Kovacevic: Penguins do it their way
TribLIVE Sports Videos
It took no more than a shift or two, I'm guessing, for a half-million Western Pennsylvanians to reach for the TV remote to see if something was amiss, given … how … slowly … everyone … was … moving.
Funny, but nobody's laughing at those last-seeded Islanders anymore, are they?
If anything, the perhaps unrivaled speed of the Penguins' vanquished first-round opponent never looked more impressive than after what we witnessed Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center.
Look at it this way …
“I thought they were a little bit quicker than us,” Ottawa coach Paul MacLean opined after the Penguins flattened his Senators, 4-1, in Game 1 of this Stanley Cup quarterfinal series. “I thought they had the hop.”
Well, now you've got the full measure of how fast those New York kiddies really were flying: The Penguins, who comparatively moved like molasses on Long Island, suddenly are the fleet of foot.
Get used to it.
This series will be different.
Whereas the first round was all about containing and countering speed, this one will focus on size, toughness and skill, commodities both parties carry in abundance.
And to that end, the Penguins functioned in much more of a comfort zone and acquitted themselves well: They outdueled the Senators for 50/50 pucks, they outhit them all over the rink, and, as they're wont to do against any opponent, they buried their chances.
“Yeah, it was different,” Sidney Crosby was telling me afterward. “I actually felt like there was more up and back, but you didn't see as much clogging in the neutral zone like with the Islanders. Definitely a lot of battles. A lot of competing out there.”
Sure was. Kind of like Ottawa thug Chris Neil's curiously unpenalized punch to the captain's jaw protector in the third period. If you want to call that competing.
Did it hurt?
“No, honestly,” Crosby said. “I didn't feel it.”
“Yeah, that's pretty much what it is at this point, right?”
He laughed a little, and good for him. He and his mates had ample cause to be feeling it. This once again looked like the Penguins, not the Headless Chickens. They knew who they were facing, how they wanted to beat them and what level of performance it would take, and for the most part pulled it off.
The top priority might have been cracking Craig Anderson, Ottawa's goaltender who presents about a zillion times greater challenge than the Islanders' cardboard cutout Evgeni Nabokov.
Anderson made a couple of sharp early saves, but the Penguins' plan to attack him with sticks, bodies, pucks and any other paraphernalia paid in the form of a Paul Martin goal screened by Brenden Morrow, an Evgeni Malkin tap-in from the crease and a Chris Kunitz power-play swat from just outside the paint.
None of it was by accident.
“We want to make life miserable for him,” Morrow said.
“Always have traffic,” James Neal said. “Go to the tough areas. When you're going against a hot goalie, that's what you have to do.”
Another order of business, as the Penguins quickly absorbed, was to keep Ottawa from likewise ganging up on Tomas Vokoun. The Senators might not have had a single Islanders-type rush all night, but they made up for that by having one, two, even three men taking up squatter's rights in Vokoun's crease.
This facet wasn't as strong, but it was enough. Brooks Orpik saw to that almost single-handedly on a limb-by-limb basis, and Vokoun made it count with 35 saves that validated Dan Bylsma's decision to stick by him.
Still, there's another notch for the Penguins here.
“They just want to get pucks to the net, from the boards, behind the net, wherever,” Martin said. “It's our job to clear people and clear rebounds. We can always do better.”
They can do even better at the one size-skill area that remains a glaring deficiency: They can't get back on their cycle, still mostly unable to generate extended shifts on offense.
“You always want more of that,” Kunitz said. “When we can spend 20-25 seconds in their zone, that's time they can't spend coming at us.”
Let that resonate.
What Game 1 illustrated above all is that, put on even speed terms, the Penguins' talent will win out. They've got the size. They've got the toughness. That's true not only against these Senators but also against the Bruins and Rangers, the other Eastern Conference survivors. The only other team equipped with Islanders-type wheels was the Maple Leafs, and they're now being administered the Heimlich.
So get it deep, and get it done.
The rest of the blueprint's been put into motion, however slow that motion might appear.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ford City High School class of 1951 offering scholarship
- Paddlers prepare for annual Armstrong sojourn in May
- Armstrong agency gets money to help needy in emergencies
- Penguins slip past Sharks, 3-2, in shootout
- Program details women’s work in Mon-Yough area mills during World War II
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Pirates’ outfield may have few defensive peers
- Hempfield infant fights rare disease
- New Castle-area racino remains in limbo
- Players, casinos pan IRS idea to track more slot payouts
- Sex-soaked culture faulted for fraternity house parties