Fleury Stops 23 in shutout effort
For the first time in the entire 2017 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins found themselves down in a series at the start of the Eastern Conference finals. Despite dealing with injuries, playing 2 of the best teams in the league and not playing particularly well at times, the Penguins had managed to never fall behind in a series. It is a pretty surprising fact seeing that when you break down some of their advanced metrics, the Penguins are not very impressive. But that’s the thing about the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs; you play the games. When those games are played with a goaltender as hot as Marc-Andre Fleury, what the rest of the time is sometimes doing doesn’t matter.
What is interesting about the start of this series is the shape and tone that it has taken and who the opponents are. The style that the Ottawa Senators are playing is the Penguins biggest opposition.
After a game one where the Penguins played listlessly and without much urgency the seeds for an upset were planted. Those seeds came to fruition when Bobby Ryan banged home the backhand winner in OT the first step for the Sens was complete.
Now in game 2, Pittsburgh needed to do something special to split home ice and avoid the dreaded 2-0 series hole.
As described by literally every member of the Pittsburgh media ad nausea um, Ottawa has been employing a 1-3-1 Neutral zone trap. Pittsburgh struggled in game 1 to figure it out.
Guy Boucher has his band of merry misfits buying in and making life miserable for the opposition. For most of this playoffs, this has been uber successful.
To get back into this Pittsburgh would have to be patient in game 2 and not fall into the trap.
They also would have to do it without Patric Hornqvist who was a late scratch.
Furthermore, during the game, the Pens would again succumb to the injury bug as both Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz were injured.
Could the Penguins stars kick it up a notch in game 2? Would Fleury have to stand on his head? One thing about these 2017 NHL playoffs we never know what to expect;.
Game 2 kicked off with Craig Andeson in net for the Senators and Marc-Andre Fleury for the good guys.
As far as breaking down the action in this one it’s a little tricky. That’s the thing about this Ottawa style; it just doesn’t lead to exciting games.
Pittsburgh though did manage some great opportunities on Anderson with the first one coming at a little under 4 minutes into the game.
The play started as Pittsburgh just fired the puck towards the net in the Ottawa zone. Pittsburgh continued to fight down low as Chris Kunitz won a battle in the corner.
Kessel nabbed the puck and centered to a wide-open Malkin who had a great chance in tight, but Anderson was up top the task to keep the score even.
Just about a minute after this had thought the Penguin got some bad news as Dion Phaneuf just utterly destroyed Bryan Rust on an open ice hit and knocked him out for the game.
— Fandings (@fandings) May 16, 2017
Not too long after this hit Justin Schultz went into the boards hard and looked like he banged his shoulder up pretty good.
No reports are available at this time, but it didn’t look good as Schultz left the ice.
Now back to the action.
Malkin again had a chance with about 5 minutes left in the first. It was a pretty passing play between Malkin, Doumolin, and Kessel that ended with a Malkin shot in the slot.
The play was of particular interest in that Malkin made a tremendous circling play with Erik Karlsson guarding him.
Anderson again was up to make the save stopping Malkin from right in between the circles. No one was able to score in the first and as it remained 0-0 after one period.
Jake Guentzel had a great chance to get the Penguins on the board during the power play with 16:10 left in the 2nd period.
Phil Kessel came into the Senators zone and just pulled up inside the blueline. His saucer pass just inside the zone beat 2 Ottawa defenders.
Dumoulin then in one motion just touched the pass over to Guenztel who walked in alone. Sadly for the Penguins, the shot hit the post, and the score remained 0-0.
At 10:23 of the 2nd it looked like Sidney Crosby had given the Penguins the lead.
After winning another puck battle along the boards, the puck came free down in the corner to Guentzel.
His centering pass went to Sherry who was unable to get a shot off on Anderson. The puck though bounced around and came free to Crosby just at the faceoff dot.
He fired, but the shot went wide and hit the outside of the net. Just about everyone in the arena thought it went in including Jake Guentzel who raised his stick.
