Penguins notebook: Playoff rookie Hainsey keeping level head
OTTAWA — Though he still qualifies as a playoff rookie, 36-year-old Penguins defenseman Ron Hainsey considers himself immune to the emotional ebbs and flows of the postseason.
Hainsey, who entered Friday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final against Ottawa second among the Penguins in ice time, dismissed the notion that anything about this phase of the playoffs, one in which the media scrutiny heightens and desperate play abounds, met the standard of new or different for him.
Even the reality of the Penguins trailing for the first time this postseason inspired little more than a shrug from the veteran.
“You've got to win four,” Hainsey said. “I know that's kind of a boring cliche. If you're doing cartwheels after winning two — I think we won the first two against Washington, and me myself personally, I wasn't doing cartwheels on the way home that the series was over. I knew that was a great team. And it took us seven.
“All of these teams are capable, including ourselves, of winning four in a row, losing four in a row. It comes down to such a fine line at this point that you better have your preparation at a high level going into every game, because it'll get away from you quick.”
Bryan Rust, Patric Hornqvist, Tom Kuhnhackl and Justin Schultz skated Friday, but their statuses remained “day-to-day” and none qualified as “game-time decisions,” coach Mike Sullivan said.
Hornqvist, out with an upper-body injury, missed his third straight game. Rust and Schultz, also out with upper-body injuries, missed their second in a row. Kuhnhackl has not been in the Penguins' lineup since Game 6 of the second-round series.
Coming into Game 4 on Friday night, the Penguins had the second-best offense in the league in the playoffs, averaging 2.93 goals.
Their output, however, has been top heavy.
The top four players on the goal-scoring list — Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby — combined for 26 playoff goals.
The other eight forwards who dressed Friday night combined for five. Nick Bonino had two. Matt Cullen, Scott Wilson and Carl Hagelin had one apiece.
Chris Kunitz had none. The last time he scored was when Crosby recorded the 1,000th point of his NHL career Feb. 16 against Winnipeg. Conor Sheary also had none. His last goal came in Matt Murray's previous start: April 6 against New Jersey.
“We have to go out there as a team and execute, push the pace of the game,” Kunitz said. “When we do that, we'll be able to execute. We have skill in the room. We have grit in the room. We can play all (aspects) of the game if we need to.”
Sullivan attempted to blend the skill and grit with his Game 4 line combinations, as he reunited Kunitz with Crosby, moved Scott Wilson up to Malkin's line, placed Sheary with Nick Bonino and Carter Rowney, and gave Josh Archibald a spot on the fourth line with Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin.
Not so special
Sidney Crosby's power-play goal in Game 3 snapped Ottawa's four-game streak of successful penalty kills, and the Penguins kept their streak of effective kills intact for a fourth straight game.
Ottawa coach Guy Boucher, whose team went eight games without a power-play goal in the playoffs, doubted Friday either team in the Eastern Conference finals will start to pile up points on the man advantage.
“Playoffs have never been about the power play for me,” Boucher said. “You look at all the teams, it's all the same everywhere. The reason is simple. The guys are so dedicated to defending. They're in the lanes and blocking shots with a much higher percentage. It's like there's five goalies out there, and it's very tough to manufacture goals.
“The playoffs are about paying the price. They're about desperation. And there's a lot of that on penalty kills. It's a lot easier to destroy something than it is to build something.”
Daley back on duty
After using Mark Streit as the quarterback of their top power-play unit in Game 3, the Penguins turned back to Trevor Daley for that role in Game 4. Streit was a healthy scratch.
“Those guys are world-class players, so it's a matter of getting them the puck as soon as possible,” Daley said of switching from the second unit to the top one.