With great power comes great responsibility.
After watching the Pittsburgh Penguins battle back-to-back games over the weekend with two completely different outcomes, Spiderman’s uncle may have actually been on to something, literally and figuratively, when he made that statement.
Yesterday, in a Saturday afternoon tilt with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Penguins showed what capitalizing on the No. 1 power play in the NHL looks like; Pittsburgh won the game 4-3 with three of those goals coming from the man advantage.
Less than 24 hours later, Pittsburgh returned to Consol Energy Center taking on the league-leading St. Louis Blues, but instead showcased the exact opposite as the Penguins went o-for-5 on the power play in a 1-0 loss on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams, clearly weary from games yesterday (St. Louis lost to the Philadelphia Flyers), began the game with slower than usual. But whereas Pittsburgh never quite found the grove in recovery, the Blues tightened up the ice with strong defensive tactics early on in the second period — a move Penguins coach Dan Bylsma stated he knew would be coming. Unfortunately, his team just never had the answer.
When the Blues weren’t out to suffocate any sort of shooting lanes the Penguins attempted to set up, the team was blocking shots — 25 of them to be exact. And when anything got through, goalie Brian Elliott made 33 saves for the shutout victory.
Much of the strength St. Louis portrays on the blue line was initially set up as an overcompensation for speedy goal tending in the past few years; the consistency has simply not been there. But with the recent acquisition of Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline, St. Louis’ defense no longer has to fill in for goaltending like they used to. As a result, the team has became virtually unstoppable.
The release of pressure in net has also strengthened Elliott’s game.
Bylsma expressed the need for his Penguins to gain experience against the type of game St. Louis brings prior to the playoffs; many believe this is a potential matchup for the Stanley Cup Final. But for Pittsburgh, it certainly won’t matter how good a power play is structurally if it is choked to death defensively. Which is exactly what they can look for the Blues to do if they should meet again.