Ryan Pawloski analyzes the start the Pittsburgh Penguins have made to life in the NHL bubble and what it means for the rest of their season.
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The Pittsburgh Penguins were in must win mode heading into game two versus the Montreal Canadiens. Game one saw the Canadiens show the world how they can win this series, opportune scoring and having their world renown goalie, Carey Price, play out of his mind. Price was able to stand on his head for game one and help his team win the game 3-2 in overtime despite being outshot by Pittsburgh 41-35.
The biggest difference maker in game one was the special teams play of both teams. The Penguins had seven opportunities on the power play and only cashed in with one goal. That was the difference maker in game one and Carey Price had a lot to do with that as he stood tall and stared down the Penguin opposition.
Game two was somewhat of a different story as the Penguins came out and dominated the majority of the game especially when it comes to their defensive effort to thwart the attacking Canadiens. The power play still struggled mightily by going 0-5 and not making the Canadiens pay for their mistakes.
Sidney Crosby did what Sidney Crosby does and that show up in big games. His line has been the Penguins best by a mile and its not close. They have generated scoring chances and Sid has two goals through two games, the goal during this game coming from a feed from Jake Guentzel. Guentzel would go onto confirm the win with an empty net goal for Pittsburgh a little after Conor Sheary fed Jason Zucker on a tip in front of the net to make the score 2-0.
The Penguins are playing technically sound and better than the Canadiens, but that doesn’t always mean the better team will win, a hot goalie and a few bounces later and that better team could be out of the playoffs. The Penguins are playing the right way, but they need to still push the play and some players need to improve quickly if they want to make a deep playoff run.
One thing that is evident, Kris Letang and John Marino have come to play and that is great news for Pittsburgh. The bad news is the rest of the defensive corp. looks to be struggling to find their games right now. Brian Dumoulin has not been himself since the games returned, Marcus Pettersson has been up and down so far and so has Justin Schultz, and Jack Johnson is still Jack Johnson so in other words not good.
Matt Murray has been encouraging after his shaky start in game one, he had a nice bounce-back game. Game two saw Murray excel under pressure like he normally does in must win games for Pittsburgh. He made timely saves and helped secure the victory.
Other then Sidney Crosby’s line, the forward group has not look good especially on the offensive end of the ice. Malkin does not seem to be himself and has looked slow at times. McCann’s line has looked a little more promising after Patrick Marleau ringed one off the pipe during the late third period of game 2.
The fourth line that is centered by Teddy Blueger has shown a lot of promise, but mostly just in their own end. They need to pick it up in the offensive zone but these things could come along with time. The only problem is there is not a lot of time to allow these things to be fixed. When a team plays a hot goalie like Price is, you just have to stay disciplined and stick to your game. It is very much like the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals against Ottawa a few years ago, stick with your game and play hard, that is all you can do.
Entering this series, the Penguins were and still are the odds-on favorites to win this series against the Canadiens. Since the series started the betting odds leaned to the Penguins winning the series, but after game one, some people got a nice pay-day with Montreal’s win in overtime. The odds for game one was Montreal +140 and Pittsburgh -165. Game two saw an even bigger difference for odds as Montreal showed up +155 and Pittsburgh -175. As we head into game three tonight the odds are again expecting the Penguins to win, but Montreal has the bigger cash out if another upset is on the horizon, Montreal +143 and Pittsburgh -167.