Into the third, every Penguins fan had to be a little nervous as the game was tied. One play, one bounce, and the Penguins could be down 2-0 in the series.
With Ottawa backing up the entire time, coming back from down a goal would have been next to impossible.
Nick Bonino tried to give the Pens a lead as he fielded a great headman pass from Ron Hainsey 3:10 into the third. Just as Bonino was going to shoot the puck rolled off his stick.
He was still able to get the shot off, but Anderson had an extra second to regroup and make the save.
Chad Ruhwedel had another wide open chance for the Penguins after Kyle Turris turned the puck over in his own end.
Malkin took the Turris turnover and was able to find Ruhwedel wide open in front. His one-time shot though was again calmly stopped but Craig Anderson.
With just under 7 minutes left Phil the Thrill would come through and get Pittsburgh on the board.
Again it was a pass just came just inside the blue line that led to the chance.
Malkin walked the puck through center and around an Ottawa defender. As he crossed into the Sens zone, he slid the puck a few feet to Kessel.
Kessel who had been trailing the play and got lost by the Senators defense, was wide open in the middle of the ice.
Anderson stopped his first shot the rebound came free right back to him, and Phil did not miss with attempt number two.
1-0 lead for Pittsburgh and a huge sigh of relief from just about everyone in the black and gold.
— Joecrispi44 (@joecrispinoIII) May 16, 2017
Fleury was forced to make one save late on a Turris slap shot but other than that the anemic Senators offense didn’t muster any chances in the last 6 minutes of the game.
Off to Ottawa for game 3 with the series tied 1-1
1. Just a quick commentary on what Ottawa coach Guy Boucher and the Senators are doing to the game of hockey. Plain and simple this is a garbage style to watch. Four guys skating backward in the neutral zone on every possession is just bad for the game.
Not sure how many people here watch the NBA, but the pace and space play has changed that league for the better. The play is more free flowing and exciting as more outcomes are possible on each possession.
The NHL needs to figure out a way to follow suit. Yes, I know the 1-0 game is exciting but watching a bunch of guys like Tom Pyatt, Tommy Wingels, and Clark MacArthur slog around on the ice is terrible for the game.
Pittsburgh has this fast, free flowing game that is all about speed and to watch the life get choked out of it is embarrassing. It’s a guy playing poker down and out just slow playing his last few hands or someone with a meal chewing the last little bit of food 100 times for effect. The rub is that it can be useful in this type of situation so you can’t fault Ottawa but man is it boring.
2. Although limited regarding numbers, the chances that Pittsburgh got were of the spectacular variety. It’s only a matter of time before guys like Malkin, Crosby, Guentzel, Sheary, etc. finish more of these chances.
3. Fleury was sharp despite not facing shots for extended periods. Sometimes that is harder than when you get bombarded. Kudos to both goaltenders in this one as Anderson was very very solid along with Fleury.
4. Pittsburgh was working hard along the boards to win pucks, and it was leading to chances. Chris Kunitz was the king of this. I thought he played a great game using his body and just making contact. Doesn’t always have to be a huge hit but making contact is key. Also, the way Crosby, Sheary, and Guentzel were working off contact to create chances was encouraging.
5. Phil Kessel, what can you say. The guy is just a big game performer. I don’t get how people can’t like this guy. Yeah like Malkin he goes into a fog sometimes but when a big spotlight is on he steps up.
5. Injuries injuries injuries. When Rust and Schultz went down the Penguins had to play down 2 men. In classic Penguins fashion, no one batted an eye, and they just overcame the adversity. Hard to believe that at some point it won’t catch up with them. Also losing Schultz could be super bad. I saw this on www.theincline.com today and it put in perspective how good Schultz has been.
“Schultz had 51 points for the Penguins this season, leading all defensemen. He was a plus-27 in 78 games, best on the team, logging nearly 1600 minutes of ice time, 10 minutes fewer than Ian Cole for the most on the team, though he played in two fewer games. His average ice time of 20:27 this season.”