It’s difficult to evaluate the Pittsburgh Penguins after their Game 2 loss to the Boston Bruins, because they were abjectly terrible in such a spectacular fashion.
A pop-gun offense that played right into the Boston Bruins’ hands. Turnovers that happened so frequently that one began to wonder if Jeremy Jacobs would add the Penguins to the Boston payroll. And after the Bruins took a commanding first-period lead, a level of passion that would rival any neutral site preseason game.
“We made some mistakes as a group we haven’t been making,” said Jarome Iginla, maker of dubious player personnel decisions. “The last four periods haven’t been good for us. We have to stop it right now.”
But how do you stop it? How do the Penguins turn this thing around with a defensive juggernaut leaving them bruised, battered and baffled on the other end of the ice?
A few considerations for Game 3 in Boston …
1. Start Fleury, Sit Vokoun
It’ll be said that Tomas Vokoun can’t be faulted for the three goals he surrendered in the first period of Game 2, and that’s true to a point.
Yes, two turnovers led to Boston goals, and that passing play to set up Dave Krejci’s tally made the Pittsburgh defense look like practice pylons. But sometimes you ask your goalie to cover for your mistakes, and Vokoun couldn’t manage it in Game 2 after giving them exactly that in the previous two rounds.
I wrote on Monday that if Vokoun lost Game 2 it would be Marc-Andre Fleury time, and I’m sticking with that. No, Fleury didn’t look good in what was essentially garbage time, but at least he got a chance to put his skates back in the crease instead of entering Game 3 having not played since May 7.
I’d go back to Fleury for two reasons. First, because he’s 4-1 with a .954 save percentage in his last five trips to Boston. But mostly because down 0-2 in a dire situation, the series needs to be in the hands of the Penguins’ leaders.
Say what you will about his postseason performances or lack of elite status, the fact remains that he’s been through the wars with this group. I’ve no doubt that after this break for Fleury, they’ll play for him.
And if he gets smoked in Game 3 … hey, Ryan Miller’s available.
2. Realize You’re Not Playing Bryzgalov
Nick Cotsonika snagged an interesting comment from Sidney Crosby after Monday’s loss:
Hell, where is the team that lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in that crazy first-round series last year? At least those Penguins could score while they screwed up defensively.
“Weren’t the Philly games, like, 8-5?” Crosby said. “I mean, I think at that point we probably did take for granted that we could score five. I don’t think this is the case here. I think this is a classic case tonight of trying to create things maybe when it’s not there and paying for it. We learned a tough lesson. We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
I think Sid and Co. have been reeducated on that first point. There was clearly a sense from the Penguins that their offense will lead the way and bail them out, and the Bruins aren’t giving them an inch. So now they’re over-thinking it and over-passing it and playing right into the Bruins hands. Watch either of their Game 2 power plays, and you’ll see a unit that makes fans in the cheap seats want to scream “SHOOOOOOOOT!”
(I can’t stand those people.)
Coach Dan Bylsma said, “We've gotten away from our game. We've gotten off our game plan. We've deviated.”
That’s mostly because of the Bruins, and the Penguins' failure to roll with those punches.
3. No. More. Turnovers.
The turnover disparity in this series is a disgrace for the Penguins. They were minus-71 in the regular season in giveaways/takeaways; the Bruins, for contrast, were a minus-124. The Penguins, especially at the forward spot, were a team that played carefully with the puck.
Against the Bruins, they have 20 giveaways to Boston’s three.
And there's your series.
4. Break Up The Crosby Line
Chris Kunitz has one goal in his last five games. Pascal Dupuis has one goal and one assist – both coming in Game 4 against Ottawa – in his last seven.
This has been one of the best lines in hockey all season long. Maybe you allow them to play out of this, and hope they can find a way to break through against the Bergeron line. Or perhaps in desperate times, you take desperate measures and break the line. Pair Crosby with Iginla. Or perhaps load up with Sid and Malkin, running the risk that you’d have to deal with Bergeron AND Chara every shift.
• • •
The Duck Boats haven’t been rented yet in Boston. The series isn’t over. The Penguins were flustered in Game 1, embarrassed in Game 2; we’ll what Dan Bylsma cooks up for Game 3, know that management has too much invested in this team to see it get humbled like this.