This was just about a carbon copy of game two of this series except the teams just flipped who took the lead and dominated the game early. The Blue Jackets scored two goals in the first 3:18 of the game and the Blue Jackets fans were crazy into the game. The Penguins have played in some big situations and played in some really hostile places but they looked pretty shook to start the game. Luckily they settled down and Marc-Andre Fleury helped hold the fort with enough time for the offense to get going in the third period. When the offense came, it came in a big way (phrasing).
Like I said, this was totally opposite. The Penguins had nothing going through nearly two periods of play and it looked like it might get ugly. The Penguins then got a goal on a pretty nice play by Brooks Orpik with 1.8 seconds left in the second period. You know, Orpik just scoring big goals like we all planned.
I must admit that Orpik played a pretty damn good game tonight. He has been fairly awful all season and hasn't been good so far this playoffs but tonight he played some pretty good hockey. He was one of the most effective defenseman in terms of advanced stats (+8 Corsi) and even scored the goal. I haven't been very confident at all with him on the ice but tonight he stepped up in a big way in a game that started pretty poorly.
The stats are going to show that the Blue Jackets racked up 65 hits in the game. I am sure that is going to get a lot of talk and while I think hits in the playoffs are more tangible than in the regular season that is somewhat of a good thing for the Penguins. You know why? When you are throwing hits that means you don't have the puck. When you don't have the puck you can't score goals. As the Toronto Maple Leafs how that works outs. Just for fun take a look at the Fenwick flow chart from tonight's game:
Remember Fenwick is the goals scored, plus missed shots, plus shots on goal. Notice when things started to go bad for Columbus?
When you factor in block shots with all the fun stuff that Fenwick gives you that is where you get your Corsi number. In 5v5 play tonight the Penguins had a 60% Corsi. That is...very good.
The Penguins still had some big time problems tonight. Their power play went 0-for-6 and most of those came in the first half of the game when they were down two goals. The Penguins have thrived on the power play for much of the season and it was almost as if Columbus was begging them to get back into the game but the Pens couldn't figure out the Columbus PK and therefore were still searching after unlimited chances.
On the positive side the Penguins didn't give up a short handed goal (!!!) and the penalty kill did a nice job killing off all four Columbus power play opportunities, including one with about seven minutes left.
MAF only made a handful of saves thanks to Columbus not being at all interested in having the puck so the three goals he allowed on 20 shots aren't going to look all that good. It turns out to be an .850 save percentage and a lot are going to go with the "playoff Fleury" thing after looking at the box score. He didn't have to make a ton of saves but when your team lays down and plays as bad as the Penguins did in the first and most of the second it would have been easy for him to mail it in and move on to game four with the Penguins down 2-1. He didn't though and battled hard and gave them a chance. He looked like he was fighting the puck at times but over the last 55 minutes of the game he gave up one goal and should get some props for being one of the betters players on the ice for the entire game.
Sidney Crosby is getting a lot of talk about him needing to step up and be the best player in the world. He hasn't scored a goal yet this series and has had minimal impact on the game but tonight when he was on the ice in a 5v5 situation his line had the puck. Crosby's 5v5 CF% (Corsi-For Percentage) was 76.2% that led all skaters. He only had one assist on the night but like I said you need to have the puck to score and if he is going to have possession of the puck that much the goals are eventually going to come. Without scoring a goal Crosby played a really nice game.
Evgeni Malkin is getting the same talk and he had somewhat of an up and down game. Early on he was really bad. A lot of turnovers and even though he has the talent he hasn't been playing all that well. He was a monster in the third period and finished the game with a 71.4% CF%. That is pretty good.
Actually the Penguins had six other players that were 65% or better CF on the night. When I talk about the Penguins dominating possession this is what I am talking about.
This wasn't a good total game by the Penguins by any stretch of the imagination. The Penguins can win these games because they are just more talented than the Blue Jackets. The Penguins can not come to play for a period and they will still be alright. In games one and three the Blue Jackets didn't play for a period and it cost them the game. Twice. Not saying Columbus isn't a good team, because they are, but the Penguins just have more talent and most times the talent is going to win out.