Both experts and fans are split on how the second-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will unfold between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. Game 1 didn’t help much in determining the eventual winner — the game went into overtime where the Capitals were able to just squeak by.
Let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong for the Penguins in Game 1.
Going into the game, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding whether the Penguins could continue their strong play against an equally strong team. However, Pittsburgh was able to prove it was, indeed, on the same level as the Capitals. Still, the Penguins couldn’t get the puck past Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who has played extremely well for Washington this year.
Although outmatched against the boards, the Penguins were able to put up a lead — they just couldn’t keep it. Continuing to generate shots and buzz around the offensive zone will be key if Pittsburgh wants to come back from an early-series deficit.
Matt Murray played in his first NHL overtime playoff game and was only an inch away from keeping the Capitals from taking Game 1. With the absence of Marc-Andre Fleury goaltending has been put as Pittsburgh’s biggest question mark.
Although he allowed four goals, Murray was also the reason why Washington was unable to put up a multi-goal lead. In fact, the young netminder denied Alex Ovechkin on two breakaway chances, showing that he deserves to be in the net of a pro team.
Just Bumps and Bruises
Lastly, the biggest takeaway was that the Penguins appeared to suffer no major injuries after the Capitals took the body of any Pittsburgh player who possessed the puck. Although Chris Kunitz appeared to be significantly injured be hit in the head, possibly the ear, by a puck, Coach Mike
Sullivan has listed the winger as day-to-day.
Aside from the injury on the bench, Pittsburgh looks to be healthy and has its eyes set on Game 2 this Saturday.
All Shots, No Hits
Yes, no major injuries came at the hands of the Capitals in Game 1, but the Penguins were knocked around like bowling pins. Although Pittsburgh was able to generate a lot of offense, translating into shots, it was unable to evade the head-hunting Capitals.
If the Penguins expect to make it through, at the very least, four more games, they will need to use their speed to their advantage and elude hits. Since the Penguins are better skating than hitting, it would make sense to shift to a strategy that employs more usage of speed than physical play.
The defense did not play to expectations against Washington, although they are tasked with a difficult assignment. Regardless, defensive turnovers and blunders gave the Capitals chances that should not have been granted. Olli Maatta’s turnover, for example, put Washington right back in the game with T.J. Oshie putting the puck in the upper shelf of Murray’s glove side.
Lastly, Washington got in the heads of the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin, for example, played emotionally during Game 1. You could see the expressions on Malkin’s face all game and how frustrated he was, while Washington players sat back and watched.
For Pittsburgh to have a real chance in Game 2, it will have to keep better composure and not take bad penalties that could lead to more scoring chances by the Capitals offense. If the Penguins can get in the heads of Washington players, the tide may turn .
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