Matt Murray (left) and Sidney Crosby (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Penguins did what they wanted in Game 1 by setting the tone and tempo for the series early. Now they hope to continue to impose their will and take a stranglehold on the series.
CRANBERRY, PA – We should not be the least bit surprised that Sidney Crosby was among the six players who decided to hit the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins optional workout Tuesday afternoon. After all, it’s Sidney Crosby. That’s what he does. He’s also a creature of habit and those habits have led to some pretty remarkable things for the Penguins this spring.
First of all, the Penguins have a habit of outshooting their opponents. They did it for the 10th straight game in their 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. And they have a habit of making teams chase the game and chase them. It was a strategy that worked to perfection in Game 1, with the Penguins putting the Sharks back on their heels in the first period.
“I think the most important thing is you don’t go into a game trying to feel it out,” Crosby said. “You’re not going to play your game if you’re out there thinking and I thought we definitely did what we wanted to as far as playing a team we haven’t played in a long time and not sure how the game is going to look, necessarily because of that, and we didn’t wait to see what was going to happen. I think we tried to dictate things and that’s the way we need to play.”
Now comes the hard part, stepping on the necks of the Sharks. It will not be easy for the Penguins to win Game 2, but if they can manage to do it, they’ll have a stranglehold on the series when it goes back to San Jose. But the Sharks have been remarkably resilient in these playoffs, posting a 5-1 record in games that have followed a loss. And they don’t just win. They win big. They’ve outscored their opponents 27-9 in those games.
“If we play the right way, play within our system and play with speed, we’re a dangerous team and we can beat them,” said Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta. “But we can’t give them any life. We can’t take our foot off the gas and we have to be ready to go in Game 2. We want to be a team that dictates the tempo and I think right from the start, we did that.”
OLLI SMOKES! KNIGHTS WIN!
When asked how he felt watching the London Knights win the Memorial Cup on the weekend, Maatta immediately broke out in an enormous grin. If he couldn’t win the trophy in London, he was happy to see those who came after him did.
In his two years with the Knights, Maatta came about as close possible to winning the Memorial Cup without actually winning it. In 2012, the Knights lost 2-1 in overtime to the host Shawinigan Cataractes in the championship final and the next year bowed out in the semifinal game.
“I watched the final and it was awesome to see,” Maatta said. “They’re always a good team. It’s a winning organization every year. And, I mean, the players they having coming up there again, it’s unbelievable. They have the better Olli coming up, too.”
Maatta was talking about Knights defenseman and countryman Olli Juolevi, a player who will definitely go in the top half of the first round and might be the first defenseman taken in this year’s draft. Maatta still spends about a month of each off-season in London and said he met Juolevi there last summer.
“He’s a great kid,” Maatta said. “He had an unbelievable season, too. World Juniors, regular season, then Mem Cup. It was awesome to watch.”
KILLERS IN THE BOX
The Penguins found themselves in a bit of a pickle in Game 1 when defensemen Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy, the two defensemen who have logged the most shorthanded time on ice for the Penguins during the playoffs, each took minor penalties. The Sharks, who have made their opponents pay all playoffs for their penalties, cashed in on one of their three power plays, scoring in the second period when Cole was off for hooking.
“We don’t want to take penalties just as a rule,” Sullivan said. “But it hurts when our penalty killers that we rely on are in the penalty box. But listen, they’re trying to play hard. They’re competing. They’re trying to do everything they can to help this team win. That’s a part of the game. We understand it. Regardless of who takes the penalties, I think we have enough depth in all of our positions that we have enough people that we can put on the ice in a penalty kill situation that we feel comfortable with.”