Those are the highlights…here is my live-writing as the game is going on…
1st Period: One of the best periods the Penguins had all season, even a bitter old fan like me couldn’t complain.
1st goal: What a great play by Olli Maatta, first along the boards with his skate and then going with his instincts in front of the net --- let’s just hope Bylsma doesn’t run him into the ground (Maatta has played over 21 minutes in every game since returning from the Olympics). This first goal is the blessing and the curse of the Bylsma cookie-cutter system.
Take Rob Scuderi for example…I personally think Scuderi looks like the same great defensive defenseman he’s always been; the problem with Bylsma’s system is that he demands every D pinch like they are Kris Letang --- that’s not Scuderi’s game. Just like it wasn’t Zybynyk Michalek’s game when he played for the Penguins a few seasons ago. Remember when Martin looked terrible for long stretches two seasons ago? Not every defensemen can play like Bobby Orr and that includes Scuderi, but Bylsma’s stubbornness and cookie-cutter system for defensemen leaves no room for a certain type of defenseman.
So it was great that the Penguins scored on the play, but for every goal the Pens score in that fashion, there are situations where they give up odd-man breaks the other way.
2nd goal: And I know the Penguins scored with Malkin-Niskannen playing the point on the Power Play, but those two are guaranteed to give up a shorthanded goal at some point if they are the last line of defense.
Even on Kunitz’s goal on the Power-Play, the Penguins were still unwilling to dump the puck, they are lucky Scott Hannan is the slowest player in the league …
2nd Period: What the hell is Matt Niskannen ever doing out on the Penalty Kill? He can’t clear anyone out in front of the net nor is even remotely good at winning one-on-one corner battles…He should NEVER see the ice on the PK…EVER.
The Penguins defensive zone coverage when the other team has the puck is still suspect at best. Whenever you see two Penguins on the puck-carrier in the defensive zone - that means the opposing team has someone open, that’s just simple mathematics. Despite holding the Sharks scoreless through a period and a half, there were several Sharks open in the slot with the puck that missed the net, hit the post, or were stopped by goaltender Zatkoff.
4 on 4 with 10:30 left, Niskannen and Malkin out --- boy that makes me nervous. 4 on 4 is a mandatory man-to-man defense situation – one or the other is fine, but not both at the same time.
8:00 left in second – how many times have the Sharks been on top of the Penguins crease tonight? Count me as someone that is nervous about our ability to clear the front of the cage come April.
Larry Robinson sighting on the San Jose Bench…next coach of the Penguins perhaps? Good timeout by Bylsma, if you got tired troops on the ice and a two-goal lead there’s no reason to hold onto the timeout.
5:00 – Kunitz gets crushed, San Jose coming heavy at the Penguins…Penguins are just content to wrap the puck around the boards as hard as they can. Nisky and Malkin out there again together with a two goal lead…WTF?
2:17 – San Jose uses brute-force to score their first goal. Adam Burish is all by his lonesome in front of the net and by the time the puck goes in, two Sharks are in the crease --- Crosby lazily loops behind the net instead of getting in front…boy he’s rapidly regressing in the defensive zone. It’s not like the Sharks haven’t been cramming the crease all game, they just finally were rewarded. Also on that first San Jose goal, Scuderi out by the top of the circles, Crosby goes off to the corner to catch butterflies instead of taking his man Burish in front of the net. Maatta is the only guy that had someone…Scuderi and Crosby were lost.
3rd Period – Malkin as last guy back and Pens give up shorty…LOL, didn’t I just write about that? In a one goal game in the 3rd, no reason to have a forward on the point, especially one that cares as little about defense as Malkin (he just got lucky the previous play on the poke check)…Crosby turns it over and then just lazily dogs it back into the zone and lets Malkin try to handle Marleau 1 on 1…Crosby has quit on Bylsma, you heard it here first. As any hockey player knows – if you are the player that turned the puck over, you better do everything in your power to get that puck back to prevent a goal from being your fault…Crosby didn’t do that – his back check on the play is non-existent, and he’s aware enough to know that Malkin needs all the help he can get against the speedy Patrick Marleau.
Easily the worst game of Crosby’s season if not career… -5 while blatantly double-teaming puck multiple times in defensive zone… He’s quit on Dan Bylsma, I’m telling you – Crosby’s lack of a back-check on Marleau is very telling when it comes to a player of Crosby’s competitive nature.
On Sharks third goal, Crosby double teams puck like a mini-mite…looks awful in defensive zone; I would bet my kidney that Bylsma doesn’t reprimand him or guide him on the bench.
It’s a 3-3 game now: Niskannen and Orpik give up a breakaway by 30 feet in a tie game on the road in the third period – do these guys have any concept of time and score?…the Penguins just can’t slow the play down. It’s a tie game and San Jose has players 30 feet behind the Penguin defense… I know I just typed the same thing twice…but I’m just mystified the same mistakes continue.
Penguins still can’t keep a lead…Yes the 4th goal was soft, but when the Penguins allow 47 shots, a fluke is bound to happen.
Once game got rough, aka refs put their whistles away, aka Playoff hockey - Sharks outscored Pens 4-1 (not including empty net)…