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May 2, 2016
by Bill West

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What’s up with the Penguins’ power play?


Nothing like a click bait-y post headline to set up some cold, sensible takes, eh?

After the Penguins scored eight power-play goals in five games against the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, much ado was made about the strength of the special teams play. And it was deserved, as the Penguins’ power play and their penalty kill both arguably overachieved.

Two games into the second-round series with the Washington Capitals, the Penguins are without a power-play goal despite seven opportunities. Somewhat predictably, the players have begun to face questions about whether they’re squandering chances against the powerhouse Capitals.

Coach Mike Sullivan and his power play skaters certainly aren’t pleased that they’re yet to put a puck in the back of the net while they have a man advantage. But they sense they’re on the cusp, a feeling confirmed by a variety of metrics.

If anything, the Penguins are actually overachieving in terms of what they’re generating during power plays.

Here’s what Sullivan said following Monday’s morning skate:

“I told our group this morning not to get discouraged because we were close. We had a number of grade-A scoring chances that we didn’t convert. Our (zone) entries were (at) a very high success rate. We won a lot of faceoffs. I think we can have a little bit more of a shooting mentality. I think we can move the puck a little bit quicker, which will help us generate more opportunities, I think. But it wasn’t far off. We’ve given our guys a couple of ideas that we think can help them in tonight’s game. What’s most important from my standpoint is that they keep their swagger and their confidence level, because they’ve been really important to helping us have success here down the stretch.”

Here are some simple stats to keep in mind: Washington finished the regular season with the second best penalty kill (85.16%) in the league, while the Rangers ranked 26th (78.19%). So the Capitals presented a greater challenge for the Penguins from the get go.

Through two games in their series with Washington, though, the Penguins produced shots, shot attempts and high-danger scoring chances at higher rates than they did against the Rangers and during the regular season.

Check the numbers, which come from

  • Shots attempts for, per 60 minutes: 144.9 vs Capitals, 102.1 vs Rangers, 97.2 in the regular season.
  • Shots on goal for, per 60 minutes: 53.1 vs Capitals, 48.8 vs Rangers, 54.5 in the regular season.
  • High-danger scoring chances for, per 60 minutes: 38.6 vs Capitals, 31.1 vs Rangers, 20.5 in the regular season.

Goals for, per 60 minutes, tell a different story: 0.0 vs Capitals, 17.8 vs Rangers, 6.8 in the regular season. But shooting percentage should normalize to some degree, and the Penguins will turn their many shots into a few tallies.

One area of power play execution where Sullivan likely encouraged tweaks (other than faster puck movement) would be shot location. The Capitals kept almost all of the Penguins’ power play shots on goal out at the wings and allowed very little to come from the slot or blue line. (Charts also courtesy of

Pens PP Game 1 shot locateGame 2 PP shot locate

All of those blocks stuck with the Penguins’ most trusted shooters.

“They get in the lane,” Phil Kessel said. “They don’t let you get a ton of pucks to the net. And they’ve got a good goalie. So we’ve got to try and get more pucks there, create more secondary chances.”

So a little puck luck and a little more pursuit of rebounds might get the job done for the Penguins. And if that happens for a team that’s already looked so strong in five-on-five play, I’m not sure what the media will ask about then.



May 1, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Game 2 Washington postgame (Bombulie)


When sports writers talk about “letting a team hang around” in a game, they’re usually referring to a vastly superior team failing to put away an inferior team.

That obviously doesn’t apply to this series. These are two very good teams.

But the story of Game 2 was that the Penguins let the Capitals hang around.

The Penguins played pretty much exactly how they wanted to play. They transitioned quickly. They forced turnovers. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone.

But they could only take a 1-0 lead and needed a late Eric Fehr goal to win because they didn’t pad their lead when they had the chance.

That’s probably a pretty strong indication that no one’s going to pull away at all in this series. After tonight’s game, I expect it to go seven more than ever before.

Anyway, both coaches saw tonight’s game pretty much the same way.

Mike Sullivan: “I liked our energy. I thought we were controlling play. I thought we were coming out of our end zone very efficiently and we were hanging on to pucks down low underneath the hash marks. When we do that, I think we’re hard to play against. I thought we managed the puck through the neutral zone the right way. We tried not to feed their transition game. We tried to make the right decisions. When we do that, we’re a team that can be hard to play against. We can control territory. I thought for long stretches of the first two periods, that’s what we did.”

