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BOSTON (CBS) — That was not the game the Pittsburgh Penguins wanted to play.
The Penguins have two of the most talented offensive players in the sport and the most lethal power play in the NHL, and if they want to win this series, they’ll use their speed and skill to their advantage.
If they want to lose the series, they can just keep doing what they did in Game 1.
The Penguins took the ice seemingly intent on not getting pushed around by the physical Bruins, and their 34-19 advantage in hits on the stat sheet is an indication of their success in that area. But there is a line that few Bruins opponents cross and end up living to tell about it, and the Penguins learned that on Saturday night.
It started with Matt Cooke needlessly hitting Adam McQuaid from behind, thereby taking himself out of the game and raising the ire of the Bruins. It continued with Sidney Crosby getting physical with Zdeno Chara and … Tuukka Rask. Chris Kunitz and Rich Peverley danced after a whistle. And of course, Evgeni Malkin took himself off the ice for five minutes with his team trailing by a goal by deciding to fight Patrice Bergeron at the end of the second period.
The end result of all of that was frustration for the Penguins, who played right into the Bruins’ hands. It surely wasn’t the only reason the Bruins were able to win, but if that style of game continues, the Penguins will only be wasting their talent as they try to play tough guy against the big, bad Bruins.
But the series is just beginning, so let’s run through some leftover thoughts from the Bruins’ 3-0 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
–Sidney Crosby’s weaselry has been well-documented, but credit to him for finding a new way to act ridiculous on the ice. Bumping and throwing a little elbow into a goalie’s chest and then spinning around in a whirl of semi-rage after said goalie responds at the end of a period is just an interesting way for the most talented player in the world to keep himself during a playoff game. I’ll never quite understand why Sidney does the things that Sidney does. Leave the pest’s work to the pests; you just worry about scoring goals.
–One person who found Crosby’s attempts to sucker Zdeno Chara into committing a dumb penalty funny was Chara himself. Either that, or Crosby had some fresh jokes for the Bruins captain. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Chara smile as much as he did whenever Crosby came over to chat.
–Crosby looked noticeably less amused when the opposing captain stood up to him.
–Crosby was penalized twice, once for an obvious interference penalty and once for a frustrated slash on Tyler Seguin late in the game. Despite the fact that each team had four power plays, the face of the NHL wasn’t too pleased with the officiating. Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted Crosby:
“They’re letting a lot go out there, and the more it gets like that, the more it’s going to escalate. You can only control and channel that stuff so much. You keep letting guys do that stuff, you’re just going to push the envelope. That’s something we obviously want to stay away from, but it’s kind of a natural thing when it gets like that. It was just hard to gauge. Interference calls where you barely catch a guy, and then you’re allowing punches to the head. Are we going to play, or are we going to call those little things once in a while? It’s hard to get a temperature on the game when that stuff is going on. Then you let a few of those go and everything starts getting out of hand.”
The Canucks had a lot of complaints about officiating back in 2011, but at least they were the meek, peaceful protestors who were up against the bullies from Boston. You can’t come out looking to lay the wood like the Penguins did and then complain about the officiating. Well, technically you can, but only Mario Lemieux is going to buy what you’re selling.
–I didn’t think Matt Cooke’s hit was that bad, mostly because I’ve seen Matt Cooke do much worse. That hit on McQuaid wouldn’t make the three-disc collectors’ set of Matt Cooke’s Greatest (Awful) Hits DVD box set. But I don’t feel too badly for the guy for getting the gate, in part because he injured a lot of men on his way to earning his bad reputation, and also because McQuaid had to endure this:
–As for the broadcast crew and Penguins fans (is there a difference?) saying Brad Marchand’s hit on James Neal was “the same thing” as Cooke’s hit on McQuaid, it’s not even worth addressing. Did the refs go overboard with a five-minute major and game misconduct for Cooke? Yes. Was Marchand’s hit anything more than an extra shove at a distance from the boards that warrants a boarding call? No. They’re not the same. And, well, Cooke knows what he’s doing when he goes in aggressively on the forecheck, so the “changed man” doesn’t deserve any benefit of the doubt.
