The term must win gets liberally thrown around during playoff time, but I tend to agree with its usage when you are trailing a quality team 2-1 in the series and Game 4 is at home. A loss would have created quite the hill to climb for the Penguins. Could they win three straight against Washington? Absolutely. Would they? Not likely. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel continued to star for the Penguins in Game 4’s 3-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.
Sidney Crosby is putting on a show. He has taken the team on his back along with Jake Guentzel and carried them. He has been on the ice for every single Penguins goal this series and directly involved for most of them. His 19 points already ties the amount he had during his first Conn Smythe Trophy in 2015-16. I would argue that Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin should have been the winners of that trophy the previous two seasons, but they weren’t. If the Penguins can somehow pull this season off and Sid continues this rampage not only would he tie the record for career Conn Smythe Trophies, he would be the first to win three consecutive. That is putting the cart ahead of the horse in round two. It’s something to keep on the back burner.
Jake Guentzel is among the all-time greats in his goal production in the playoffs.
His first goal found him in a familiar spot, right in front of the net. He doesn’t quite have the same style as Hornqvist, but he plays in those same areas with similar success. He leans on his mind and hands more than brunt force. Both can work, you just have to get there.
There was potential for controversy when Evgeni Malkin scored the eventual game winning goal. Thankfully, the league had a definitive angle that wasn’t covered up. It was obvious the puck went in. There isn’t always an angle that can confirm that fact without a doubt.
The aforementioned Hornqvist used his bulldozer approach to create a scramble in front which allowed Evgeni Malkin to swarm the loose puck and forcefully jam it across the goal line. Braden Holtby made an awesome “save” on this play. It’s amazing that there was even a need for a replay.
Washington’s biggest hurdle is going to be overcoming their own head coach. He’s overrated and is holding his team back and there are a few examples of that last night. The first was his choice to replace Tom Wilson with Devante Smith-Pelly. This was easy to criticize before the game was played and even easier after. Alexander Ovechkin has been having a wonderful playoff year (he usually does). Last night he didn’t register a shot and while that can’t be blamed completely on DSP it was sure a big factor. He isn’t skilled and whatever perceived physicality benefits he has are fool’s gold. Tom Wilson is definitely one of the Capitals top 12 forwards. He also is definitely not a top line winger. Washington could have replaced that spot with Jakub Vrana and been much better for it. Ovechkin with DSP was out-attempted 21-6 last night. Woof.
Barry Trotz’s challenge for goaltender interference couldn’t have been based on evidence. He burned a timeout that could have been utilized later in the game when Washington was trying to tie the game with their best players.
Washington had full possession inside of the Penguins zone with just under two minutes left. There was Braden Holtby still in the crease. What are you waiting for? Things got even worse for the Capitals after that faux pas because they took a too many men on the ice penalty which facilitated an empty net goal by who else but Jake Guentzel.
A positive for the Capitals remains their power play. The goal they scored was because of Alexander Ovechkin. The Penguins are rightly concerned about taking away the best shot of all-time. The problem is that the Capitals are so disciplined that they won’t force it to him. They will utilize the small pockets of ice that are created when teams overcommit.
That little bit of space is all that was needed for Nicklas Backstrom to find TJ Oshie. The best advice for the Penguins penalty kill is to not take penalties because Washington is on the same level as the Penguins league best power play.
TJ Oshie acted like a baby at the end of the game and deliberately charged and leaped into Kris Letang. There was only one reason for that his during that sequence and it had nothing to do with the puck. I don’t expect league intervention on this after the three game suspension to Tom Wilson. That isn’t how it should work, but the league won’t want to “decide a series”.
A little bit of “here we go again” is creeping into the Capitals locker room.
For the record I wouldn’t disagree with any player who would yell that. They’d all be right.
Game 5 on Saturday night.
Thanks for reading!