Third period

Marino goes to the box early in the period for Boston’s second power play and the Bruins cash in pretty quickly with Bergeron scoring his second of the game in the bumper slot but out from a bit of distance. 4-1 now.

Not too much going on. Blueger makes a nice move in the o-zone and finds P.O Joseph for a shot. He rips it but doesn’t score.

From there, the game just kind of plays out. Boston is even hustling back to try and beat out icing calls in the dying moments, just giving the Pens nothing easy. And they get very little. Shots in the third are 6-4 Pens. 20-17 Boston overall.

Some thoughts

  • Now a veteran of four whole NHL games after tonight, P.O Joseph was thrust into a top line role and was playing noticeably physical in the first period with two big hits. Nice to see him make what looks like a pretty comfortable transition into the NHL, which isn’t an easy task!
  • Unlike the first game on Tuesday, the Pens (as visiting team) elected to start the Malkin line and John Marino on defense for opening period faceoffs, in perhaps an effort to keep the Crosby line away from Patrice Bergeron. Boston didn’t take the bait though, as home team they got final change and put non-Bergeron lines and no Charlie McAvoy to save their best players for the second shifts of the period when the Crosby lines came out.
  • As I wrote in the first game preview, Boston was holding opponents to only 22 shots per game prior to playing the Pens, top in the league. They executed that style of game again in this one, being a faster team, relentlessly pressuring the puck and giving Pittsburgh just nothing to work with, and pinning the Pens back in their own zone at every opportunity. Perfect way to play defense - to not allow the opposition to get anywhere close to the net.
  • The turning point of the game, looking back on it, was Boston going up 2-1 late in the first. On a fairly weak goal where Jarry ended up leaning the wrong way and was unable to recover quick enough to stop a slow fluttering puck. With an undermanned defensive personnel group, Pittsburgh needed a well above-average goalie performance to have a chance to hang in this game. They didn’t get it tonight.

Unlocking the 3 keys to the game (from the preview)

#1: Wounded defense. The Pens are in trouble with all the defensive injuries, and bound to be mighty limited based on personnel. That bit early with Czcuzman’s turnover in the worst possible area. But that’s going to happen when a team doesn’t have Dumoulin or Pettersson to play in the very first minute of the game. On the other hand, nice that Ceci steps up and scores his first goal as a Penguin. Otherwise, the Pens had their lowest SOG of the season and spent a ton of time in their own end due to being unable to clear the puck, with control or otherwise.

#2 [The way Jerry says ‘Newman!’...] Halak! Halak was OK, probably pretty good. He stopped 16/17 shots. But he wasn’t really tested all that much, at all. It wasn’t about him tonight, the story was about the Boston team playing very well, and the Pens just having no answers or ability to get consistent pressure and actually generate any kind of offense.

#3: Powerplay struggles. They continued. The Pens got three power plays, and at key times — one when they were down 1-0, another while losing 2-1 and a third while losing 3-1. A goal, especially on the early ones, would have changed the course of the game. They never came close, going 0/9 in total on the man advantage in the two games against Boston. Boston has the NHL’s top PK for a reason, but it’s still disappointing and a telling reason why the Pens went 0-1-1 in the two games when they do nothing on the PP. Worse than nothing, really, since Boston got a SHG last game.

A tough stretch, the Pens only pull 1 point out of two games in Boston, a team expected to be at the top of the division showed just why that was. The Pens personnel-wise just don’t have the ability to feed their best players and help them get going. It adds up to a slow performance, and their power play let them down and they fell behind yet again and just were never showing signs of being able to dig out of a hole of what happened in this one.

The good news — onto New York, the Rangers are the one team so far that the Pens have really seemed to matchup well against, and if you’re looking on the bright-side, maybe that will continue.