Of all the great games in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, this wasn’t one of them.
Unless you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, or have some other vested interest, Game 3 of their first round series was a bit of a yawner, characterized by a dearth of offense and scoring chances, particularly in the first two periods.
That said, for hockey zealots and those who appreciate the finer points, there were some redeeming qualities.
Here are pluses and minuses from Pittsburgh’s 4-2 victory.
There were 82 hits recorded, many of the staggering variety, following 72 and 83 in the first two games. It speaks to the intensity of the series and the burgeoning Sens-Pens rivalry. It also proves, despite the doomsday predictions by some, hockey can safeguard its players without sacrificing too much of its entertaining brutality.
In particular, the work of Brian Elliott. Alexei Ponikarovsky’s opening goal was taken from a sharp angle and should have been stopped. Elliott, appearing in his first-ever professional playoff series, allowed three goals on the first 15 shots he faced and now sports a .868 save percentage in the post-season. He’s going to have to be much better for the Sens to have a chance.
PLUS Sidney Crosby.
The Pens captain had another powerful performance, leading with goals and grit. His power play marker at the end of the second period was of the “special” variety, using his skill and will to give Pittsburgh a two-goal cushion. And his legal levelling of Daniel Alfredsson is the kind of hit that lifts a bench. Finally, we can’t forget his faceoff prowess; No. 87 went 11-5, for a 69 percent success mark.
MINUS Ottawa’s bad penalties.
Poor decisions by Chris Neil and Chris Campoli landed them in the penalty box in the first period and denied their team a chance to build momentum. Erik Karlsson’s slash in the second negated a Sens power play and eventually led to Crosby’s score.
PLUS Evgeni Malkin.
Last year’s Conn Smythe winner is coming on after a tepid start to the post-season. Like Crosby, his second period go-ahead goal was born of speed and smarts. If Malkin and Crosby continue to perform at their elite level, there’s little Ottawa can do to counter.
MINUS Matt Cooke.
His second period hit from behind on Peter Regin was reckless – a concussion or neck injury or separated shoulder waiting to happen. With his track record, the NHL should be intently scrutinizing his behavior and giving him precious little rope.
PLUS Shot blocking.
OK, this may be a slight stretch, but we appreciate the sacrifices players on both team made to thwart scoring chances. In particular, blocks by Jay McKee and Matt Carkner, on dangerous attempts, spring to mind. McKee, subbing for the injured Jordan Leopold, provided the kind of foot-soldier defense successful teams need.
Not sure that all the examples Don Cherry flashed in Coach’s Corner were actual embellishments, but the point is well-made. These playoffs have been pock-marked by acting and this game had its share.
Yes, really. Despite the razzing from the crowd, Mike Leggo and Eric Furlatt did a solid job and got a good assist from the control room in Toronto in making the right call on Regin’s no-goal in the first. Kudos also to CBC for good technical work on the video review; their blow-up of the play definitively proved Regin failed to make contact with his stick after kicking the puck.
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.
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Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays.
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