2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 Game 2: Next Man Up


Well, there’s a lot to unpack from Game 1 as we head right into Game 2. For me, the main takeaway for the Pittsburgh Penguins after their epic 4-3 win in triple overtime over the hosting New York Rangers on Tuesday was their discipline. Pittsburgh started out the game very sloppy, partially due to the constant pressure from New York. A crucial moment in terms of discipline came with less than two minutes left in the first period when Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren hit Rickard Rakell up high, leaving the Penguins forward dazed and forcing him to leave the game. In general, New York was much more physical, finishing the game with 45 hits compared to Pittsburgh’s 35. And yet, despite going behind 1-0 midway through the first, the Penguins stayed disciplined. Even after Lindgren hit Rakell and forced him out of the game, the Penguins stayed disciplined. Even after falling behind 2-0 three minutes into the second period, the Penguins stayed disciplined. And as the game wore on, Pittsburgh continued to stay disciplined and focused, while New York slowly lost their discipline and focus.


Two goals by Jake Guentzel in the second period brought the Penguins back level. The first came after Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin made a big save on Kris Letang on a 2-on-1. Shesterkin made the save and the puck was underneath him, but for some reason Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba dug the puck out and put it back into play. Trouba would continue to follow the puck out to the right point where Bryan Rust would send the puck down low to Sidney Crosby at Shesterkin’s left. Guentzel would be left all by himself with Trouba on vacation and his partner K’Andre Miller off to cover Crosby, and he made no mistake putting away Crosby’s quick feed. Later in the second, Crosby and Guentzel would eat up New York’s other top pairing of Adam Fox and Lindgren. Rust would find Crosby streaking up the left with a long pass, and after gaining the zone Crosby cut across the high slot, dragging the focus of Fox and Lindgren with him. A flying Guentzel slipped past the duo, received a slick backhand pass from the captain, and wasted no time beating Shesterkin on his blocker side.

Aaaaa those kids ; )

The special teams played a big role in the third period. Right off a defensive zone face-off, the shorthanded Rangers quickly stormed ahead with a 2-on-1 of their own. This time, it wouldn’t take a second effort for Chris Kreider to put New York ahead 3-2. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they got in their own way and took another penalty during the penalty kill, and the Penguins were surgical on the 5-on-3, drawing level with New York with a tic-tac-toe set-up for Bryan Rust to tap in just his second career playoff power-play goal. The hockey gods would then cut Pittsburgh some slack: a Rangers goal late in the third period was overturned due to goaltender interference, but it was a close call. From there, both teams tightened up their respective ships, both teams wary of the game-breaking mistake that would be this difference between a win or a loss.

Ghost of Baby Stuff

Playoff hockey always breeds legendary performances. I have to give a lot of credit to Igor Shesterkin, as he was incredible in keeping Pittsburgh at bay for the most part, and if New York had pulled out the win his performance may have served as a launching pad for history. But, as I pointed out in the Game 1 Gameday, while three goals were often not enough to win against Shesterkin and the Rangers this season, four goals would usually do the trick and it did in Game 1. Meanwhile, Casey DeSmith kept up with Shesterkin even though New York wasn’t able to take as many shots as Pittsburgh (83 to 68), and that was also part of the plan: to try and limit the quantity and quality of shots New York took. For the most part the Penguins did a great job and you can see here the stark difference between Pittsburgh and New York in terms of where the shots came from:

For this young and hungry Rangers team, this series represents an opportunity to supplant a Penguins team which has its own legends and playoff heroes, but they did not get off to a great start in that regards. Instead, we got to see the likes of Crosby, Guentzel, Rust, and Evgeni Malkin (with the game-winning goal in triple overtime) burnish their already sterling playoff accolades, but also the emergence of DeSmith…


…and, amazingly, third-string goaltender Louis Domingue, coming in to relieve DeSmith in the second overtime period to make 17 saves the rest of the way. Makes me want to get spicy pork and broccoli for dinner…sounds delicious to me! Big picture though is that, as the game moved along, Pittsburgh was increasingly solid in its execution at all ends of the ice, and the reward was a hard-fought and well-deserved win, on the road no less. The Rangers, for their part, reportedly made 75 giveaways compared to Pittsburgh’s 45. Sounds like a miscalculation, but ultimately they were sloppier with the puck than Pittsburgh, and that didn’t help New York one bit.


The next challenge for the Penguins will be to keep up the effort, especially after a triple overtime marathon less than 48 hours before tonight’s puck drop. Jason Zucker may be back in the lineup tonight, but already Pittsburgh will be down a man in Rakell. It’s a downgrade if you ask me and with the physicality we saw from New York in Game 1, I wouldn’t hold my breath to see Zucker make it the entire game. With Tristan Jarry and now DeSmith out, Domingue will be needed to start Game 2 as Alex D’Orio now has been called up to Pittsburgh. But, just as much as Pittsburgh will be tired from Game 1, so will the Rangers, so it will be interesting to see how ice time is managed, as well as personnel. I thought that Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan could have gone with Mark Friedman for Game 1, and he may want to bring in the more physical and antagonistic defenseman in place of perhaps Chad Ruhwedel. In any event, Game 2 should be an opportunity for the bottom six forwards to get on the board offensively, namely Kasperi Kapanen and Evan Rodrigues, who were admirably fighting hard to score some goals in Game 1.


So, what then will matter most in Game 2: the experience of past playoffs and overtime battles, or youth and energy and with it the ability to be unrelenting? I think we’ll all be hoping for the former.