Whew, let’s all catch our collective breaths now that the first round is finally over. It sure didn’t look like we’d be saying that about midway through the second period last night as the Penguins trailed the Sentaors 3 – 0 at the 9:48 mark. Someone apparently forgot to tell the Penguins that the puck dropped at 7:00 because you would have sworn that for the first 29 minutes of this game, there was only one team on the ice. Although the shots were almost even at the end of the first period, you would have been hard pressed to have found more than a couple taken by the Penguins that seriously challenged Senators’ goalie, Pascal LeClaire. The Senators were skating circles around the Penguins, beating them to almost all of the loose pucks and generally outworking them in the corners
Right after Chris Neill scored to make it 2 – 0 just shy of 2 minutes into the 2nd period, Chris Kunitz had a breakaway chance that would have gotten the Pens right back into the game, but he was stonewalled by LeClaire, and when Daniel Alfredsson scored 7 minutes later to make it 3 – 0, many Pens fans were already looking ahead to a Game 7 at home. Fortunately, the Penguins’ depth players decided to wake up and come out of hibernation. It seemed like from this point on, every time you looked up, the line that was on the ice was either the third line of Staal, Cooke and Dupuis or the fourth line of Conner, Adams and Rupp. The Penguins first line of Crosby, Guerin and Kunitz was a combined minus 8 on the night while the second line was a paltry plus 1. On the other hand, the third and fourth lines were a combined plus 7. Jordan Staal’s third line performed like it hadn’t since Tyler Kennedy went out of the line up, and the addition of Pascal Dupuis was the reason. For the pervious two games, Coach Dan Bylsma had tried Ruslan Fedotenko, and he just didn’t fit in with the other two regulars. His plodding style of skating and unwillingness to do the dirty work in the corners just did not jibe with the usual third line work ethic.
With the addition of Dupuis’ speed to this line, Ottawa just could not match up with their goon line of Neill, Ruutu, and Kelly. Yes, that line did get a goal for Ottawa, but it came against the Pens first line not the third. And, again, once the wake up call went off on the Penguins bench, the Ottawa fourth line of Foligno, Winchester and Smith was no match for the Pens’ fourth line. Give major kudos to the coaching staff for noticing the jump in the legs of the third and fourth lines last night and giving them the extra ice time they deserved. If you look at the even strength Time On Ice of these guys: Staal – 18:03, Cooke – 16:39, 16:54, Adams – 9:43, Rupp – 9:29, Conner 11:03, you’ll notice that the third line was out for almost 17 minutes and the fourth was out for almost 10. If your non stars are getting this kind of ice time, it keeps your top two guys fresh at the end of the game and in the case of last night, overtime, and if you’ve got a fresh Sidney Crosby or Geno Malkin at the end of the game, the other team is in some big trouble.
Now, for the second round, we can only hope that both the players and the coaching staff check the newspaper to see what time the games actually start, we won’t have to keep digging ourselves out 2 – 0 and 3 – 0 holes.
The Penguins season record against potential second round opponents in order that I would like to see us face:
Montreal 3 – 1 (2- 0 at home and 1-1 on the road)
Boston 3 – 1 (2-0 at home and 1-1 on the road)
Buffalo 3 – 1(2-0 at home and 1-1 on the road although in the road loss, Miller was chased from the net early in the 2nd period and replaced by Lalime. )
Philadelphia 5 – 1 (2 -1 at home and 3 – 0 on the road)
That means the Penguins are 14 – 4 combined against the four possible teams they could face in Round 2 having only lost one of those games at home. Think about that, the Penguins lost as many games at home during the regular season to the Ottawa Senators as they did to the remaining four possible second round opponents.