–You can tell Cooke has been a “changed man” for a while, because Bylsma showed some obvious rust when trying to justify Cooke’s hit: “Clearly it’s a hit right through the numbers. I don’t think it was a rough hit. I think he was going into the boards. It was right from the numbers. I’m not sure I thought it warranted a five-minute penalty. But, you know, he did come right behind the guy .. was going in with the guy.”
I wish I was there to follow up Bylsma’s answer with an “Err, what?”
–The biggest key to the game was the Penguins’ inability to score on their four power plays. Just about every series preview in the world said that the Bruins need to stay out of the penalty box in order to keep the dangerous Penguins power play off the ice. Well, the Bruins took all of 3:54 before sending the Pittsburgh power play unit out there, and they gave them another shot at it at 12:34 of the first period. The Penguins put five shots on net and a good number of high-quality scoring chances, but Tuukka Rask and the penalty killers were able to withstand the onslaught. They ended up killing two more penalties to keep the Penguins off the board.
Chara and Dennis Seidenberg each logged around 5 minutes of shorthanded time on ice, while Chris Kelly (3:16), Rich Peverley (3:07), Johnny Boychuk (3:04), Gregory Campbell (2:59) and Andrew Ference (2:58) can all put in for overtime for their work on the PK.
–The Bruins actually ended up with just one fewer shot on the penalty kill (3) than they had on the power play (4). That says as much about the power play as it does the penalty kill, but still, the PK unit created a good number of scoring chances and very nearly put a goal on the board with the Bergeron breakaway.
–Rask was a pretty good penalty killer himself, making nine saves while the Bruins were down a man, as he earned his first postseason shutout in his 26th start. As is his custom, his best saves weren’t flashy glove saves that led to whistles and a series of replays that put the spotlight on him, but they were arguably better than that.
There was his point-blank stop on a slap shot by Crosby from about 14 feet off a rebound.
If you say you didn’t fully expect that one to puncture a hole in the net, you’re lying.
There was also Rask’s slick little toe save on James Neal midway through the second period. Rask was moving to his left but kicked his right leg out to stop the shot and kick the puck out of harm’s way.
And then there was the highlight-reel save on Crosby with 11 minutes left in the third. That one was just silly.
–There’s a new advanced statistic I’m starting right now, and I’m calling in the King Henrik Factor. It counts the fortunate breaks in a series, and it can be utilized when a player refers to one team getting more “lucky bounces” than the other team throughout a series. I don’t think Chris Kunitz’s post in the second period counts as a lucky break, because he should have buried that and it’s his own fault he missed. I will give the Penguins one point on the King Henrik scale for the puck that Malkin backhanded under Rask’s pad, which eventually somehow trickled along the goal line and stayed out of the net.
Late in the game, Andrew Ference rung iron on a slap shot from the blue line, for which I do award a half-point in the King Henrik scale. So the Penguins have a tight half-point deficit, if you will, in King Henrik Factor (KHF).
–It’s kind of bizarre for the Penguins’ arena folks to blare the Bruins’ goal celebration song before the opening faceoff, no? I wouldn’t expect the Kings to pump “Chelsea Dagger” through the PA system before the start of Game 3. Hearing “Zombie Nation” in Pittsburgh for the opening faceoff against the Bruins just seems odd.
–From a coaching standpoint, it would have been hard to criticize Claude Julien for going with a veteran over a rookie D-man in a road playoff game, regardless of the outcome. Still, it must have been a relief for Claude to see Andrew Ference carry a puck with speed through the neutral zone and over the blue line before driving the net, taking out the defenseman and affecting the play on David Krejci’s first goal.
–The Bruins’ work on the faceoff dot is being touted, and rightfully so, as they doubled up the Penguins with 32 faceoff wins, compared to just 16 losses. It’s scary to think, then, what the game might have looked like if the draws were a bit more even. Losing all those faceoffs didn’t stop the Penguins from piling on shots and racking up opportunities.
David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly combined to go 24-for-34, with Bergeron winning six of his eight draws against Crosby. I would go on, but there’s literally no way to try to make faceoff talk exciting.
–That was a good game and all, but what do you all say we wait another seven days before Game 2? That week-long break was fun, let’s do it again.