Despite Game 1 Victory, Penguins Can’t Afford to Get Cute in Game 2

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Game One was a thrilling back and forth battle that saw the Pittsburgh Penguins come out on top. As we awake here on this rather pleasant Thursday morning, we are all eagerly awaiting Game Two.

Whether Casey DeSmith, Louis Domingue, or Joe Random inhabit the net this evening, one thing is absolutely certain: a 1-0 series lead gives the Penguins no excuse to get cute.  In previous seasons, the Penguins may look at a 1-0 series lead and think they’re the better team and the series is already over. That, in fact, couldn’t be further from the truth with this version of the Penguins.

Don’t get me wrong. That game the other night, after the 1st period and beyond, was a clinic by the Penguins. Despite playing nearly two whole games, Pittsburgh just seemed to skate harder and want it more from the second regulation period onward.

Mike Sullivan’s style of play is demanding and it’s one the Penguins’ stars haven’t always embraced 100% of the time. They know it works, but the commitment to play like that on a nightly basis has been hard to come by.

These set of circumstances are different and I believe everyone sees it.

Everyone knows we’re on the precipice of what could be the end of an era for the stars. I don’t need to tell you that Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are soon-to-be unrestricted free agents. And don’t think for a second they don’t want to have one more lengthy run together that could culminate in holding up that iconic Stanley Cup.

Crosby looked like a man on a mission Tuesday. Letang played 46 demanding minutes and didn’t even look the least bit tired deep into the overtones. And, of course, Malkin got credited with the game winner on his tip in from in front of the net.

But things don’t stop there. John Marino got knocked around pretty handily in the first period. He recovered and played possibly his finest game in a Penguins uniform, picking up the assist on the game winner. Brock McGinn looked like he was shot out of a cannon every time he was on the ice. He’s the type of player the Penguins acquired specifically to shine in the playoffs.

Mike Matheson was his usual, confident self. DeSmith faced a lot of shots and was very much up to the task. The list goes on and on.

This type of effort has to be there tonight in Game Two. And it can’t stop there. It needs to be there, maybe even doubly, in front of their home crowd at PPG Paints Arena when the series shifts to Pittsburgh on Saturday evening.

While we’re at it, if the Penguins continue to outwork the Rangers, their effort must continue even further. Because, believe it or not, the next team the Penguins would play will be even better than the vaunted Rangers.

Winning one game in the most legendary venue in sports is massive. Doing it in Game One when you’re labeled as an underdog heading into the series is doubly impressive. But that can’t be the thought heading into game two.  It’s a brand new game and a brand new series. 

Don’t look ahead. Don’t look back.

The Rangers once had a mental advantage. That was before, when they had won three straight regular season games against the Penguins. Then, Pittsburgh skated into their barn and took Game One nearly five hours into it.

Now, with such a devastating loss, the Penguins might have the mental edge. You can’t rely on that as the end-all-be-all though. This game has to be played just as hard. Use your momentum and jump on the Rangers early.

Igor Shesterkin does still exist after all. He made 79 saves in a singular game. He’s going to be a menace this series and there’s no way around it. So you just have to continue to run up shot numbers and pound him into submission.

New York is going to try and physically assert themselves against a much weaker Pens team. So play to your strengths and try to beat them at your own game. I think the Rangers were so focused on hitting people that they exerted too much of themselves in the first period and the game flipped on it’s head.  Which is exactly why we saw the Penguins score three second period goals.

All of this word soup above pretty much can be summed up by the title of the blog. Whatever they did from the second period on, do that again. Because going back to Pittsburgh with a 2-0 series lead would be huge.

It certainly wouldn’t guarantee anything more than the fact that game three is in Pittsburgh. But it would go a long way in pushing the Rangers closer to a place of desperation they certainly wouldn’t have expected to be in when their flight left New York en route to Pittsburgh.