The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a tied series with the Nashville Predators heading into Game 5
Well that wasn’t the road trip Pittsburgh Penguins fans were hoping for. Nashville really took it to the Penguins in both games, outscoring them by a 9 to 2 margin.
The most concerning thing is that even in the two victories in Games 1 and 2, the Penguins did not look all that great. However this is the Stanley Cup final and each game is separate from the others. Let’s take a look at some things the team needs to do in order to get back and play Penguin hockey.
The Ailments of the Power Play
In a previous post, it was discussed to not worry about the power play. This humble writer could not have been more wrong. The Penguins are now 1 in 16 this series with the man advantage, their lone conversion back in Game 1 on a 5 versus 3. Woof!
On three tries in Game 4, the powerplay looked better than the no shot disaster in Game 3. Still when you don’t convert, it’s not a good thing. Perhaps coach Mike Sullivan should deploy a more traditional 3 forwards and 2 defensemen look in Game 5 as opposed to the 4 forwards and 1 defensemen powerplay unit. Maybe a different look will spark something.
This is not to take away credit from the Predators. Their penalty kill has been spectacular at taking away Penguin chances. However one should think they can’t defend like that forever and at some point the Penguins are going to break through.
Personnel Changes for Game 5?
After Matt Murray’s subpar performances in Nashville, the hot take is to go back to Marc-Andre Fleury for Game 5. This is the first time two playoff years that Murray has not had a bounce back game after a bad performance. With an extra day of rest and going back home, I think it would be best to stick with Murray.
What the Penguins do need to hope for is the return of Nick Bonino. His absence has been felt and his replacement, Carter Rowney, has not been the best. A Bonino return in Game 5 might be a big boost to this depleted Penguins team.
Also defenseman Ron Hainsey is turning into a liability on the ice. It’s a great story that he is in his first career Stanley Cup playoffs, but at some point Sullivan might be thinking about making a switch here for a change of pace. The options are limited but Chad Ruhwedel or Mark Streit might be needed. At least Ruhwedel would give them a right handed defenseman on the ice as opposed to all lefties.
Playing captain obvious here, but a Stanley Cup is not won or lost in one or two games. It takes four victories to raise the greatest prize in hockey and now this series is a best of three. With two of those games in Pittsburgh, one should still like the Penguins chances to win the series.
Nashville is a good team and they did not become Western Conference champions by fluke. They swept the number one seed Chicago Blackhawks, and beat solid teams in St. Louis and Anaheim to get here. In the last two games, goalie Pekka Rinne performed like he did in those series, but that’s not to say Pittsburgh can’t get him off his game again.
We should be enjoying this run while it lasts. Regardless of the outcome, it’s been fun to watch this team play over the last two seasons. Another Stanley Cup victory will make it all that much sweeter. The only thing left to say is Buckle Up, Baby! (Video courtesy of Aldolpho Gambino)