Penguins Facing Do-or-Die Scenario in Game 6

In a matchup that has been up and down for both teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders have put on an entertaining series. The end will come for one of these teams sooner than later and, after last night, the Penguins are looking for revenge after a mishap cost the team a win.

Mike Sullivan
Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh is now facing elimination thanks to a 3-2 double-overtime loss to the Islanders. Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry made a critical mistake and it cost his team the game. Jarry tried to play the puck to a teammate and passed it right to the opposition – Islander forward Josh Bailey to be exact – and the game was over. This one stings but Jarry and the Penguins need a short memory to move past this one. The Islanders are now one win away from advancing in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Production

So far in this series, the Penguins’ overall production has lacked and not gotten the job done. The series is only 3-2 and the Penguins have the personnel to overcome that and force a Game 7. However, up to this point, the main offensive producers have yet to show up, as the scoring has gone somewhat cold. Sidney Crosby has two points in five games. Jason Zucker has one point in five games. Jared McCann and Jake Guentzel have a combined two points in the five games so far. Defenseman John Marino has been held scoreless in the five games. There is no secret that the Islanders’ defense is the stingiest in the NHL but the Penguins roster is more than capable of producing more than what has been shown.

Offensive Fixes

Some time between now and Wednesday night, head coach Mike Sullivan, Crosby, and the rest of the Penguins will have to come up with a game plan to even this series. This might be where you throw the kitchen sink at the Islanders. One course of action could be to create an elite line of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jeff Carter to either start or finish the game. This could be a temporary fix depending on the flow of the action, but could also get the Penguins rolling. Another solution could be constantly juggling the lines so the Islanders cannot stop one line and one line only. The Penguins should also consider scoring nasty, ugly, playoff-type goals. Throughout the game, in the offensive zone, have a player always in front of Ilya Sorokin to distract him and get him off his game, which has been solid.

Defensive Play

The Penguins’ offense has not been counted on during these playoffs. However, let us not put this all on the offensive side of the puck as the defensive side has had its woes as well. The defensive unit as a whole has given up 16 goals in this five-game playoff series, an average of 3.2 goals per game. This total is far too many to an Islander team that is not considered an offensive team. The defensive unit needs to play tighter defense in the neutral zone to disrupt an attack before it begins to counter the Islanders attack, eliminate second chances around the net and be more aggressive on the penalty kill, which is currently operating at 78%.

Penguins Defenseman Kris Letang
Kris Letang (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Penguins have enough offensively to win on Wednesday and force a Game 7. This would mean they need to win Game 6, which is possible. Sorokin has played very well and, for the most part, kept the Penguins at bay. If Sorokin is on his game, the Penguins will need all guns blazing in Game 6 to beat him. When Sorokin gets rattled, he tends to give up rebounds, second chances, and does not play the angles as well. Crosby, defenseman Kris Letang, and Sullivan will not let this team go down without a fight. If this happens to go to a Game 7, the Penguins are 7-7 in 14 playoff Game 7s.

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The hill the Penguins have to climb is a big one. (from ‘Game 6 will be a big hill to climb for the Penguins’, Pittsburgh Gazette, May 25, 2021). They have to prepare like it is in fact a game 7 because it kind of is for them. One more loss and it is an early vacation and early start to the offseason. Although nothing has been said about next season or what the future holds, this could very well be the last chance this core of Crosby, Malkin, and Letang have for winning the Stanley Cup. The effort will be there, The work ethic will certainly be there. The question is, will the Penguins have enough in the tank to force a Game 7? The Pens have to put their foot on the gas pedal at the opening faceoff and never take it off.


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