The Pittsburgh Penguins lost 1-0 to the St. Louis Blues, Sunday, at the CONSOL Energy Center, in what seemed to be a very even match up.
Not much happened in the first period. as it was a tight checking chess match with very few quality chances on either end. At the end of one ,the shots were even at 10-to-10. The hits were close at 11-to-10 with the Pens getting the slight edge. Pittsburgh had two giveaways with four blocked shots, while the Blues did not give the puck away and blocked seven. The biggest happening was towards the end of the period where the Pens drew another penalty, setting themselves up for a long 5-on-3 power play going into the second.
The second period proved to be almost a replication of the first.
The Penguins started off the period with a two man-advantage, in which head coach Dan Byslma threw five forwards over the boards. The five forward power play unit – who were all left-handed – epically failed to convert on the advantage and subsequently gave up a few shorthanded chances. On a positive note, the Pens’ outshot the Blues 13-to-8 that period. However, the Blues had only one giveaway paired with eight blocked shots. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh turned the puck over five times and only blocked five shots.
The goaltender duel continued in the third stanza until the 11:20-mark, when the Blues’ forward David Backes tipped one in past Marc-Andre Fleury. The goal came at even strength, just as Evgeni Malkin stepped out the box. That tally proved to be all that was needed for the Blues, as the Pens squandered another power play chance in the third. The Penguins barely edged the Blues that period in shots, 10-to-9, and made it a game-total in favor of the Pens 33-to-27. The Black and Gold turned the puck over three more times and only blocked three shots that period, whereas the Notes blocked ten shots and only gave away one.
The game concluded with the Blues’ handing Pittsburgh their fourth loss in six games.
In a game that was being marked as a potential Stanley Cup finals game, it proved to be exactly that. Both teams didn’t give an inch, with one and done chances at both ends of the ice.
Fleury and Brian Elliot both put up show stopping performances. And just like almost any playoff game, special teams will be the deciding factor when two teams are so closely matched. This time it was no different.
The Penguins, coming off a 3-for-6 conversion rate on the power play in the previous game, melted down like Chernobyl today, going 0-for-5. One of those opportunities was a long two man-advantage, that was wasted with five-left handed forwards.
Folks, when you have all the same handed players on the power play, everyone knows where the shot is coming from. Without Matt Niskanen, a right-handed shot, out there quarterbacking the power play, the unit looked lost. Special teams for the Penguins will continue to be the difference maker. The penalty kill units are still playing tough as ever, but the power play is not getting bodies to the net and taking the opportunities given to them.
One of my favorite quotes ever was by a man named Tim Notke, who said, “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” This is absolutely true for the Penguins power play units right now. There is a lot of talent on the ice with no one willing to work hard. When the man advantage units begin to fail, the best bet is to throw pucks at the net and get bodies to the blue paint.
If the hard work doesn’t begin soon in order to catch a rhythm, then I hate to say it, but it will be a first round exit for the “Mighty ‘Guins”.
Watch to see if the Penguins can turn it around on Tuesday, Mar. 25, at 7 p.m. in the CONSOL Energy Center.
The game will be televised on Root Sports Net Pittsburgh, and as always you can listen to the game on 105.9 The X.
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Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins