Assistant GM Bill Guerin gives his 3 takeaways from the Pens' 5-2 loss to Carolina.
1. I thought Cam Ward’s big saves early were a huge difference because they kept us off the board and it didn’t allow us to gain momentum, but they gained momentum off of it.
2. I think their neutral zone defense prevented us from entering the zone real clear.
3. We weren’t able to spend enough time in the offensive zone.
Michelle Crechiolo gives her 3 impressions from the press box.
1. MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
The Pens didn’t bury their chances while the Hurricanes did. It’s as simple as that. A perfect example of that is Brandon Sutter getting stopped on a breakaway and the Canes recovering the loose puck, going the other way and converting a tic-tac-toe passing play off the rush. What’s especially frustrating is the quality of the chances the Pens were creating. They had a few glorious ones, and they need to convert opportunities like those when they get them. To be fair, Cam Ward definitely deserves credit for making the stops he did. He stood on his head. But when you’re getting 2-on-1’s, 2-on-0 rushes and Sidney Crosby is setting teammates up with perfect cross-ice feeds, those have to find the back of the net. Tonight, they didn’t.
2. DEFENSIVE STRUGGLES
I thought the Pens struggled defensively tonight. The Canes are a fast team, and they really hurt the Pens with their transition game. They would come quick the other way with numbers, which forced the Pens defensemen to back off and have too big of gaps. It didn’t help that the forwards were getting caught deep a lot as well. As coach Mike Johnston said, “On the transition opportunities, you’ve just got to get above your check and it’s a footrace back to our zone. A lot of times we were within a foot or two. It’s that extra effort, that extra intensity to catch the guy.” Once the Canes gained the zone, the Pens were scrambling a lot and giving them too much time and space. They just didn’t do a good enough job of winning battles to and for loose pucks. Overall, the Pens have been a terrific defensive team all season long. Hopefully tonight was just an anomaly.
Entering tonight, the Pens had lost five of their past six games. Tonight was a prime opportunity to get a couple of huge points against a team mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and they didn’t do what it took to make that happen. I’ll let the captain elaborate more on that. “We’ve got to be better,” Crosby said. “This time of year is an important time of year. You want to be playing the right way and we need points, and there’s not enough desperation for the importance of these games, especially when you’re missing guys. We all need to dig down and be a little bit better. We can’t accept an effort like this against a team that’s out of the playoffs.”