Barry Trotz: “In the first two periods, I thought we didn’t manage the puck. We didn’t place it in the right areas. We’d get to the red line and it was really easy for them to break out and play in our end a little bit more than we wanted them to.  … They got people stacked up at the blue line and we’re trying to skate into a hornet’s nest at the blue line and it’s not working. Put it behind them and go to work. Get it on the other side of them.”

The one thing that could have derailed the Penguins more than anything else – more than playing with five defensemen after Olli Maatta was injured on a Brooks Orpik hit, more than Braden Holtby’s strong play – was a power play that went 0 for 5.

It didn’t, which is pretty remarkable. Trying to win with tonight’s power play numbers – Washington went 1 for 2 – is playing with fire.

“There are critical moments in every game that arise, and you have to handle them the right way if you’re going to control the result,” Sullivan said. “I thought we did that tonight. It could have deflated us that our power play wasn’t at its best in the second period, but it didn’t. We didn’t allow those types of situations to get our team down.”

Bye for now,



May 1, 2016
by Bill West

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Pens-Caps Game 2 thoughts (West)


That coach Mike Sullivan chose to openly speak out against Brooks Orpik’s hit on Olli Maatta rather than reserve judgment was a testament to the ugliness of the incident.

“I thought it was a late hit,” Sullivan said. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit that everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Plenty of chatter among members of the media after the game centered around what discipline awaits Orpik. There’s no consensus, but there’s widespread agreement about the need for a suspension.

Sullivan, who kept his comments pretty concise after the Game 1 overtime loss to Washington, spoke with considerably more personality about a variety of subjects on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. Something about this place or this team must really tap into his emotions — I still recall how much more intense and fiery he seemed during a pregame availability here on March 1. Those Terminator eyes of his remained unchanged after the Game 2 win, but he gushed about Kris Letang, Matt Murray and a variety of other topics.

On Murray, who faced 14 shots on goal in the third period after seeing just 10 in the previous two frames: “It was, I think, a challenging game in the sense that he didn’t see a lot of shots early. And then in the third period, obviously they pressed and he saw significantly more action in the third than he saw in the first two periods. But I thought his focus was really good. And when we needed him to be good down the stretch, he made that timely save for us.”

On the Penguins’ resiliency: “I just felt as though, having coached against them for a number of years, that was an area where, if we could challenge our guys to improve, we could be a better team. We could be more difficult to play against when we handle those adversities, whether it be in the course of a game or within a stretch of games, a series or whatever it may be. It’s a game where things don’t always go your way out there. It’s important as individuals and as a group that we respond the right way when things don’t go our way. I’ll give you a perfect example: The power play tonight, we had a fair amount of them in the second period, and it wasn’t our best. So we talked in between periods about putting it behind us and not letting it deflate our group. We were just going to continue to play the right way. … I give our leadership group a lot of credit, because they take the lead there for us.”

I’d argue that the Penguins’ ability to dominate possession with only five defensemen for the vast majority of the game qualified as their best showcase of resiliency. But to each his own. Check out the fancy stat possession charts below from Hockeystats.Ca and (A reminder that for the War-on-Ice chart, big blue squares a good and red squares are bad.)

Pens matchupsPens CAps possession final

That’s all for me — I transcribed one half of Sullivan’s press conference. Check out JB’s post for more thoughts from Terminator Mike.


April 29, 2016
by Bill West

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What to do about Daley and Maatta?


Just like in Round 1 against the New York Rangers, the Penguins’ defensemen found themselves answering quite a few questions at Friday’s practice about how they can better handle forecheck pressure and reduce their turnovers.

Giving up goals on these kinds of miscues will have that effect….

As was also the case in those first couple playoff games against the Rangers, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan expressed considerable faith in Maatta’s ability to bounce back from a poor performance.

“I think Olli has done a terrific job all year long (as far as) when things don’t go his way, he responds the right way,” Sullivan said. “His body of work this year has been just terrific for our team as far as helping us win. We know he’s a good player. It’s important that he responds for us because we rely on him.”

No one asked about Trevor Daley’s rough night, but I suspect Sullivan would’ve shared nice words about him, too. Rare are the moments when the coach even hints to the media that he’s not content with his players’ performances.

