Hockey today is a lot different from what it used to be 30 years ago. It has even changed a lot over the course of the last five years. Fights have plummeted, there are less incidents requiring the league to engage supplemental discipline and the enforcer type-of-hockey-player is a threatened species, a dinosaur from the olden days. Tom Sestito is a relic in the Penguins system and there is a chance he’ll see some ice after being recalled by GM Jim Rutherford.
The Capitals’ Line of Least Resistance
The Penguins, by design, aren’t the team that is going to size up with the rugged team hailing from the nation’s capital. When they’ve played to their strengths and applied pressure on Washington’s three lesser skilled defencemen in Nate Schmidt, Dmitry Orlov and ex-Penguin Taylor Chorney, they’ve been able to dominate with their speed and skill.
But the series’ tide has turned. During the latter four periods played, the Capitals have clearly taken over control. If you’re the Penguins, you can’t expect to win many more games against the Caps this way.
Washington has forechecked fiercely and it has started to pay dividends. In period three of game two and throughout game three, the Penguins have started to look a bit worn out. Poor decision-making, lesser amount of both crisp breakouts and smart plays were the consequences.
Thereby, the Penguins fed the Capitals’ transition game and gave them the chance to roar back into the Pens’ defensive zone, where the Capitas pressured their backfield even more perviously.
If not for a highly skilled deflection by Patric Hörnqvist, a lucky bounce off Tom Kuhnhackl’s back, a present – courtesy of Nate Schmidt – and their rookie goalie standing on his actual head, there’s simply no way the Pens would have won game three.
Then, Letang will be sitting out tonight. There isn’t much to fear for the Capitals going into game four tonight.
Penguins Issues Deeper Than Letang’s Suspension
Remember those three days before game one, when the entire hockey world couldn’t await the battle between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby? While “The Great 8” has finally left behind a scent mark with his first goal of the series during game three, where on earth is Sidney Crosby?
Credits, where they are due: Matt Niskanen, Karl Alzner and John Carlson have done a terrific job of shutting down the Penguins’ top gun. This looks an awful lot like the Sidney Crosby who hasn’t been an impact player in the playoffs in recent years after having a terrific series against the Rangers in round one.
But Pittsburgh needs its captain now. He has to get going and to find a way to contribute offensively. Otherwise, the Penguins will be in real trouble as soon as a few bounces go the other way.
Some Rutherford Magic Beyond the Deadline?
Since it has worked wonders over the course of the Penguins season before, how about some help from the minors?
Pretty cool: Crosby signed a stick for Tom Sestito's newborn, Killian, saying he feels a foot taller with Dad on ice pic.twitter.com/WNydJ8fLJC
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) April 15, 2016
Bringing back Tom Sestito could end up being a deciding factor for the Penguins in this series. Everybody knows what Sestito brings to the table. Just his presence will change the attitude of many players out there – on both sides, notably.
The recall – provided Sestito will be suiting up – is a masterpiece by Jim Rutherford, if it makes Sidney Crosby feel like he’s a foot taller out there again. That and an opposing defenseman doubting himself for just the fraction of a second whether to play Crosby as tight as before with Tom Sestito around is all that number 87 needs to make a difference.
A little space and confidence provided by a dinosaur’s resuscitation could be all the Penguins depend on to put this series away.