Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions of the Penguins’ 5-2 win against the New York Islanders.1. OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION
This team has exploded offensively the last couple of games, netting 10 total. They probably won’t be able to keep their five-goals-a-game pace up, but this outburst was much-needed for a Pens team that ranks in the NHL’s bottom-three in that category. And the names that have been on the scoresheet(s) are the ones you would expect to be on there, which hasn’t always been the case this year. The Pens’ stars have been looking like just that, Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang in particular tonight. Since returning from a one-game absence due to injury, the captain has five goals in five games after netting a pair against the Isles. And Letang has six points in his last couple of games, which is impressive, but I think he’s been even better defensively. He’s been playing an unbelievable all-around game.
Mike Sullivan had a lot to say about his best players being just that…
“I’m thrilled for them that they’re getting rewarded for their efforts. I think to their credit, they’re playing the right way. For the most part, they’re making pretty good decisions with the puck. I’ve said this on a number of occasions – when you have a team like ours with players that want to play with the puck so much, I think the puck management in the critical areas of the rink sets up our whole team game. If we don’t make good decisions in those areas of the rink then we, to a certain extent, shoot ourselves in the foot and we give our opponents opportunities to counter-attack on us. So most of what I’ve done with our top guys has just been having conversations about those circumstances, that situational awareness where we allow them to make plays when the opportunities present themselves but also we have to recognize that we can’t make plays all the time. I think these guys have done a tremendous job up to this point. I think it’s a credit to them, their efforts, how hard they’re playing and they’re buying in.”2. IMPROVED START
The Pens’ start was much better in this game compared to Thursday night in Detroit. This time, they built a 2-0 lead after one period instead of surrendering one. You could tell the guys were ready to play from the drop of the puck. The Isles are considered a quick team, but it was the Pens who stood out with their speed early as they entered the offensive zone clean and quick and applied excellent pressure on the forecheck. They were winning battles, shooting the puck (firing 20 shots on net in that period) and managing it well, and overall they did a tremendous job of negating the Isles’ speed.3. SPECIAL TEAMS
An area of the game I was looking forward to watching was the Pens’ power play versus the Isles’ penalty kill, as both had been red-hot as of late. Entering the game, the Pens had scored on the man-advantage in five of six games while the Isles recently established a franchise record for not allowing a power-play goal in 15 straight games. Kris Letang told me in the locker room that the Isles were aggressive and liked to apply pressure on the PK, which is something the Pens have struggled with this season, so I was looking forward to seeing how they dealt with that. They didn’t have a problem with it tonight, finishing 2-for-4 on the man-advantage. That first unit put on a clinic out there when it came to movement and taking advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves. And not only did the Pens dominate that matchup; they scored a shorthanded goal as well. Overall, a tremendous night on special teams for the Pens.