Penguins Playoff Update: Adjustments Needed – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Playoff Update: Adjustments Needed

Playing the right way.

It’s a catch phrase coach Mike Sullivan often uses during his postgame comments to describe a Penguins victory.

One we haven’t heard in a while, and with good reason. Even though “Sully’s” troops have won seven of 10 playoff games this spring, it’s almost in spite of the way they’ve played rather than because of it.

While not for a lack of perspiration, our guys have yet to author anything resembling a playoff-style effort. Playing in spurts may work on a Thursday night in January. It most assuredly won’t secure another Cup.


I hate to keep harping on the same issues. But the Pens have been outshot in all but one of their postseason contests to date…a disturbing trend that’s gotten worse instead of better.

Against Washington, the black and gold have accounted for only 38.3 percent of the shot attempts. A rough translation? We’re spending about a third of the game in the Capitals’ zone and two-thirds in our own end.

How bad is it? Phil Kessel leads the locals with a Corsi of 48.5 percent. Seven skaters—including former HBK liners Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin—are below 40 percent. That’s atrocious, especially for a team that thrives on possessing the puck.

True, we’ve been extremely opportunistic, as our sizzling 12.9 shooting percentage will attest. And no one—not even the high-powered Caps—can match us in terms of elite offensive talent. But we’ve got to do a better job of insulating our defense and protecting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

I’m admittedly no expert. But opponents appear to have solved our breakouts, especially when we attempt to come up the wall. They’re fronting our defenseman with a forechecker, and they’re quick to pressure the forward receiving the initial breakout pass. They’re winning puck battles at the point of attack, too.

In essence, foes are stopping us in our tracks before we get started, denying us an opportunity to exit the zone, let alone generate any speed. An effective tactic, indeed. And while we’ve dodged a lot of bullets, thanks mostly to Fleury’s extraordinary play, it obviously isn’t a long-term recipe for success.

I’m not sure what adjustments Sullivan and his staff need to make. Perhaps the Pens can utilize the stretch pass to greater advantage, as in Game Four when Olli Maatta split the Caps’ defense and sprang Patric Hornqvist for a breakaway goal. Maybe fleet defensemen like Trevor Daley, Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz can use their wheels to skate the puck out of danger a la Kris Letang.

One thing is certain. We need to find a solution…pronto.

Nothin’ the Maatta with Olli

Speaking of Maatta, don’t count Olli among the Penguins’ woes. Since returning from a hand injury on April 9, he’s been sound as a pound.

Maatta’s third among the team’s defensemen with 22 blocked shots. Displaying improved mobility, he’s recorded four assists and leads all Pens’ blueliners with a plus-6.

Olli’s been surprisingly physical, too, dishing out a combined six hits in Games Two and Four.

Deadline Don’ts

Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.

The Penguins were rumored to be one of two clubs (Washington the other) attempting to acquire Kevin Shattenkirk from St. Louis at the trade deadline. While we can’t be certain what Pens GM Jim Rutherford offered the Blues in return, salary-cap math suggests that Fleury may well have been part of the package.

Not to knock Shattenkirk, an accomplished offensive defenseman and power-play specialist who’s experienced some struggles during the postseason. And hindsight is always 20/20. But does anyone want to go back and make that trade now?

Around the League

In other Stanley Cup playoff action, Nashville defeated St. Louis yesterday to advance to the Western Conference Final. Edmonton clobbered the Ducks, 7-1, knotting their series at 3-games apiece and setting up a Game Seven in Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ottawa holds a 3-2 series lead over the Rangers heading into tonight’s Game Six at Madison Square Garden.

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    May 8, 2017 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    5 to 2….
    Very poor effort tonight. The boys were out classed,out hit,out scored, and grossly out played. The Pen’s looked out of sync. We looked really slow.
    Plus putting Ovi on the 3rd line made the first line of the Caps a lot more dangerous. # 65 scored 2 goals tonight.
    We need Murray in Washington.
    Let’s go Pen’s. 😀

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      May 9, 2017 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      I agree that they need Murray back, but not because Was figured anything out. They had a good strategy all along but weren’t executing well. They were just snake bit. I am hoping against hope that this isn’t a case of dueling Gorilla’s on their backs. As big as a choke artist as the Caps are as a team MAF has a similar Monkey.

