Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Pens’ 2-1 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
1. CROSBY LEADS
I can’t say enough about Sidney Crosby’s play the last two games. As Mike Sullivan said tonight, “He’s just been a horse out there.” The captain told me the other day he’s leaving it all out on the ice, and that’s been more than evident. He’s been setting the tone for the entire team, literally from the drop of the puck. His line has been spending the majority of their shifts in the offensive zone, and they’re driven by Crosby and how he just absolutely dominates in terms of holding onto the puck, protecting it and powering around that end of the ice. A lot of times, they have to go the length of the ice to get down there. But every now and then, they’ll get a faceoff – like the one Crosby won in overtime to set up the winner. He told Kris Letang that he was going to make sure it got back to him, and then instructed the defenseman to find Conor Sheary. When your captain is playing with that confidence, it’s inspiring for the group. “He’s probably the best player in the world. I think we should believe in him,” Letang said.
2. PUSHING THE PACE
The Pens weren’t as overwhelming with their speed as they were in the first period of Game 1, where they blew the Sharks out of the water with it. But they were just as effective when it came to pushing the pace here in Game 2, and were definitely the faster team out there. The Pens moved the puck and their feet quickly, and that could definitely start to wear the Sharks down as this series goes on. For example, there were a number of instances where a Shark would be skating back for what they thought was a routine icing before they realized a Pen was bearing down on them hard. That forced them to turn on the jets and expend a lot more energy than they expected to. Those start to add up over the course of a game. Overall, the Pens did a much better job of playing behind the Sharks instead of in front of them. They just kept coming in waves. They would dump the puck, chase after it and when the Sharks would eventually clear, the Pens would quickly regroup and come right back at them.
3. FIVE-MAN UNIT
The Pens worked the puck as a five-man unit in the offensive zone, and it resulted in a lot of confusion for the Sharks. First of all, the forwards did a tremendous job of getting in on the forecheck and separating guys from the puck. Once they did that, I liked how they were involving the defensemen in the cycle. Those guys were making smart decisions in terms of when to hold the blue line. And when they did decide to pinch and jump up for pucks coming down the boards, they would continue to go after it and the forward would skate back into their spot to cover for them. That forced the Sharks to change their coverage and start chasing. Every Pens line had extended shifts down there.