There have been a few games this postseason where the Penguins have been outplayed, out possessed, out shot, etc. by their opponents, yet still came away with a victory. Before last night, Game 1 in Round 2 versus the Caps was a perfect example of this notion. The Pens literally played roughly one minute of good hockey in that game (thanks to Sidney Crosby) and somehow came out with a W. It made no sense, but you can be damn sure the Pens will take that end result 10 out of 10 times, no matter what any of the Corsi-geeks are writing about.
Then came last night’s game.
The 1st period was great. For what seems like the first time all postseason, the Pens came out on coke and blew three goals past Pekka Rinne in 4:11. Sure, things could’ve been slightly different if P.K. Subban’s goal doesn’t get overturned due to the closest offsides challenge in the history of coach’s challenges (quick shout-out to Pens video coach Andy Saucier for being an absolute boss per usual), but the Penguins looked relatively solid in the first 20-minutes of play, nonetheless.
Then came the dreaded 3-goal lead.
Everyone in hockey knows about the dreaded 3-goal lead, right? Basically a 100% chance Nashville was gonna tie the game up just before you got a little too comfortable. What we weren’t really anticipating, though, was the Penguins going 37 goddamn minutes without a freaking a shot on goal. Forget taking their foot off the gas pedal. The Pens put that motherfucker in park and walked out of the car. Maybe the most embarrassing stretch of hockey a team has ever played in the Stanley Cup Final. It started to get so bad that even Sid was hoping the scorekeeper could maybe give the Pens a phantom shot on goal to boost their confidence (via Reuters):
Crosby even sent a mental plea to the off-ice officials who tally shots.
“You start to wonder, did you get a piece of that? Or maybe the guy up there can give us at least one,” Crosby said, smiling.
The Preds eventually went on to score three unanswered goals, with a fourth feeling imminent. But then something happened. Just when we all thought the Pens were gonna inevitably walk out of the Paint Can with vomit all over themselves, Justin Schultz made an aggressive play on defense late in the 3rd to poke a puck towards Matt Cullen who was standing near the Predators’ blue line. Cullen quickly found Jake Guentzel racing through the neutral zone and voila: shot #8 and goal #4 recorded on the same play.
Talk about an absolute back breaker for the Preds. I’m not sure if they’ll able to play better than they did last night for the rest of this series, and they still walked away losers. Also, this was yet another example of why Mike Sullivan’s been the best coach in the league for the past two years. Two days ago, with Patric Hornqvist re-entering the mix, Jake Guentzel was rotating in and out of the 4th line with Carl Hagelin in practice. Yesterday, Sully ultimately made the decision to insert Guentzel in the lineup over Hagelin. Seems like he made the right choice.
A few final thoughts:
- There’s no way the Pens play this bad again in Game 2.
- There’s no way the Preds play this good again in Game 2.
- Pekka Rinne being a Conn Smythe favorite is LOL funny. Safe to say this guy can’t stop anything up high. Also, I’d say it’s never a good thing for a goalie to enter Game 1 of the SCF with a .941 save percentage, then only save 63% of 11 shots. I’m not saying Pekka Rinne is the reason the Penguins won this game. Actually, no, Pekka Rinne is the reason the Penguins won this game.