Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Penguins ECSF Game 4 Recap - Penguins 4, Rangers 2

This was just a dominating game. The Penguins went into MSG and just put a beating on the Rangers for two games and now they have a chance to dispatch them at home in the CONSOL Energy Center in five games. Going into the series I thought a split would be a good way to come back home but the Penguins took two wins in convincing fashion.

This game was a bit closer than how I am describing. The Penguins got out to a lead first when Evgeni Malkin found the back of the net off a couple of good bounces only 2:31 into the game.

The Penguins went into the break with the 1-0 lead and there were some thoughts that the Rangers might never score again. Well, they did. They actually tied the score at one 5:30 into the second period and while it isn't unrealistic for a team to give up a goal I think you just kind of got used to the Penguins, and Marc-Andre Fleury, not giving up goals. There wasn't any more scoring for a while until the Rangers got a power play with just a few minutes left in the second period.

I know you are thinking "well Cory, you said the Rangers power play was awful, they actually scored a goal? No friend, they did not score a goal. Brandon Sutter scored a goal.

In the third period the Penguins got the big goal which came from Jussi Jokinen off a great forecheck from James Neal. Jokinen basically stopped on a time and turn the puck to his forehand and beat Henrik Lundqvist with about 13 minutes left. The game wasn't over, but the game was over. The Rangers got another goal with about six minutes left but Chris Kunitz and company ended it about a minute later.

Maybe the best part, and most underrated part of this game was how the Penguins responded to the two Rangers goals. On the first Rangers goal that tied the score the Penguins came back and dominated play, holding the puck in the Rangers zone for some time. It didn't create a goal but it almost seem like that goal woke them up a little bit more. Same thing on the Rangers second goal that made the deficit only one. The second time they salted the game away with a Kunitz goal. Just really fun stuff to watch and a vast difference from how the Penguins were playing earlier in the season. This looks like a whole new team.

The Rangers only got off 15 shots for the game. They had six in the first period, five in the second, and four in the third. It was a clinical performance by the Penguins. Malkin had 14 shot attempts by himself tonight. New York had only 38. I think the giveaway stat is pretty garbage because it is an arbitrary stat that is largely dependent of what a different person in each arena thinks. That being said the Rangers were charged with 25 giveaways tonight. That is a ton of giveaways. I mean the Penguins had eight and typically that is a decent bit but the Rangers had over three times as many. I have no idea how the Rangers even had the game this close. Just a ridiculously good job controlling play by the Penguins.

During the regular season the Penguins weren't an overly good possession team. I have said it here many times but the more you have the puck the better chance you have of scoring and the better chance you have of winning. Tonight the Penguins had a Corsi for of 63.5% and after the second period they were closer to 70%. That is some ridiculously good hockey and that has been the trend for the entire playoffs. During the regular season the Penguins were close to a 50% team and while that isn't terrible it sits more in the middle of the pack. Outside of one or two games in this playoffs the Penguins have had a pretty decisive margin of possession numbers in their favor. This is really good stuff.

Maybe lost in all this possession stuff is that while it helps you offensively to have the puck more it means that the other team has the puck less. Couple that with the fact that the Penguins have been playing some really good defensive hockey and you can see why the Rangers have only one goal in their last three games and while the Penguins are on the brink of moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The duo of Kris Letang and Paul Martin have been ridiculously good this series. Tonight they were the two best in terms of possession numbers (both over 70% Corsi) and while Letang is getting a goof portion of his zone starts in the offensive zone they have been doing a great job of breaking up Ranger rushes and not allowing pucks to get to MAF. Letang wasn't very good in his series against the Blue Jackets but since he has been teamed up with Martin he has been a monster. That probably speaks to how good Martin has been in this playoffs but those two together have been a lot of fun to watch.

You want to talk about dominating? Look at the Penguins first line. Dan Bylsma went with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Chris Kunitz and the Rangers literally have no answer to them. A lot of the talk is that Ryan McDonagh is hurt (and he probably is) but that first line is making him look foolishly bad. That top line was the Penguins three best possession players and every single time they were on the ice the Penguins tilted the ice dramatically towards Lundqvist. Nothing illustrates this more than the Penguins fourth goal. Crosby was able to enter the zone and get the puck to Malkin who blew by McDonagh and drew Martin St. Louis towards him as he came around the net leaving Kunitz wide open.

Two players on Malkin, two on Crosby, and nobody near Kunitz. That might not be a problem if Kunitz wasn't wide open in front of the net. I realize that you have to keep your eye on Malkin and Crosby but at some point you have to take away the best chance to score and in that picture and on that play it was Kunitz in front of the net.

Speaking of St. Louis, has he played in this series? I mean I know he has, but man has he been awful.

There really isn't a lot to be upset about here. Everyone played a pretty outstanding game. Neal has been really good all series. I don't want to say that he is a soft player, because he is not, but during the year I never really saw him digging out pucks and doing what he has done today. The stick lift he had on Jokinen's goal was a thing of beauty and the type of thing you need to do. It was a Rangers giveaway that was probably more of a takeaway by Neal. Just a great play in what has been a great series for him.

You can talk about guys like Sutter, and Jokinen, and Joe Vitale, and Brian Gibbons, and on and on and on. The Penguins have been crazy good through four games and while the series isn't over yet if the Penguins play anything like this on Friday then this series is probably over. That is a good thing.

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