The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped their fourth straight postseason overtime game on Sunday, losing 4-3 to the New York Islanders in their first game of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The team came out strong but faltered as the game went on, and they now trail 1-0 in the series.
Tristan Jarry’s Disappointing Performance
In one of my older articles, I stated that goaltender Tristan Jarry should have a very short leash in the postseason, but that does not necessarily mean he should be out next game, even if Casey DeSmith is available. He saved 37 of 41 shots, for an underwhelming .902 SV%, and an abysmal minus-1.61 goals saved above expected (GSAx).
Jarry was especially weak on the glove side, and all three goals he allowed in regulation were easily stoppable. He seemed very shaky, as it was just his second career postseason game, with his first being against the Montreal Canadiens in the bubble last August. The team did not look very comfortable in front of him, and you could tell that the confidence was not there. However, I would give Jarry just one more game to redeem himself before pulling him.
Now is it likely that DeSmith plays in Game 2? Probably not. Is it the right choice to give Jarry another chance? I would say so. But the Penguins need to win the second game. If you go down 2-0 in a series against a team that deploys the trap system like the Islanders do, it simply will not end well for you, so if they decide to give him another chance, he needs to perform better.
The Return of Brandon Tanev Energizes the Fourth Line
The Penguins certainly missed Brandon Tanev while he was out with injury, so his return was crucial for the energy of the fourth line, which proved to be the team’s best in Game 1.
Tanev, along with linemates Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger, were the only Penguins players to have an expected goals percentage (xG%) of 70.00+, as the trio was flying all over the ice creating high-quality chances while also limiting them from the Islanders.
Tanev especially stood out, with a team-leading nine hits, four shots on goal, and 0.47 expected goals for (xGF). He is one of those players who aren’t the most skilled or talented, but have a ton of heart and motivation. He reminds me of Patric Hornqvist, with better skating. He has the ability to energize the entire team with a huge hit or quick rush leading to a scoring chance. He’s going to be valuable for the Penguins mentally if they are going to attempt a comeback.
Penguins Were the Better Team
Despite the score, the Penguins were the better team. Obviously, that doesn’t necessarily matter, but it is a good building block for fans who are freaking out about this loss.
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Listen, this game was mainly on the goaltender. Jarry was not good – there were too many bad goals allowed, and while the Penguins did get outplayed in the third period, they were the better team for the majority of the game. They had a 64.5% in MoneyPuck’s Deserve-to-Win O’Meter, mainly due to them contributing 2.91 xGF as opposed to the Islanders 2.09.
The Penguins also had 10 players who had a higher xG% than the Islanders game-leader in the statistic. It just goes to show, the majority of Penguins players had good games, apart from the few exceptions, but just could not buy a save. It did not help that the opposing goaltender, Ilya Sorokin, had an elite postseason debut. He made numerous huge saves, and was, for the most part, very calm in his net.
Game 2 Is a Must Win
When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can not spend too much time dwelling on a loss – you just have to move onto the next game, and that is what I expect the Penguins to do on Tuesday. I do not expect too much from the gameplan to change, as they realize they played a relatively good game.
Game 2 is a must-win for the Penguins. If you go down 2-0 in the series going back to New York, you are as good as toast. Everyone will need to come together as a team for this one.
PIT Penguins Writer THW. Twitter & Instagram: puckempire. Formerly a Florida Panthers writer.