Little by little, the Pittsburgh Penguins and their talented young starting goaltender are putting the league on notice. Their message:
We’re learning. And Improving. Fast.
The New York Rangers were the victim of Pittsburgh’s latest lesson in a 2-0 win for the home side Sunday at Mellon Arena, putting the Penguins up 2-0 in their second round series with the men from Manhattan.
The Penguins put forth their most complete defensive effort in the Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin post-season era and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 Rangers shots for his second shutout of the post-season.
Usually, most teams that have been foolish enough to try a run-and-gun approach against the Penguins the last couple years have paid for it with not-so-pleasant results.
However, Game 2 of this Eastern Conference semifinal was far more defensive in nature – a fact most observers believed would benefit the Rangers and their trap-happy system – and the Pens’ mastery of it has to have every other team still playing really, really nervous.
Were there holes in Pittsburgh’s game? Absolutely. They were undisciplined at times, providing the Rangers with six power play chances on the afternoon. And they were certainly the beneficiaries of a quick whistle that prevented New York’s Martin Straka from tying the game with a power play goal late in the third period.
If referee Dan O’Halloran waited a fraction of a second longer to empty his lungs, who knows what happens. But, given how slow the Rangers looked for most of the match, it seems unlikely they would’ve found the late-game gas to fuel them to victory.
The Penguins, on the other hand, appear to be hitting their stride. They have not yet lost in these playoffs for a reason. They can skate with you, or they can grind with you. Pick your poison and they’re happy to plunge in the needle that knocks you out.
And if they can continue to adapt their game to their opponents’ preference as easily as they did Sunday, they’re not likely to inhale the sour stench of defeat anytime soon.
THN.com’s Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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