Penguins Push Jackets To The Brink Behind A Barrage Of Shots
How does a team bounce back from a game in which they surrendered four unanswered goals? They put 51 shots on net while having an even strength possession time above sixty percent.
That is how strong the Pittsburgh Penguins were on Saturday night.
Crosby and Malkin played a total of eleven minutes together in even strength situations. It was a desperate move for Dan Bylsma, but certainly paid off. Malkin and Crosby dominated the puck all night long, proving that their goal drought is nothing but bad puck luck. Crosby, Malkin, and Kunitz had 15 combined shots as a line.
Brandon Sutter hasn’t just played well; Brandon Sutter has become a catalyst of Pittsburgh’s success. Not only does Sutter lead the Penguins on the Penalty kill, his new line of Bennett and Stempniak has been a possession force for Pittsburgh. In game five, each of these players had a 70% Corsi rating, which in regular hockey speak is monstrous.
Marcel Goc had a very strong return to action after missing the past three weeks. He had three hits, a shot, a blocked shot, and played ten minutes. The Penguins did not use him in special teams situations to keep him from tiring. Goc played the most of any fourth liner and even played between Bennett and Stempniak some.
Speaking of shifting lines, the Penguins used seven or eight different line combinations during the game. The Bennett, Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen centered line had the games only five on five goal. Stempniak carried the puck through the neutral zone after a Bennett steal of the puck. Stempniak’s shot caught Bobrovsky in an awkward position, which led to floating rebound for Jokinen to pound home.
Kris Letang would tally the final goal in the game via the empty net, but truly had himself a very good game. It was the first time in this series that Kris Letang played within himself and controlled the puck. Letang had just one give away in the game and played just over 24 minutes in this game, second only to Paul Martin.
Letang had four shots in the game, despite being relegated to the Penguins second power play unit. Letang played just 1:28 on the power play and :39 on the penalty kill.
Robert Bortuzzo filled in for the injured Brooks Orpik, who left practice on Friday, but no word has yet to come out on his situation. Bortuzzo played strong in the game; finishing with two hits, three shots, and two blocked shots in only 13:36. Bortuzzo actually outplayed his partner Rob Scuderi, who is having a very difficult time adjusting back into the Penguins system. I do not expect Bortuzzo to replace Scuderi, but it would benefit the Penguins if he does.
Scuderi has had trouble keeping up with the five on five play and doesn’t fit too well with the teams more aggressive penalty kill. I still don’t expect him to sit out a playoff game, but it would benefit the Penguins if he had. Scuderi just doesn’t have the speed to keep up and he could be one of the reasons for Letang’s recent struggles. If Scuderi does not sit, Letang should see more time with Olli Maatta, forcing Niskanen to play more with Scuderi.
Bobrovsky and Fleury were stellar. Bob stopped 48 shots on the night and was the only reason the Penguins didn’t have 5 or 6 goals. At times in this series Bob has looked like a Vezina trophy winner, other times though, Bob has looked average. Last night was a Vezina performance, but it still wasn’t good enough.
Fleury stopped 23 of 24 shots on goal in a phenomenal bounce back game. He barely left his net to make a play on uncontested pucks, but that was expected. Fleury only allowed one goal in the game, early in the game, while the Jackets were on the power play. If it wasn’t for an unlucky bounce on that power play, Fleury could have had a shutout.
Pittsburgh’s speed and puck control again led to an over aggressive Columbus team that took too many penalties. The Blue Jackets have yet to find the happy medium between strong forechecking and poor penalties. Pittsburgh has slowed down dramatically on their power play, but they have not given up a shorthanded goal since switching over to the two defensemen running the points.
If the Jackets can remain patient in their game and use their speed and hitting to keep Pittsburgh off the puck, they should be able to make game six a very tight affair.
What to expect:
Brian Gibbons has yet to return to practice in full, so the Penguins will most likely use six or seven different line combinations in the game. If Gibbons can return, I would expect him to take his spot next to Crosby and Kunitz, keeping the Bennett-Sutter-Stemnpiak line together. The odd man out in this situation would either be Tanner Glass, Joe Vitale, or Craig Adams. Judging by speed, hits, faceoff ability, and overall play the odd man out should be Tanner Glass, but it would more likely be Joe Vitale.
There is still no word on Brooks Orpik and his health so I fully expect him to be out of the lineup for game six.
The Penguins want to end this series in Columbus and there is little doubt about it. Crosby and Malkin have yet to score in the series, but continue to control the puck and push the pace. For the fourth straight time, I will predict that they will break their slump. This time though, I will go out on a limb and say that both players score as the Penguins win 4-2.