Could it be possible that Coach Sullivan’s evasiveness to announce who was starting in net be a contributing factor to the Penguins game one win? If it was a factor, it was a very small factor. The biggest part of the Rangers game this should have effected was preparing for goalie tendencies. Clearly Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff are two different kind of goalies. But this really doesn’t make a difference at this level. In the modern day NHL, advanced scouting reports on goalies is extensive. Each report will contain goalie’s tendencies, weaknesses, percentages of goals scored from where on the ice and where on the goalie they were scored. These reports also come into play when dumping the puck in. Obviously now with the trapezoid dumping to the corners is an obvious choice to prevent a tender from playing the puck. However, it good to know whether or not a goalie is better playing the puck coming from one side or the other, if he tends not to play the puck at all, or even how he handles it if it’s dumped in on net. All of this information is available to players and all of that information is useful, but only if the team’s play dictates the action to take advantage of the knowledge provided to them. Would not knowing who was playing net Wednesday night really hinder the Rangers game plan? Most likely not, but it is surely entertaining and makes for great headlines (See above for my headline from Foreigner lyrics).
What truly matters come game time is execution and some solid goaltending (not matter who is behind the mask). For the 1st period on Wednesday the Penguins did not execute their plan even though they escaped with a 1-0 lead. After Lundqvist’s injury he remained in the game and let up the first goal. When the 2nd period started the Penguins bench looked down to the Rangers net and saw back up tendy Antti Raanta preparing to play. While the second and third frames were still not the best Penguins hockey they have played as of late, they did exactly what they needed to do, and that was take advantage of a goalie coming in cold. At the other end, Zatkoff weathered the storm and gave his team a chance to capitalize on their opportunities. The Rangers out-shot the Penguins in this game but they didn’t lose because they were not prepared for who was in net. They lost because of a cold goalie and some poor defensive decisions.
Game two and now the tables are turned, as the Penguins are unsure of the status of their opponent’s goalie. Did this get into the mindset of the Penguins players? Not a chance. The Penguins have faced Lundqvist numerous times and know what to expect. And the Pens just faced Raantta and know that he’s very beatable. It did not matter which goaltender was in the cage, the Penguins had a game plan that neither of them should have been able to handle. However, the Black and Gold did not execute their plan the way they needed to. Giveaways (not a free t-shirt or beer koozee) and not roster moves were the biggest reason for Pittsburgh’s loss on Saturday afternoon. The Penguins 10 giveaways to the Rangers 3 would ultimately be the demise for the for the home team. While the Pens also had 10 giveaways in game 1 the Rangers didn’t finish on their chances then. Game 2 was a different story and hometown(ish) kid J.T. Miller was gifted the speed of Mats Zuccarrello on his line, which in turn gave the Rangers a dangerous and speedy line in their top two lines. That line provided speed and execution that could stick with the speed of the Pens first two lines as well. Miller had 3 assists in game 2 and was definitely the catalyst for the Rangers win, not the mindset of knowing whether or not Lundqvist would be in.
Gamesmanship is fun for the media, it gives us all something to talk about and write about. However, these players are high end athletes and get paid a lot of money to perform and play a game that they are the best in the world at. If it were that easy to rattle these athletes, then they wouldn’t be here playing in the NHL.
Good talk…see ya out there!
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