That said, Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang wore black jerseys at Friday’s optional practice, while Maatta and Daley wore white. Defensemen rotated in and out of drills, so no clear pairing possibilities emerged, but it’s something to keep an eye on, considering how poorly Dumoulin and Daley played together on Thursday. Check out War-on-Ice’s deployment chart.

Pens pairings Game 1You’ll notice the square where Dumoulin and Letang’s rows meet is almost the same size as the square for Dumoulin and Daley. That’s an indication that Dumoulin spent about as much ice time with Letang as with Daley. And more importantly, the Dumoulin-Letang square is blue (indicates strong puck possession for Penguins), while the Dumoulin-Daley square is red (indicates poor puck possession for Penguins).

A Maatta-Daley pairing didn’t do particularly well, either. Daley basically didn’t find much possession success with any blue liner last night. He might’ve just had a bad night. He also might’ve made poor, panicked decisions after the Capitals thumped him early and often.

If Sullivan decides to use Letang and Dumoulin as his top pair, I expect the results for that tandem will go well. But question marks abound for how the team will put together its other defensive pairings.

How much does Sullivan trust Ian Cole these days? Is Derrick Pouliot even a consideration? Does Sullivan want to sit Maatta and/or Daley, or simply deploy them differently?

There’s quite a bit of pairing variety for the Penguins to ponder. Check the www.Corsica.Hockey data in the graph — I ordered it by relative Corsi For % as a way to highlight which pairings exceeded what the Penguins did as a whole. You’ll notice the Dumoulin-Lovejoy pairing and the Lovejoy-Pouliot pairing both offer promise, and Daley-Cole also isn’t a particularly bad choice. Maatta-Daley and Cole-Schultz probably are worth avoiding.

Pens bottom D pairsOne last question to consider: How much of Maatta’s success this season is actually a product of his individual play versus his presence beside Letang?

There are a variety of sites that offer With-or-Without-You data, which helps identify when one teammate kind of carries another. I went with because the others tend to crash my browser.

A couple things jump out about Maatta’s WOWY results: 1. He’s lacking in ice time with teammates not named Letang this season. 2. Away from Letang, his numbers dip, a sign that he’s the weaker half of that pairing.Maatta WOWY

Even if Maatta’s data includes the last several season, he rarely represents the strong half of a pairing — at least of any pairing with quality possession numbers. When with Rob Scuderi, Maatta predictably looked like the gifted half.

I predict Sullivan will stick with his trusted pairings to at least start Saturday’s game, though he might end up tinkering mid-game the way he did on Thursday.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing; the Penguins looked quite good after Sullivan adjusted things in Game 1. But tweaks might become more problematic if the coaching staff ends up shuffling the pairings each night.



April 29, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Wilson on Sheary


I think everyone understands that coaches defend their players in situations like this, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz had some comments about Tom Wilson’s hit on Conor Sheary in Game 1 Thursday night that I have a feeling might get the goat of some Penguins fans.

Wilson was fined $2,403.67 and not suspended. That amount was the maximum allowed by the CBA, one half of one day’s pay. Wilson made $894,166 this season.

Here’s the hit.

Here are Trotz’s comments.

I don’t see a shimmy. I also wonder what Trotz means when he says, “on both.” Does he mean Sheary did something unnecessary? That it took two to tango here? I don’t see that either.

I’m sure if a Capitals fan has stumbled across this blog, he already thinks I’m some kind of a homer with a goofy avatar pic of Hacksaw Jim Duggan, so I’ll editorialize no further. If you think I’m off base here, feel free to leave a comment.

Bye for now,



April 29, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Game 1 Washington postgame (Bombulie)


Let’s take a quick look at Game 1 through the lens of the postgame comments from coach Mike Sullivan.

“I didn’t see all the angles, but obviously they saw one and they felt it went in.”

T.J. Oshie’s overtime wraparound 9:33 into overtime had to be reviewed for about a minute before it was deemed a good goal, but it was. Matt Murray said he had to respect Oshie’s shot as he took the puck wide up the right wing and he thought he made it back to the post, but he didn’t.

“I thought he was fine. He made the saves. He gave us a chance to win.”

Murray’s make-up will be tested after this one. An overtime winner that went in by a matter of inches is a kick to the gut. Oshie’s second goal, which gave the Caps a 3-2 lead in the third, was on a backhand shot under his right pad that Murray usually stops. The Penguins will need Murray to bounce back.

“I didn’t get an explanation and no, I’m not concerned. We’re just going to play hockey.”

