The Penguins just lost 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Consol Energy Center. It was a game where Tampa Bay did not carry the play nor have the majority of the scoring chances, but they had high quality chances and capitalized where the Penguins didn’t.
This game had very weird, and also very unfortunate, moments for both teams:
- The Penguins’ Kris Letang was hit from behind by Lightning forward Ryan Callahan into the boards. Interestingly, Callahan received a 5 minute major, but not a game misconduct. This hit will be looked at by the league for sure, and Callahan could very well be suspended. Letang did return and played the rest of the game.
- Lightning goalie Ben Bishop had to be carried off by a stretcher in the 1st period after falling awkwardly on his left leg. Although no one is exactly sure what the issue with Bishop is yet, it seems unlikely he will return any time soon. Vasilevskiy finished the game for the Lightning.
- Tyler Johnson, Lightning’s top line center with Steven Stamkos out, was hit knee on knee by Kunitz against the boards. Johnson exited and needed help off of the ice, but he did return.
- Brian Dumoulin got hit hard into the boards and went down to the ice and appeared unconscious. He did not return.
Despite injuries to both sides, the Lightning players stepped up and buried the opportunities that they needed to bury. The Penguins did not. It really is that simple.
The first Lightning goal was simply Olli Maatta getting burned. Again. Hedman fired the puck down the length of the ice to Killorn who was waiting at the blue line. Maatta had awful position on him, and allowed him to skate right on in, and Killorn made no mistake on the breakaway, beating Murray 5-hole.
The second Tampa Bay goal came on the power play, as a shot was deflected in front from a point shot and found a wide open Palat who had a 4 x 6 staring him down. He didn’t miss, either.
The final Lightning goal came off of a bad pass from Malkin that could not be handled by Dumoulin. The result was a 3 on 1 for the Lightning, and it only took 1 pass and a one-time shot by Drouin which put the Lightning up 3-0.
Hornqvist would add a power play goal late in the 2nd, but the game had already been decided by that point.
Although the Penguins out-chanced the Lightning and even out-shot them, I did not feel like they came out with any type of desperation at all. I just never sensed it. This could be attributed to coming off of 2 series wins against 2 of the Penguins’ biggest rivals. It could just simply be that they weren’t ready. Regardless of the reason, the Penguins need to buckle down and win game 2. If they fail to do so, this series will be a quick one, and might not even be coming back to Pittsburgh.
Although the Penguins did not play their worst game, enough is enough. Well, what do I mean by that?
Maatta has gotten his fair share of chances, and yet he continues to get burned by the opposition. Enough is enough. He is a smart kid and I still like that the Penguins signed him to a 6-year deal, but ever since he’s battled back from injuries this year, his reaction time and skating has been too slow, especially against a fast Tampa Bay team. The guy is pretty much a lock for at LEAST 1 breakaway allowed per game.
Oh yeah, also considering the Penguins have Justin Schultz on their bench who skates very well, has great speed, and has been on the ice for five goals against since being aquired by Pittsburgh.
Sorry Olli, enough is enough. If Sullivan knows what he is doing, Schultz should play game 2 and Maatta should sit.
The Penguins need to learn to shoot when they have a high scoring chance. Enough is enough. I saw the Penguins not shoot on a 2 on 1 OR a 3 on 2, both of which occurred in the same minute or 2 span. Quit trying to make the pretty play and get some garbage goals. Oh and shoot when you have odd man rushes. Take a note from Tampa, they had 2 tonight.
Also the Penguins were lacking net front presence tonight. It seemed like their shots would either be blocked, or Vasilevskiy/Bishop saw it the whole way. I don’t care who is in net, both of these guys are good. Yeah sometimes the bounces will go your way, but the Penguins need to shoot the puck with traffic in front if they want to win game 2.
Finally, and probably the biggest issue, Malkin and Crosby need to start producing…and I mean NOW. Enough is enough.
I get that these 2 along with Kessel are 3 of the only active 4 NHL players that have above a point per game in the playoffs, but they sure aren’t living up to that recently.
Both players played very well against the Rangers, and as a result the Penguins toppled them in 5 games. Meanwhile against Washington, the Penguins received 1 goal from Crosby and Malkin combined. One. measly. goal. AND it was scored in game 1 from Malkin. Neither Sid or Geno scored in games 2-6 of the Washington series, and neither of them scored in game 1 against Tampa Bay.
I understand that there are plays made that don’t show up on the score sheet. I know these guys want to score. But they haven’t. They got away with it against Washington, but it is only a matter of time before the Penguins begin to slide without their top 2 players producing. And for that matter, Letang has been very quiet offensively, too.
However I think it is time that just “making a good play here and there” and “playing hard” just isn’t enough for Sid or Geno. Malkin did have some good looks on the power play, as did Sid, but to me neither player really seemed like they had that extra push or energy to jolt them over the top. Neither of them looked like generational talents. This is a huge issue for the Penguins going forward. It helps to have depth scoring, but they can only pick Geno and Sid up so often.
So, how do the Penguins get Geno and Sid going? Here are my thoughts:
- Sid needs to have a shot first mentality. He has always been his best when he shoots before he passes, but he seems to be deferring way to often lately. He had an assist on Hornqvist’s goal, but Sid needs to start shooting the puck. Period.
- In the words of @EvgeniMalkinEgo on Twitter, Evgeni Malkin has “two pieces of cheese as linemates.” He isn’t wrong. It is hard for Malkin to get going with the likes of Fehr and Kunitz, neither of who are stellar offensive players. Rust is the only somewhat legitimate offensive player that could plug in on Malkin’s line, but he admitted to not liking playing with Geno due to their clashing playing styles. My solution? It’s Daniel Sprong time. The kid has a shot and isn’t afraid to use it. The Penguins need to give Malkin a somewhat legitimate forward to work with, and Sprong fits the bill. Will that actually happen? Never in a million years. Should it happen? In my opinion, yes.
- My final idea: play Geno on Sid’s wing. Kessel, Bonino, and Hagelin is your 2nd line regardless of where Malkin plays. Why not try to get both Sid and Malkin going by playing them both on the top line? It’s an idea that the coaching staff should seriously entertain, considering I doubt they will recall Daniel Sprong this year unless it becomes necessary.
Until Malkin and Sid get going, this series will be a short lived one for the Penguins.
Game 2 is Monday night at Consol Energy Center. A win for the Penguins could be a huge momentum builder going into Tampa Bay. A loss puts them down 2-0 in 2 home games to open up the series, and the Penguins are lucky to come back to Pittsburgh for a game 5 if that is the case.
Enough is enough.