Assessing the wreckage that was the Penguins’ end-of-regulation meltdown in Game 3 against Ottawa was a complicated procedure, to the extent that even a couple of actual been-there, done-that experts came to different conclusions.
On Monday’s DVE Morning Show, former Cup-winning player and former NHL head coach Rick Tocchet
identified Paul Martin as the primary culprit, as Tocchet had on Sunday night on Twitter.
“Paul Martin should have just stayed on his left side, Letang stay on his right side, have the forwards back-pressure through the middle and they would have been fine,” Tocchet said.
On Tuesday’s DVE Morning Show, former Cup-winning player and former NHL head coach Eddie Olczyk said Martin’s move to pressure the puck in tandem with Brandon Sutter was appropriate, but Letang’s response to Martin was not.
Once Martin made his move, “Letang’s job is to fall back under and play safety,” Olczyk maintained. “There were a lotta mistakes. At the end of the day the last line
of defense was Kris Letang.”
What Evgeni Malkin did or didn’t do on the play fell under the “lotta mistakes” category in both Tocchet’s and Olczyk’s estimation.
“Obviously, Malkin’s gotta recover back-door,” Tocchet said. “He knows that.”
And I’m pretty sure Chris Kunitz didn’t emerge bathed in glory for his involvement.
Suffice it to say the Pens, as a unit, were uncharacteristically brutal at precisely the wrong time and it wound up costing them a game they should have had in their back pocket.
But that was then and this is now.
And as of now things literally couldn’t be going any better for the Penguins.
As of this writing the Pens are 6-3 in the postseason, matching Boston for the best record in the playoffs. And since the Pens haven’t as yet faced a 4-1 deficit in the
third period of a Game 7, you could argue their 6-3 has been a lot smoother than the Bruins’ 6-3.
The Pens’ power play, despite the 0-for-6 and short-handed goal allowed in Game 3 in Ottawa, is No. 1 among teams still playing at 27.0 percent.
Their penalty kill is No. 2 among teams still playing at 90.0 percent, behind only Chicago’s 100.0 percent.
The Pens have the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 (tied) scorers in the postseason (Malkin with 14 points, Sidney Crosby with 12 and Jarome Iginla with 10), and the No. 2 scorer (tied) among defensemen (Letang, nine points).
And goaltender Tomas Vokoun is No. 2 in goals-against average (1.61, 0.01 off the pace being set by the Kings’ Jonathan Quick) and No. 1 in save percentage (.949).
So while things went horribly wrong on a number of players’ parts at the end of regulation in Game 3 in Ottawa, it could be a whole lot worse.
Ask the Blackhawks, who will take on the Red Wings on Thursday night on the wrong end of a two-games-to-one deficit in Detroit.