      As I said I was hoping against hope that MAF had purged his Monkey.

      In the end however, when the team only squeezes off 18 SOG of their own, even if MAF was on his game they would have had a hard time winning. Only Malkin and Guentzel kept rolling.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        May 9, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        Hey Coach
        Right you are. 3 shots in the first period. 5 shots in the second. Two power plays up to that point and only 1 shot on goal in 4 minutes ??
        In the third period when it was 5 nothing the Caps went into a defensive shell, let up a bit and we scored 2 goals !
        Nothing to be proud of. The other guys quit playing and we scored 2 easy ones.
        My biggest fear is that we are worn out from the physical pounding our smaller team has taken over the past 2 series and we may be nursing injuries to our players that are more serious than the Team is saying. ( In Ottawa their star D man and captain, Erik Karelson is playing on a broken foot ). Last night we looked tired and the Cap’s took a page from our play book and they beat us with speed and execution !!
        Funny thing was Coach,with all my dislike for Ovi, last night it would not have mattered if he was playing or not, the Cap’s were much more dangerous when he was on the bench !
        Plus our defense or should I say lack of last night really showed. They could not make a 20 ft tape to tape pass last night. Every time we touched the puck it seemed the Caps were there.
        The season is on the line now. This is NOT where anyone wanted to be a week ago. I hope today that Sully gives them a days rest because after last night we looked out of gas.
        Lets Go Pen’s….to early to get out the golf clubs.

        • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
          May 9, 2017 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          Hey Jim,

          It may be time to insert Rowney and Wilson back into the line up. I wasn’t the only one, but I was one of those who suggested not suiting Hagelin or Kunitz as soon as they were ready. The Pens were 4 and 1 without either of them in the line-up and are 2 and 3 with both back in the line-up.

          Also, I really would prefer to see MAF get the monkey off of his back but if I were Sully and Murray was ready, I would seriously consider going with him. It is more about winning our last game this year than trying to create a feel good story where it may not be.

          Interesting observation about Ovie. I thought at the beginning of the series that Ovie was the best player on the Pens team. I think he had become a hindrance to the Caps and dropping him to third line wasn’t really a move of spreading out the scoring but of getting the dead wood off of the first line for them. If telling him that Trotz was trying to spread out the scoring asuages his tender little ego, well whatever helps him sleep at night. I just wish that Trotz wouldn’t have figured that out until the off season.

  2. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    May 8, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick
    3 shots in the first period.
    Plus we had a power play as well.
    3 shots…This is not good.
    Come on Pens

    • Jim's Gravatar Jim
      May 8, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick…
      2 -nil end of second period.
      8 shots…only 2 were quality scoring chances.The other 6 were easy ones.
      2 power plays…4 minutes…. only 1 shot by the Pen’s.
      They just keep giving the puck away.
      The 2nd goal was MAF fault. Not good.
      Worst effort of the series by the Pen’s.
      Pray for a miracle. We need it.
      THE Caps are shutting down the Pen’s.
      Sidney is shook up from the collision in the first period
      but still he is trying. He does not have a shot on net.
      The boys look tired..

      Let’s go Pen’s. 😀

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        May 8, 2017 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        Hey Jim,

        It is funny, they have only given up 16 shots against at this point and only managed 8 of their own. Maybe they are getting away from what brung em. D hasn’t been their hallmark all season, might as well try and open it up and draw Was into a run and gun.

        • Jim's Gravatar Jim
          May 8, 2017 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

          Four – Zero.
          8. 30 minutes left.
          The boys are out of gas..I do not like what I see.
          Sidney is not right either. That hit he took in the first.
          Looks like I was wrong again Coach. No win tonight.
          They got MAF number for sure.

    • pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
      May 8, 2017 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

      It has been horrible, terrible and a waste of money for a ticket,
      oh yeah both Kessel and Malkin…. nothing

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        May 8, 2017 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        pens 4 ever.
        5 to nothing….7 minutes left.
        Better get Matt Murray out quick.
        They definitely have MAF figured out.

