1.) The Penguins are the better team, even after losing Game 1, 3-0.
For the first 30 minutes the Penguins were clearly better. They possessed the puck, out-skated the Bruins and created more good scoring opportunities. From that point, the Bruins became much more formidable in the neutral zone. After taking a 2-0 lead, Boston locked things down and proceed to earn a workman-like victory. That doesn’t change the fact that the talent-level is tilted the other way.
Tukka Rask was solid but the Penguins had 8-10 legitimately good scoring chances and converted none of them. Don’t expect that to be the case going forward. It’s the first to four, not one.
2.) Evgeni Malkin was the best player on the ice for two periods and, as is too often the case, was the dumbest player on the ice at a crucial moment.
On a rare evening when Sidney Crosby was not the preeminent presence (and let’s talk less about Sid’s flat blade when he goes backhand now that he has repeatedly failed to get pucks up into open nets on the forehand in these playoffs), Geno was brilliant. He created multiple opportunities for himself and others. Then at the end of the second he lost his cool. Again. Sure he whipped Patrice Bergeron’s ass, but the Penguins were starting the third period with 1:30 remaining on a power play. Malkin ended up in the box for about eight minutes to start the third as there was no stoppage in play after his major expired. That’s when the game was decided. Up 1-0 in that situation, Boston will trade Bergeron for Malkin on a Pittsburgh PP all day, every day and twice in Game 1 of the ECF.
Getting under Geno’s skin continues to be a tried and true way for opponents to get the Penguins off their game. Dan Bylsma addressed it again after the game, as he has all year. I don’t know what will cause him to change, but Geno’s lack of discipline is the Penguins kryptonite.
3.) Matt Cooke isn't going to get the benefit of the doubt and shouldn’t.
Cooke boarded MaQuaid. It was a penalty. Cooke is at fault. But even the Bruins’ coach Claude Julien admitted McQuaid, who saw Cooke coming, put himself in a vulnerable position. The play was just like hundreds we’ve seen this season and the league still has not clarified how they should be called. Most, but not all, were penalties. Few, if any, were majors with the required game misconduct.
Brad Marchand’s hit on James Neal later in the period was just as dangerous. Is it fair? Of course not. But Cooke earned his reputation and has to play accordingly, which means smarter.
4.) Faceoffs should be a much bigger concern than the fact that the power play went 0-4.
The power play created chances, hit a couple of posts and should be fine. Concern about the power play should be focused on Malkin and Letang playing the points together and continuing to give up dangerous shorthanded opportunities. Boston got the rarely seen 2 vs. 0 in this one (yes, Marchand interfered with Letang, although Letang didn’t help his cause by diving), but Vokoun was able to poke check the puck off Bergeron’s stick.
Much more importantly, the Bruins, an excellent faceoff team, won 67% of the draws in this one. Jussi Jokinen was the only Penguin who won more than half, going 6/10. The Pens top three centers were awful with Crosby 6/17, Malkin 1/6 and Sutter 3/10 for a combined 30%. That needs to change and it probably means the Penguins need to figure out a way to have someone other than Malkin take draws when his line is on the ice.
5.) Tomas Vokoun was not responsible for the loss, but if the Penguins believe Marc-Andre Fleury is their best goalie, now is the time to make a change.
Tomas Vokoun was there when the Penguins needed him, playing brilliantly in the Islanders series. Since then Vokoun has been good. He was solid in the Ottawa series, but wasn’t really tested. Last night, more of the same. He was brought in as an insurance policy and it has paid out handsomely, but he’s the team’s number two.
The goal is to win the Stanley Cup. If the Penguins management has lost faith in Fleury, then by all means stick with Vokoun. He hasn’t done anything to lose the job. But, if the organization still thinks Fleury is their best goalie, this is the time to make a change. Teams rarely win the Cup without spectacular goaltending. This Penguins team is talented enough to do that, but they have a goalie who has been spectacular in the past and during this regular season. Dan Bylsma has said all the right things about MAF, his focus and his practice habits while he has been relegated to manning the door to the bench. If he actually believes it and doesn’t think it’s in Fleury’s head, #29 should be between the pipes Monday.