Five Reasons Why Pittsburgh Took Control of the Series
The Penguins fell into a 2-0 hole in their best of seven series with the Washington Capitals, but with the series headed back to Pittsburgh, the Penguins achieved their goal of winning both at home and carried the momentum into Game Five, where they defeated the Capitals in overtime on the road.
Pittsburgh became the first team in the series to score first and win the game. They also were the team that broke the ice on the road.
Several reasons attribute to the turnaround, and five are listed after the jump.
If you disagree or have something to add, you know where to leave it.
Reason Five: Rob Scuderi
For those of you who didn't know Scuderi this season, I'm sure you've figured out who he is by now.
Scuderi isn't going to put pucks in the net—he's going to keep them out of the net.
With the tall task of manning up against the most lethal goal scorer in the league, Alex Ovechkin, Scuderi has asserted himself as the go-to-guy when it comes to "defensive defense."
Ovechkin has seven goals in the series.
How many of them were with Scuderi on the ice?
Pittsburgh's idea of stopping Ovechkin is to supply the pairing of Scuderi and Hal Gill on even strength.
It has worked when they are on the ice.
When they're not, watch out for Ovechkin.
Scuderi is going to make mistakes—because everyone makes mistakes, but if you're looking for a reason to hate on him, try not to waste your life away doing it.
Ovechkin scored two goals in Game Five. One, a ridiculous wrist shot in front of Brooks Orpik and his second on an odd-man rush.
Coincidentally, Ovechkin chose not to confront Scuderi and instead, switched to the other end of the boards defended by Hal Gill.
Expect Ovechkin to continue to attempt to elude the presence of Scuderi.
Reason Four: Pittsburgh Shoots the Puck
If you're a Penguin fan, you probably are astounded by the fact that Pittsburgh has averaged over 36 shots a game during the series thus far.
That's an increase over their 29 shots a game average during the regular season.
Pittsburgh has realized they are up against a rookie goaltender, one with barely any experience, and one who has enormous pressure on this shoulders...even if he doesn't feel or show any.
Over the duration of the series, that pressure has been mounting, and Pittsburgh has created immense pressure by shooting the puck and crashing the net.
Yes, Varlamov has made some absolutely ridiculous saves, but each time Pittsburgh fires the puck on the net—it gives the rookie a chance to prove his inexperience.
And it's been evident the past three games.
Washington is going up against an experienced playoff goaltender in Fleury who has incredible skill, but is still shaky at times.
The Capitals average 28 shots a game on the netminder.
If they averaged the amount of shots the Penguins did over the first five games, we might be looking at a different series.
Reason Three: Physical Play
The Penguins love to throw the body.
They love contact, and if they don't love it, they'll do it anyway because that's what it takes to get the job done.
Washington hasn't read the memo yet, probably because Ovechkin stole the memo and hid it from everyone else.
The only physical presence Washington has to offer is from Ovechkin, and despite his controversial style of "checking," one must realize that this is playoff hockey and you must sacrifice your body, no matter what the cost.
Washington's European-style of play is hurting them.
Pittsburgh's hybrid-style of play is hurting Washington.
The combination of speed, skill, and grit is something only Pittsburgh has shown in the series.
If Washington can add that third element to their squad, they have a fighting chance.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
Reason Two: The Role Players
Washington has scored 15 goals in the series.
Seven of them coming from Ovechkin.
Nicklas Backstrom has three and Dave Steckel has two. Only three other players have scored for Washington beyond that.
That's 12 goals coming from three players accounting for 80 percent of the total goals scored...
After Game Two, Pittsburgh became diversified in their scoring.
Crosby has five, Ruslan Fedotenko has three, Malkin has two. That accounts for 10 of the 17 goals scored for the team, or around 59 percent of the teams' goals in the series.
Not only are the goals scored by Washington concentrated on only a few players, the shots are as well.
Between Ovechkin and Backstrom, they account for 37 percent of the teams' total shots on goal.
If you take a look at things game by game, here is what you would discover. This what I call—The players with two are more shots on net statistical analysis.
Game One—Pittsburgh 10, Washington 5
Game Two—Pittsburgh 9, Washington 9
Game Three—Pittsburgh 9, Washington 5
Game Four—Pittsburgh 8, Washington 7
Game Five—Pittsburgh 9, Washington 7
In certain games, this doesn't sound like much, but Pittsburgh has shown more in terms of getting everyone involved in the play.
Take for example Fedotenko, who not only is on a three game goal scoring streak, but totaled an incredible ten shots on net in Game Five.
Pittsburgh's star players aren't the only one's doing the work, and that's given them the series advantage.
Reason One: Pittsburgh Doesn't Lose in Overtime
There's not much more to add to this.
Pittsburgh doesn't lose in overtime.
Washington had a golden opportunity to essentially end the series back in Game Three, only needing ONE goal to give them a deadly 3-0 lead in the series.
Scoring in overtime during Game Three, and Washington seemingly would be getting prepared for the Eastern Conference Final.
Then Game Five came along.
Ovechkin scored late to tie the game. Momentum favored Washington, but the next goal eluded them.
Overtime came again, and it all fell apart for the Capitals once more.
Early in overtime, Evgeni Malkin drew a penalty, then drew a flock of Penguins toward him minutes later as he slipped home the winner, benefiting from a bounce off a Capitals' stick.
Just another benefit the Capitals have provided the Penguins in this series.