One of the most highly anticipated games of the season turned into a bit of a dud Saturday night, when the Chicago Blackhawks routed the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 at Solider Field in the last of the Stadium Series games.
From the first puck drop, it was pretty much all Blackhawks, who dominated the pace of play and pushed their game on the Pens all night long.
The Penguins seemed to have a bit of a problem adjusting to the snow, at least more so than the Blackhawks. Heavy accumulation on the ice made the game extremely slow at times, and the Penguins failed to adjust. Had the game been played indoors, Pittsburgh would most likely have faired much better.
Having said that, the Pens knew what conditions would be like going into the game. The Blackhawks adjusted, and Pittsburgh couldn’t, end of story.
Pittsburgh was given the man advantage six times, and six times they failed to capitalize and put the puck past Corey Crawford. In fact, Pittsburgh’s only goal came courtesy of Blackhawks defensemen Brent Seabrook, who accidentally batted the puck into his own net after trying to intercept a James Neal centering-attempt.
The game was supposed to be an exhibition of the games biggest stars. After all, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews had never faced each other before, and the Hawks and Pens boast some of the biggest offensive weapons in the league.
Chicago’s top-six showed up in a big way, combining for four of the team’s five goals, including a beautiful breakaway goal that saw Toews turn Brooks Orpik inside-out.
Pittsburgh’s stars, on the other hand, were conspicuously absent. Sidney Crosby failed to register a point, and finished with a -2 rating, as did Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, and Jussi Jokinen. James Neal was given credit for Seabrook’s mishap with the puck.
Things were even worse on the defensive side. Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi were bot a -3, the lowest of anyone on the Penguin’s roster. They hung goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who I thought played excellent all things considered, out to dry on just about every goal.
It’s clear that this team is not sustainable without Paul Martin and/or Kris Letang in the lineup. An offense that relies heavily on puck-movng defenseman to outlet passes to the Crosby and Malkin lines up ice is handicapped with them out of the lineup.
Simon Despres was supposed to be the answer to that problem, but something tells me that after the two penalties he took last night, he’ll be on the first flight back to Wilkes-Barre Scranton before the week is out.