Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Plus/Minus: Penguins shine on special teams, but need to stay on the attack

By Brian Metzer
June 7, 2016

Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes possesion of the puck from Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.

Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins takes possesion of the puck from Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.

Plus – Power play breaks through
The Penguins talked about getting more aggressive on their power play after not being pleased with their effort in Game 3. They did that and managed to score on one of their two opportunities. They moved the puck quickly, created three shots on goal and got bodies to the net. That approach turned into a goal for Evgeni Malkin during the second period. It might not be perfect yet, but they were dangerous.
Minus – Conservative approach bites back
If there has been one constant during the Penguins’ run to the Stanley Cup final it is their insistence on playing a conservative style when leading in the third period. They carried a 2-0 lead into the third period on Monday night and spent large chunks of the final frame in their own zone. Yes the Sharks deserve credit for that for the push back that they showed in outshooting the Penguins 24-20, but the latter didn’t do much in the way of taking advantage of pucks that they cleared out of their zone. That approach resulted in the Sharks swarming their net often in the final period and turned into a goal for Melker Karlsson and several other glowing opportunities.
Plus – Geno Machino rides again
Evgeni Malkin was under the magnifying glass for much of the past 24 hours. He entered Game 4 without a point in the Stanley Cup Final and he hadn’t scored a goal in six games. He answered the tough questions on Sunday and then he answered the call on Monday night picking up the game winning goal and an assist in the Penguins 3-1 win. He finished the night with two points, two shots on goal and a hit. He may not look like the guy who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2009, but this version of Malkin will help significantly moving forward.
Plus – Unsung Heroes
Neither Chris Kunitz nor Patric Hornqvist got on the board in terms of goals or assists on Monday but they were doing a lot of hard work for the Penguins. They combined for 11 hits and were constants in front of Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones. Their collective performances are what is needed to win games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and specifically in the Final. Eric Fehr also stepped up in the game putting three shots on goal and scoring the backbreaking goal at 17:58 of the third period.
Plus – Killing with authority
The Sharks entered the Final with the most productive power play in the playoffs, scoring on 27 percent of their chances. They promptly went 1-for-2 with the extra man during Game 1, but the Penguins have shut them down ever since. The Penguins have now killed off six straight Sharks’ power plays, including two on Monday. They allowed just three shots on goal and never allowed the trio of Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton to become major factors on special teams. Pavelski did manage five shots in the game, but Burns and Thornton were held to two combined shots.

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