Sullivan was asked if he got an explanation as to why Tom Wilson wasn’t penalized for a knee-on-knee hit on Conor Sheary. It was a nasty play. Might get reviewed by the department of player safety.

“This game could have went either way. It was an even game. Our guys played hard.”

Pens are now 1-8 in series openers against Washington in franchise history. They won seven of the previous eight series. They’re also 0-6 in Game 1 on the road since 2007.

“We tried to force a few plays east-west that weren’t there and we fed their transition game. When we do that, we get on our heels and it cost us. I thought we rectified that in the second period and for the rest of the game. I thought for the most part, our guys made pretty good decisions with the puck. When we manage the puck the right way, especially coming through the neutral zone, I think it allows us to play the speed game that we want to play.”

This is the big thing for me. Sullivan always talks about areas on the ice where it’s important not to turn pucks over. Against a team as good as the Capitals, that danger zone gets larger. The Penguins did recover, for the most part, and spent a good portion of the game with possession of the puck, but a handful of turnovers near the blue lines were fatal.

“A lot of times, Sid’s line gets the top defense pair and the checking role, or power against power like it went tonight, it provides opportunities for other lines to play against other people. Bones’ line is an important line for us. Obviously they had a solid game for us.”

I’ll just use Sullivan’s assessment of line play to point out a couple of observations based on possession stats from tonight.

Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel was on point. Kuhnhackl-Cullen-Rust was not. Mike Richards still has some game left in him. Evgeny Kuznetsov is lost at sea.

The biggest takeaway might be the night Trevor Daley had. His possession numbers were bad and he looked to be favoring a leg. It’s an angle to watch going forward.

Bye for now,



April 29, 2016
by Bill West

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Game 1 Washington postgame (West)


The Penguins and Capitals delivered drama and down-to-the-wire antics in Game 1. If the season-long data is any indication, this trend will continue for the rest of the series.

The Capitals’ best offensive push of the night came right before their first power play and continued through that man-advantage opportunity, during which they generated four shots on goal and nine shot attempts. Pens Caps Game 1 possession

Sullivan critiqued the Penguins’ puck management in the first period but considered it much improved in the second and third frame, a view supported by the data.

“We tried to force a few plays east-west that weren’t there, and we fed their transition game,” Sullivan said. “When we do that, we get on our heels, and it cost us. I thought we certainly rectified that in the second period and for the rest of the game. I thought, for the most part, our guys made pretty good decisions with the puck. I think when we manage the puck the right way, especially coming through the neutral zone, I think it allows us to play the speed game that we want to play and we force our opponents to play 200 feet.”

An edge in shot attempt totals only goes so far when the team turns the puck over in the neutral zone, though. The Penguins did themselves few favors on Thursday, even as their overall play improved. Washington’s shooters are too good to squander multiple high-percentage opportunities on the rush.

To improve some of the Penguins’ puck management miscues, Sullivan shuffled his defensive pairings a bit. The coaches “split” Daley and Dumoulin halfway through the game, Sullivan noted, though he later tried to dispel the idea that the Penguins stick with pairings in the first place.

“We don’t necessarily stick with pairs for most of the night, if you watch,” Sullivan said. “The biggest reason is because Kris Letang logs so many minutes. We’re looking to get certain people on the ice against their guys, so sometimes there’s a mismatch of pairs. But they all played together a fair amount over the last three months, so I think there’s a comfort level with however Jacques (Martin) decides to use them.”

In case anyone wondered how the matchups played out between the Penguins and Capitals, here’s’s chart. (Big blue squares are good for the Penguins. Big red squares are bad. Gray squares represent fairly even play.)

Pens Caps Game 1 matchupsYou’ll notice three of the Penguins’ four forward lines took care of business. It’s also pretty apparent neither team tried to adjust their line matchups midway through the game.

“One of the things we like about the balance we have with the lines is a lot of times Sid’s line gets the top defense pair and the checking role or the power against power like it went tonight,” Sullivan said. “It provides the opportunity for other lines to play against other people. I thought Bone’s line was an important line for us.”

Fewer big squares and more mid-size squares among the defensemen is an indication of the mid-game assignment adjustments.

If there’s a silver lining to take from the game, it’s that the Penguins figured out what they did wrong in the first period and appeared to dictate the pace and play thereafter. They just need to clean up how they handle the puck in their own end and the neutral zone. But that’s easier said than done when the Capitals compete with such brutality.

