Penguins Stay One Step Ahead Of Canadiens in 2-1 Win

There's a particular fact about the fifth game of any series that invariably ends with one team on the brink of elimination, and that is there is always one team over the other that has learned more from the series and is making the correct adjustments.

At present, that team is not the Canadiens.

In the Washington series, with Montreal trailing 3-2 after five games, the Habs were oddly in control as they were managing to stiffle the Capitals, and that opponent acquiesced by continuing to believe their group stratagem needed no fine tuning.

The Penguins are not the Capitals, folks.

Pittsburgh are one step ahead of the Canadiens after putting forth an impressive Game Five performance because tactically they are a multi-pronged adversary, capable of making adjustments at both ends so adeptly that it requires a certain step back to see the tinkering for what it is worth.

Notice the shot totals for the game, 33-25 in favour of Montreal?

Deceiving, do you think not?

It might just tell the story on the surface that the Canadiens held parts of this game when in reality it just mean that in this game, the Penguins were more selective, in what opportunities they took at one end, and what opportunities they were offered at the other.

Of those 33 shots, too few were of the close in, crash the rebound variety. Hence, for Marc-Andre Fleury, a similar work night as he had at the bell in Game Three.

Curiously, on the three Penguins power plays, they fired but two shots, converting one. That leaves 23 even strength shots. Montreal for their part, needed nine power play shots to convert one, and the late goal essentially was shoved past Fleury by Brooks Orpik while Montreal played 6 on 4. The Canadiens had 24 even strength shots, telling that they did not outplay the Penguins as much as the RDS broadcasts lead to believe.


A more telling stat? Pittsburgh outhit Montreal 35 to 23, using their size in all three zones, especially their own.

In the Canadiens end, the Penguins are fine tuning, patiently prefering to let the Habs snuff out Crosby and Malkin at the side boards, on power plays or otherwise, and profit from chances offered in mid ice in front of Halak. The return of Bill Guerin to the lineup only helps enhance the ploy.

The Canadiens for their part, did little to bother Fleury in such ways. In Game Five, the shots at Fleury arrived too soon, and before any net presence could set up. The Canadiens are most effective around the Pittsburgh goal when all three forwards buzz closely by, creating chaos.

Two players very effective in this manner in the past, Tomas Plekanec and Benoit Pouliot have shown a tendency to shy away from it, and it is creating a workload not suited for Mike Cammalleri.

In this regard, Scott Gomez isn't much of a chameleon. The Penguins made his game disappear, as he settled off beyond the perimeter as he so often madly does.

Gomez's role has to consist of more than finding the usual routes to feeding Brian Gionta.


A big part of the problem is that Pouliot and Kostitsyn have been inconsistent on their respective lines, and that subbing the likes of Glen Metropolit, Tom Pyatt and Travis Moen might allow for a boost in energy during a particluar shift, but over the course of a period or game, it cannot adequately offer enough upside in making a clear difference.

In fact, the subbing neutralizes and compromises the efforts of the lines main ingredients by making them work harder and differently.

By and large over the past two games, the trio that is giving Pittsburgh the most trouble is the Dominic Moore and Lapierre duo, teamed with one of Pouliot, Pyatt, Metropolit or Moen. No line is making the Penguins defenders scurry quite like they are, and it would be a bad idea id once per period Moore and Lapierre could find Plekanec or Gionta or Cammalleri as a linemate.

Adjustments will be in effect for Monday's Game Six, and with the Canadiens facing elimination, news is not good concerning Hal Gill, who received a skate slice behind the knee and did not return to finish the third period. Jaroslav Spacek is said to be recovered from the effects of a virus that affected his balance, and could make a return.

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