The Pittsburgh Penguins lost their first playoff game against the New York Islanders 4-3 in overtime. Despite the game going back and forth with the scoring, the Penguins did not play to the best of their abilities. In order to avoid yet another embarrassing loss in their next meeting, they need to improve in two areas. If there is not improvement, Pittsburgh may dig themselves into a hole they won’t be able to climb out of.
Addressing The Goaltending
Fans thought that Pittsburgh’s postseason goaltending troubles were alleviated when the Penguins traded goaltender Matt Murray on Oct. 7, 2020 to the Ottawa Senators. Murray led Pittsburgh to back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017. He put up impressive stats and was a huge part of both of the cup runs, so much so that he was going to be the starter for years to come. However, this wasn’t the case. Murray’s play progressively deteriorated up until the trade, and his play truly suffered in the postseason.
Tristan Jarry’s play on Sunday reminded fans of of Murray’s abysmal play. Islanders’ forward Kyle Palmieri opened the scoring with a shot from the top of the faceoff circle. The shot, which was on Jarry’s glove-side, should’ve been stopped, but it could’ve just been a fluke goal. Then, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored on Jarry in the same fashion. After that, Brock Nelson did the same thing and in overtime, Palmieri scored another one. Every single goal that was scored was on Jarry’s glove-side.
This clearly needs to change. After the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup runs, teams figured out that Matt Murray’s glove-side was weak, and that was ultimately his downfall. If the Islanders continue to score on Jarry by simply shooting on his glove-side, things will need to change. Jarry has to improve on his glove-side in order to keep the Penguins in this series. If not, then Pittsburgh is in trouble.
The Offense Was Silent
Sure, the offense scored three goals and forced an overtime. However, it didn’t seem that they were playing as well as they could have. There was an overwhelming number of players that seemed to have little to no impact on the flow of the game.
The most shocking player that was hardly noticeable on the ice was right wing Bryan Rust. Rust plays on the first line with center Sidney Crosby and left wing Jake Guentzel. When a player is on the ice with a NHL superstar and an up-and-coming sniper in the league, that player shouldn’t have a problem contributing to their success. Unfortunately, Rust had great difficulty in contributing on the ice as his name was hardly mentioned by commentators. He needs to contribute to the offensive production if the Penguins are to win.
Other than Rust, both Jared McCann and Jason Zucker went relatively unnoticed on the ice. McCann began to heat up toward the end of the regular season, ending with 32 points in 43 games. Zucker was also starting to heat up, putting up four points in the last five games of the season. These players need to transition their confidence into the postseason. They cannot continue to not impact the game.
Unlikely Star Of The Game
There was one player on the Penguins roster that really surprised fans. Frederick Gaudreau showed an incredible amount of hustle and tenacity in his play. He opened the scoring for Pittsburgh, rifling a wrist shot past Islanders’ goaltender Ilya Sorokin to tie it up in the first period. However, it wasn’t just his goal that made him shine as he produced a fantastic amount of offense with shots on net and pressure in the offensive zone.
The Penguins seriously need to up their game. Losing the first game on home ice hurts, but if they lose the next game the odds of them coming back in the series is slim. Goaltender Tristan Jarry needs to work on his reactions and his glove-side. Furthermore, the offense needs to hustle and play every shift like it is their last. They cannot afford to lose their next game.