“They put a lot of pressure on us the first couple shifts,” Brian Dumoulin said. “We had to weather that. They came out hard, and we knew they were going to do that. Once the game settled in, we kind of got relaxed a little bit more.”

— BW


April 28, 2016
by Bill West

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Pens-Caps Game 1: Holtbeast, Flower and the Beanstalk


Tired of all the Sid vs Ovi talk yet? You best believe the Penguins, from coach Mike Sullivan on down through the young wingers, are, particularly because they became a serious Stanley Cup contender with a strong team concept and thrived even while two other stars at the team’s core, Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin, missed time with injuries.

Offense will almost certainly remain the center of attention in the second-round playoff series between the Penguins and Capitals. But look for goaltenders to steal the show at least once or twice in what at least I suspect will be a long, back-and-forth string of games.

Washington goalie Braden Holtby emerged as one of three Vezina Trophy finalists on Wednesday afternoon. He tied Martin Brodeur’s NHL record for single-season win total (48), and even advocates of more advanced goalie metrics consider Holtby a quality netminder (though probably not deserving of the Vezina).

Rookie Matt Murray, the first of the Penguins’ three goalies to leave the ice at Thursday’s morning skate, will look to hold his own at the opposite end of the rink. Staring across the ice at New York’s Henrik Lundqvist in Round 1, he turned the Penguins’ greatest position-related question mark into an exclamation point. And while it’s still far too early in Murray’s career to declare him a future Lundqvist, the initial signs are encouraging.

Fleury, who participated in the Penguins’ morning skate and also manned a net at practices earlier this week, probably stood a chance of entering the Vezina conversation before his second concussion of the season caused him to miss April — the NHL’s general managers vote on that award. The other finalist spots instead went to Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop.

Holtby vs Pens goaliesJust look at’s all-situations numbers for Holtby, Fleury and Murray. Holtby’s win total and time on ice set him apart. His various save percentages are strong but not necessarily game-changing compared to the Penguins’ top two netminders. (Again, Murray’s stats could change drastically as he sees more ice time and shots, so don’t champion him just yet.)

Let’s assume neither Holtby nor Murray drastically over- or underachieves in this series. Which shots might we expect to beat them? The easy answer is “high-percentage ones.” Thankfully, www.Corsica.Hockey can show us with a little more detail which shots tend to get by the netminders. I also included Fleury just out of curiosity.

Holtby shot locateMurray shot locateFleury shot locate

If those charts leave your head spinning — they’re certainly a little busy for my eyes — here’s a more digestible form that emphasizes density rather than individual locations.

Holtby goal locationMurray goal locateFleury goal locate

You’ll notice subtle differences between Holtby and Fleury. The Capitals goalie appears to have allowed a few more goals from the high slot and the top of the right faceoff circle. Fleury gave up a bit more down low. None of this means Holtby or Fleury is weaker in those respective areas — that just happens to be where the goals came from.


April 27, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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What to watch


Many television viewers in Western Pennsylvania will have a tough decision to make tomorrow night: Game 1 of Penguins vs. Capitals or Round 1 of the NFL Draft.

Jeff Zatkoff feels your pain.

Zatkoff will be watching the hockey game, of course. From a really good seat, in fact, as Matt Murray’s back-up. But he understands why it might be a tough call for many sports fans.

He gets the appeal of the NFL draft.

“It’s exciting, especially for us because we’ve been through that draft process.  You kind of know what it’s like,” Zatkoff said. “It’s exciting to see new guys come into your franchise or your team. It’s the appeal of the trade deadline, the draft, free agency. It’s all the same. It’s a day of hope for a fan base. Until that pick is made or that trade is made, you never know who you have.”

Zatkoff comes from a football family. His uncle Roger was an all-Big Ten linebacker at Michigan and an all-Pro for the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in the 1950s.

Zatkoff is also a Michigan native and a Lions fan, so he knows how important a day of hope can be for a fan base.

“We start off the year every year and we’re supposed to be a playoff team. Then after a few games, it’s ‘Yeah, not our year this year,'” Zatkoff said.

You’d have to figure Zatkoff’s family would be tuned in to the hockey game, considering that they have a relative on the team and all. But he wasn’t so sure.

“I think depending on the family member, there could be a lot of ‘previous channel’ going back and forth,” he said. “I’m sure that’s going to be the case.”

