So the Penguins really did give up a touchdown to the hated Columbus Blue Jackets. They honestly deserved every one of them too.
Pittsburgh came in fairly sure of themselves as a team and why wouldn’t they? First place. Steamrolled the Rangers last game. Crosby is the hottest player in the league. How could they lose?
But the best part of this year is, just like last year, nothing has come easy. They won a few games early on they didn’t deserve, but that luck ran out pretty quickly. They scored a ton of goals early this month, but as soon as we started talking about it the inconsistency crept back in.
Basically this game was a mini version of the last two seasons. A great 10 minutes and a Crosby eye popper mixed with a stretch of horrible decisions. And I mean horrible.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the game plan has been driving or passing the puck directly up the middle of the ice into those unexpected spaces that usually lead to danger. There’s lots of movement. Unfortunately, they just didn’t have the legs to challenge their way through and win those battles. For this reason they started playing safe pucks up the wall, or lobbing it behind the defence. With basically zero puck support, it was essentially conceding possession time after time.
Ironically, by trying to take the easy, safe approach, they actually caused a lot of potential counter situations. Here’s where it may be painful for you to keep reading, but Columbus very smartly took full advantage. As bad as the Pens played compared to usual, they really didn’t beat themselves. Columbus actually beat the Penguins.
When you count the number of times at least one if not two Columbus players hacked at Murray’s equipment while he had the puck covered it’s just amazing. They always had someone waiting for the puck, waiting for that rebound. They always had defensive side puck support. And They always had someone coming back.
It’s one thing for the Pens to have an uncharacteristic off night, but it’s another to be so blatantly exploited, and that’s all credit to the Blueshirts.
When you look at it, Conor Sheary actually competed quite well most of the game. Crosby didn’t look awful. When Malkin is truly struggling he’s usually taking penalties or coughing the puck up like he doesn’t even care. There was none of that. I don’t think any one or two or ten individuals stood out as playing overly badly or being repeatedly beaten. But the Pens 4 line system play is the bread and butter where the 3rd and 4th lines are able to accomplish the same things as the 3rd and 4th lines(within reason). As a complete unit the individual components simply weren’t on the same page tonight.
Like many of you I’m not overly worried about this game, but I may differ in that I’m not worried mostly because I believe it was a lack of game plan execution as opposed to a wholesale failure of individuals.