Penguins’ Defense Rests – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins’ Defense Rests

Is it me, or did the Penguins’ 6-5 loss to Philadelphia Wednesday night look eerily familiar? It was almost as if we entered a space/time vortex and were watching a game from last season’s disastrous first-round playoff matchup.

The game featured an all-too-familiar script. The Penguins rocketed from the starting gate to snatch a quick lead. Philly coach Peter Laviolette burned an early timeout to steady his troops. The Flyers responded with an U-G-L-Y goal (the only guy who wasn’t in the net was Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun). The Penguins’ composure—along with any semblance of defensive-zone structure—crumbled in the wake of yet another frustrating defeat at the hands of our most bitter rival.

It’s the latter that troubles me the most. After watching the Flyers slice through his team last spring like a knife carving up a Thanksgiving turkey, I thought Pens coach Dan Bylsma surely would preach better defensive play to his charges.

If he has, the players aren’t heeding the message. Every time the Flyers forced the Pens to play in their own end for more than 10 seconds you could see the black and gold start to unravel. It’s like somebody pushed an invisible panic button as our boys morphed into a bunch of kids chasing after the puck in a peewee game.

I realize the Penguins never will be a defense-first team under Bylsma, nor should they be. When you’ve got superstar offensive talent you need to exploit it. However, a team MUST be able to play at least reasonably sound defense when the situation calls for it. As potent as our 2009 Cup-winners were, they were well-schooled in defensive hockey thanks to the lessons pounded home by previous coach Michel Therrien.

Kind of makes me wish we could implant a Therrien-chip into Bylsma’s noggin. Then the popular coach might be able to blend his attacking style with some much-needed defensive structure.

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  1. February 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I agree. The whole teams gets out of sort if the other team is in their end for over 5 seconds. A team that the Penguins should emulate is the New Jersey Devils. As soon as a second or two goes by in their end they all 5 players get into a position very similar to the box the Penguins get in defending powerplays. This would require all Penguins players to know where to be. It looks to me like a few just skate around all over the place. Malkin especially comes to mind.

    I still hold hope that Bortuzzo can be a big guy that can clear the front of the net. It wouldn’t hurt him to play a little rougher.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 23, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      I agree, Phil. The Pens need some sort of structure in their own end above what they’ve got–especially against a skilled team like Philly. The part where you mentioned that “a few guys skate around all over the place” is spot on.

      I like Bortuzzo, too. I thought he played very well … and improved with each game … during that stretch when he was in the lineup every night. But I don’t think Bylsma’s recent practice of playing him here and there is working as well. I think the kid needs to play in order to reinforce his confidence.

      I , too, like his physical potential (it was nice to see someone have Engelland’s back for a change). He gives them a bigger body on ‘d,’ and he’s not afraid to drop the mitts. Balance issues aside, he’s actually a decent fighter. In time (and with a few extra pounds) I think he could be a solid 5th or 6th defenseman.


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