Photo: Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire
The contrast in readiness between the Penguins and Predators was obvious very early in game five.
Pittsburgh started quickly with a couple of aggressive def to off neutral zone plays by Justin Shultz, followed by a great carry, evade and drive by Crosby to draw a penalty.
Forty seconds later, Shultz’s strong start led to some luck as often happens, and his (very average) one-timer on the Penguins power play went through both Watson and a screened Renne to make it 1-0.
Before the end of the first period, Brian Rust used a great backhand to take advantage of a sleepy backcheck by Irwin, and Malkin used a soft gap and defection off Weber’s stick to make it 3-0.
The Penguins were dialed in but Nashville will no doubt agree all three goals were very preventable with better details.
The second period was Pittsburgh’s strongest of the series and after adding another three goals, they coasted in the third period to finish the game with an 89% play-by-play advantage over the Predators.
The Penguins experience and ability to raise their level of play was on display as the Penguins game five performance was 46% above their average through the first four games, where they appeared to be idling for extended stretches.
Despite Malkin, Crosby and Kessel stealing the show in game five, the Pittsburgh defensemen outperformed the Predator blue line for the first time in the series, by a significant 45% margin.
Through five games, the Predators defensemen have contributed an average of 106% more on a per game basis than the Pittsburgh defensemen, but in game five the Nashville defensemen committed 65% more defensive mistakes than their average in the series.
1. Evgeni Malkin and Crosby contributed at a similar level offensively, but Malkin ramped up his defensive commitment to lead all forwards in the game. Crosby and Malkin are neck and neck in overall contributions in the series, but Crosby has doubled up Malkin in defensive performance.
1. Sidney Crosby was 57% better in game four than he was in game five, but his linemates converted his great plays in game five, including a sensational backhand pass on the Penguin’s fourth goal. His teammates helped earn him three assists in the game, two of which were garden variety passes.
2. Phil Kessel like Crosby, put up huge contribution numbers in game four, but in game five he was rewarded with a goal and two assists, due to his sharpness, Nashville’s sleepiness, and a measure of luck.
1. Ron Hainsey has been the classic high event defensemen in the series, but in game five his positive contributions were much greater than the negative, including a goal and an assist. He more than doubled up any other Penguins defensemen in defensive contributions.
2. Justin Shultz got the Penguins started in the first period and led offensively despite a few turnovers. He played a very clean game without the puck.
3. Olli Maatta has been in the bottom three Pittsburgh defensemen through the first four games of the series, but increased his contributions fourfold in game five.
1. Calle Jarnkrok performed 9% above his series average, led Pred forwards offensively and was among the leaders defensively.
2. Viktor Arvidsson performed almost identical to his series average and had significant defensive contributions despite a lazy backcheck on the Penguins sixth goal. He ended the night -4 in the plus minus department, which highlights the importance of understanding the logic behind the numbers.
3. James Neal is the leading Predator forward through five games, but was 34% below his series average in game five.
1. Roman Josi was far and away the best Predator in game five, leading the next best blue liner by 58%. He was the author of Nashville’s best chance in the game and whether on offense or defense, shift-in and shift-out he creates play-by-play advantages for his team.
2. PK Subban also had a strong game offensively, contributing 102% above his series average, but he struggled defensively along with several of his fellow defensemen.
3. Mattias Ekholm contributed in third spot but was 18% below his series average, including 38% below his defensive average in the series.
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