For anyone who has watched the Pittsburgh Penguins, let alone followed them, for the past few months, it is safe to say that Thursday night’s performance against the number one seeded New York Rangers was their best in quite sometime. Despite falling 2-1, the Penguins showed glimpses of a team that is ready to break out and start scoring more regularly than they have been during this very Jekyll-and-Hyde like run as of late. And, per usual, Marc-Andre Fleury kept the Penguins in the contest.
Two first period goals by the Rangers were that right cross delivered to the Penguins to wake them up, especially Derick Brassard’s just 28 seconds into the contest. The Penguins were an undisciplined bunch to say the least, taking four minor penalties in the first period alone, which set up Ryan McDonagh’s game winning power play tally.
Lovejoy, Perron, Scuderi and Fleury were all highly critical of the team for taking too many penalties.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) April 17, 2015
What To Look Forward To
While it is obvious that the Penguins are not playing with their full roster of talent, they played admirably in Game One. They looked faster than they had in previous game, were more physical, and generated good scoring opportunities. Marc-Andre Fleury looked sharp after that horrendous first rebound that led to the first goal. The fourth line was full of energy and scored the lone Penguins goal (Blake Comeau’s first career playoff marker).
So what do the Penguins need to do to even up the series tonight?
Currently, Christian Ehrhoff and Derrick Pouliot are still listed as “day-to-day” per head coach Mike Johnston, however, I have a feeling one, if not both, players could return tonight. If that is the case, they will be a significant upgrade by replacing Taylor Chorney and Brian Dumoulin. If they do not return, the two aforementioned that make up the Penguins bottom pair played well in Game One. I would expect them to be more active in Game Two.
It was hinted at earlier, but it needs to be reinforced. The Penguins need to remain disciplined against the New York Rangers. Even though the Penguins finished third in the NHL this season in penalty killing, why run the risk in the playoffs?
Opening The Floodgates
When you watch Henrik Lundqvist play goal, he looks almost unbeatable. His big stature cuts down most angles and he rarely ever gets beaten down low. I think if the Penguins can target the glove hand of Lundqvist, who rarely catches the puck cleanly, they can force some rebounds and deposit some behind King Henrik.
The Penguins found opportunities to get shots through last game. It is only a matter of time before they fill the net.
Fleury Needs to Steal One on Broadway
Even if the Penguins only score one goal, that goal better be a clincher. Fleury is going to have to stand on top of his head. Crosby and Malkin are going to have to find ways to create chances and finish them. Same goes for David Perron, Chris Kunitz, and Patric Hornqvist. If they take advantage of a weak penalty call against the Rangers, maybe even unwarranted, so be it.
The Penguins are in desperation mode. Although home-ice has not really been an advantage for the Penguins in recent years, it would certainly give the hometown hopeful more to cheer about if they return with the series knotted at one rather than down two games.
I have believed in this team since Opening Night and while they have not remotely looked like that team in the last 20 or so games, I still feel that there is another gear that is waiting to be shifted into. Will tonight be the night? Only they can decide that. If they can build off of the positives from Game One, I see no reason why this team should not be able to even up the series in the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden.
THW Penguins Contributor
Adam Williams is a graduate from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Communication and M.S. in Sports Administration. While at the school, he was a sports broadcaster, radio personality, and editor/writer for the school paper. He also interned with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the 2012-13 season.
More of his writing can be found on adamwilliams13.weebly.com and thoughts/opinions on his Twitter feed (@AdamWilliams71).