Depth Scoring, Ugly Power Play, Other Thoughts from Pens Game Three Win

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins Twitter account


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Home sweet home. The Pittsburgh Penguins put a little more pressure on the Rangers with a 7-4 victory in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead in round one.

The Penguins pushed four goals passsed Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin in the first period which saw him pulled in favor of Alexander Georgiev at the beginning of the second.

That second period saw the Rangers flip the game back on its head with a three-goal outburst to tie the game. Mike Sullivan lamented it as the worst period they’ve played all series and he couldn’t have been more right.

In the third, Danton Heinen was able to slip a goal past Georgiev and allowed the Pens to take a lead. They played tremendous over the final ten minutes and won the game after two empty-net goals and yet another phenomenal highlight pass by Sidney Crosby.

If you wanted entertaining, nail-biting hockey then continue to read and I’ll give you my thoughts. If you don’t, then I don’t know why you even bother watching playoff hockey.

Onward.

Seven Goals and Only One Came From a Big Gun

This is undoubtedly one of the most important developments of the series to date. The Penguins didn’t rely on goals from their top line to win this one. They watched their latter lines pump shots at Shesterkin who clearly didn’t have it tonight.

He allowed weird rebounds and seemed to be fighting the puck a bit. The Penguins saw that and continued to throw shots at the net looking for the “chaos” plays that Sullivan eluded to would happen if they start just throwing pucks towards the net.

Evan Rodrigues and Jeff Carter had two goals each. Heinen and Brock McGinn pitched in for one a piece. Jake Guentzel is the one top guy that scored tonight and now has at least a goal in all three games in the series so far. If you like half priced Jake Shakes, Guentzel is really doing it for you.

Crosby didn’t even have a point until Guentzel’s empty netter to make it 6-4, and essentially clinch the game. Then he added another on the between the legs pass to Carter, that would ultimately be the eleventh and final goal of the game.

Monday needs to see more of the same. Kasperi Kapanen, who’s been playing incredibly in all three games, would love to finish and get on the board. A Teddy Blueger or Brian Boyle goal would be awesome as well. Or more from E Rod, Big Jeff Carter, Heinen, and McGinn works too.

If the top line can add to that production, the Penguins’ chances of winning game four and beyond go up infinitely.

Now Let’s Talk Power Play…

It’s unsettling to watch the Penguins top power play unit hop over the boards right now. They are a broken unit.

I love Kris Letang. He’s been a staple of the team for 16 years. But he was putrid with the puck on his stick last night.

From the first shift, you could tell he was going to have one of those games that made you scream “WTF BRO!” when he touched the puck and that seemed to be a theme all night.

Nothing was worse than when he turned the puck over in front of his own goaltender, on the power play nonetheless, and watched as Andrew Copp buried a short hander behind Louis Domingue to tie the game.

The Penguins didn’t receive another power play the rest of the night, but I will be up a wall if the Penguins send Letang out with the top unit in game four, or whenever the Pens go on the man advantage again.

Mike Matheson is about as confident with the puck as anyone on the entire team right now and rightfully so. He skates magnificently, his puck handling is above average, and he feels like an awesome fit for a power play that’s really struggling. Flip Matheson and Letang and see what kind of results it produces.

The defenseman needs to be the facilitator on the power play and Letang doesn’t deserve that opportunity right now with the playoffs being do-or-die.

Domingue Doing His Job, But the Job Isn't Done

Asking a goaltender to do what Louis Domingue has done for the Penguins is a tall ask. He’s been everything the Penguins have needed. I hesitate to add “and more” at the end of that because, well, he’s still allowing goals that you’d like to see saved. But he’s literally providing the Penguins with what they need. A solid performance.

The moment doesn’t look too big for him. He shut the Rangers down in Game 1, played fairly well in Game 2 but took the loss, and then provided the Penguins with a 32 save performance Saturday.

Through three games, Domingue is 2-1-0 with a 4.03 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. Those numbers certainly aren’t eye-popping, but he’s won two games for the Penguins.

There’s a very good chance he’s going to be tasked with at least one more game in this series. Tristan Jarry skated Saturday morning before his teammates skated. The Penguins are off on Sunday and won’t practice again until Monday so any update in that regard is still a day away.

To expect Jarry to have one practice with teammates and immediately be back in the crease is a bit of a stretch. At best, Jarry backs up Domingue in Game 4 and only plays in the case of an emergency.

But in more realistic terms, Domingue starts Game 4 Monday with Alex D’Orio backing him up and then on Wednesday, when the series shifts back to Madison Square Garden, Jarry’s status is re-evaluated.

Zucker Fares Well In His Return

I don’t like +/- as a stat. It feels very comparable to wins for starting pitchers.  But I find it very funny that Jason Zucker, who was one of the better Penguins on the night, was the only player with a minus-rating at -1.

I enjoyed seeing Zucker play at that 110% that he gives when he seldom does get on the ice. He was throwing his body around, was conscious with the puck, and played solid away from the puck.

Zucker’s return allows the Penguins to be that much deeper on paper and, ironically, saw them score seven in this game. Evan Rodrigues was able to slide down to the bottom line and infuse some speed there.

Zucker’s presence meant that Drew O’Connor was bounced back out of the lineup. I’d personally like to see him in over Boyle for game four for speed purposes but Boyle provides more experience and I don’t know if Sullivan is going to mess with lines after a seven-goal eruption.

McGinn and Carter were Zucker’s line mates in Game 3 and played as one of the better combinations in this game. Depending on the timeline of Rickard Rakell’s injury, this line could stay together for the foreseeable future, even when Rakell returns.

Heinen or Kapanen could be bumped to the fourth line in that case. But I’ll step aside and let Sullivan make the final decisions on the lineup.

Goodrow, Motte injuries Proving Problematic for Rangers

For some odd reason, Rangers coach Gerard Gallant insists on rolling four lines consistently. This has allowed Ryan Reaves and his line to play entirely too much against the Crosby and Malkin lines. That’s just absurd in my opinion.

It hasn’t been detrimental quite yet but I can’t imagine it’s something he’s going to want to do if we see a sixth and seventh game of this series.

Barclay Goodrow and Tyler Motte are pieces of the Rangers bottom-six that they certainly miss. They’re way more talented than a guy like Reaves who really doesn’t serve much purpose in this series if it’s not a physical series.

He did a good job throwing his weight around early in the series but the Penguins have done a fairly good job not allowing him to get under their skin and fight. He’s really only good for that purpose. He doesn’t provide much in the way of offense.

Goodrow and Motte are more offensively inclined and make the Rangers a team that could conceivably roll four lines and do it well.

They’re both day-to-day and the Rangers hope they’ll return soon.

Before I leave you, I want to point out that, despite losing two games in this series, Shesterkin’s save percentage is still at .923 despite allowing four goals on 15 shots before he got pulled Saturday.

That’s just silly. I don’t think he’ll be held down for long. I expect he bounces back in a big way on Monday and the Penguins, and Domingue, must be ready to push back themselves.

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