More notes from today’s practice:

— Conor Sheary did not skate for the second consecutive day. Coach Mike Sullivan said he was held out with bumps and bruises but is expected to play in Game 1 tomorrow. Karl Alzner is going through the same deal for the Capitals this week.

— Defense pairs were the same as they were in the Rangers series. Because Brian Dumoulin and Ben Lovejoy had the most success against Alex Ovechkin at even strength in the regular-season meetings between the teams, I half-wondered if they might be paired together. But no.

Here’s how Ovechkin fared against Penguins defensemen this season as far as even-strength possession stats go. The main takeaway, of course, is that David Warsofsky owned the guy. He’s the Ovechkin Whisperer.

WARSOFSKY 1:56 0-6 0.0
DUMOULIN 28:57 23-30 43.4
LOVEJOY 24:04 18-23 43.9
MAATTA 23:09 16-17 48.5
POULIOT 1:25 2-2 50.0
SCUDERI 3:18 5-4 55.6
DALEY 16:20 15-10 60.0
CLENDENING 0:52 2-1 66.7
LETANG 33:16 32-14 69.6
COLE 12:48 24-5 82.8
SCHULTZ 1:26 3-0 100

More after an optional morning skate tomorrow in DC.

Bye for now,



April 24, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Game 5 Rangers postgame


It’ll be easy to forget given the final score and all the hoopla over clinching a playoff series at home, but Game 5 between the Penguins and Rangers was a close game for a good long while this afternoon.

In the first 10 minutes of the first period, the Rangers came out flying. They scored two first-period goals. They were outshooting the Penguins 9-2 at one point.

The Penguins stayed in the game, in my estimation, for two main reasons.

1. Matt Murray. He easily could have been rattled by a pair of funky breaks that led to the first two Rangers goals. The first was a Dan Girardi point shot that deflected at least twice. The second was a pinballing puck around the crease that went in off the skates of Patric Hornqvist and Dominic Moore. But he wasn’t. Because that’s sort of his thing.

2. Phil Kessel. On the Penguins’ first goal, he threaded a pass through Kevin Klein to Carl Hagelin on the doorstep. Klein was dropping to a knee and laying his stick on the ice at the time. Heck of a pass. A few minutes later, on the power play, he ripped a patented Kessel wrister in off the knob of Henrik Lundqvist’s stick.

Rob Rossi has a whole column on the topic online and in the paper tomorrow, so I suggest you check that out. I just wanted to throw in my two cents and say that Kessel is, as unlikely as it sometimes seems, a bona fide playoff guy.

Some other notes from today:

— When it comes to Corsi, the Penguins were at a significant disadvantage in most of the series. I tallied it up and I had the Rangers with a 54.8 Corsi for percentage and the Penguins with a 45.2 at even strength in the series.

I think I understand why that is. For one thing, it speaks to the score effect. The Rangers trailed by a lot in large portions of Games 4 and 5. For another, the Penguins so dominated on the power play (8 for 21 compared to 2 for 19 for the Rangers) that five-on-five possession wasn’t as critical. Finally, I looked at some xG stats and saw the Penguins had a lot more dangerous scoring chances than the Rangers did.

I think the bottom line is that it was a series that couldn’t be defined by simple Corsi For stats, and I’m OK with that.

— A four-goal surge in the second period won the game for the Penguins and got the Consol Energy Center crowd riled up.

Bryan Rust had an amazing period. The two goals he scored were important, obviously, but a lot of credit goes to Trevor Daley and Evgeni Malkin for setting them up. The play that really impressed me was his assist. He ran down a long bouncing pass and backed off two Rangers defenders in the process, giving the trailing Matt Cullen all the time and space in the world to get a shot off.

— The Conor Sheary goal, set up by a stickhandling clinic and pass from Sidney Crosby, was the dagger. Who is this kid confidently beating The King with wrist shots two games in a row? And now it’s 5-2? Game over.

— There was a symbolic moment during the second period as well. Just as Dominic Moore released a breakout pass from the Rangers zone, Crosby finished a check on him, sending him sprawling to the ice. Moore has always given the Penguins problems. The Rangers, obviously, have too over the last two seasons.

That Crosby hit showed, metaphorically, that the Penguins are done with the Rangers hurdle and they’re on to the next one in Washington or Philadelphia.

I expect the Penguins will resume practice Monday in preparation for the start of the second round at the end of the week. So check back for the next blog update then.

Bye for now,


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