        Game 7….Welcome to Washington

  3. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    May 8, 2017 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Just a brief follow-up note.

    I still think the Caps can be had. Their fourth line hasn’t been effective, they’re vulnerable on defense, and they’ve got seven regulars age 30 or older.

    We just have to find a way to take the initiative and pressure them for a change. Basically, do to them what they’ve been doing to us.


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      May 8, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,

      I agree, I think the Pens not only have a chance but are in the drivers seat. We are the ones that only need 1 win, MAF has been lights out at home, 3 of the top 5 in Points this playoffs were B&G, Guentzel is tearing it up, Was still has the Gorilla on their back, Was still have some of the worst +/- D in the playoffs, Ovie, Oshie, and Wilson are all loose cannons that could take a stupid penalty at the drop of a hat.

      I am not gaurenteeing a win but I would think the odds are still pretty much on our side.

  4. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    May 8, 2017 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Just read in the Tribune-Review that Trevor Daley will miss tonight’s game with a lower-body injury. Sullivan indicated his spot would be filled by either Chad Ruhwedel or Mark Streit.

    Also, it sounds like the HBK Line will be reunited. Sheary’s rejoining the top line, with Hornqvist moving back to Geno’s flank.


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      May 8, 2017 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,

      You know my pick to replace Daley, already said it.

      I am not really a fan of HBK this year. They really haven’t done much at all when together. Also, I am not sure Sheary will do any better than he has been on Crosby’s line. Hopefully, Trotz’ line-up changes mean that these line-up changes may work out.

      I read somewhere yesterday that Daley has not really recovered from his knee injury and has been limping for quite some time.

  5. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    May 8, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    Just thinking about the same things this morning. Within my musings I started to wonder how much of an affect the long year has had on this physically light team. Even though only a handful of players played in the World Cup, but the bulk of the team is still the same team that played into June last year, so they had very little recoup time.

    Another thought I had goes back to what I said about not simply bringing Kunitz or Hagelin back until someone played themselves off of the roster. Was is a better team on paper than CBJ so the drop in the play between the 1st and 2nd round may be teams but it seemed to me the team was playing better even against the Caps until they started monkeying with the line-up.

    Not sure you read what I posted on your last article, but I do fault MAF a little for the teams failure to close out. Not going back into the Stats but team D is actually better on the road than at home but MF is lights out at home but below average on the road. His splits surely show his love of home cooking. And that is the good news. Pens are home for a close out.

    One last thing, as I have written and said before, I like every D-man on this team. I would love to see them all succeed, but the bottom line is they aren’t. Maatta may have improved a bit but overall the team D, as you noted stinks. Also, I don’t think Letang would really elevate it that much. He was part of the pathetic showing during the regular season and was not even the best D man when he was healthy. That is why I am wondering about the affects of the combo of tiny D men and long seasons.

    If you recall the guy I wanted at the trade deadline wasn’t really Shattenkirk, although, I did muse how well he may fit Sully’s system. The guy I wanted the Pens to deal for was Zadarov from Col.

    I really would have liked the Pens to close out last game. I really don’t want the Caps to start gaining any hope.

    Here is too Home Cooking and a big night from not only MAF, but Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel, since they are all back together as well as rookie phenom Guentzel.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      May 8, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,

      Excellent observations. Your previous posts as well.

      Regarding the Pens perhaps being a tired team, I was thinking the same thing. They seem to be making “tired” plays, i.e. trying to chip or pass the puck through forecheckers instead of skating with the puck or finding creative solutions. Of course, the Caps may have a lot to do with that, too.

      Also thought you hit on an interesting point regarding arbitrarily inserting guys like Kunitz and Hagelin back into the lineup. While I love Kuny’s pluck and Hags’ speed, each seems diminished in terms of overall effectiveness.

      The kid I’d love to see them plug in? Josh Archibald. He’d add a ton of speed, spirit and grit. I like the way Rowney played, too. Of course, they’re both right wings, where we’re overstocked.

      Perhaps with some creative shuffling (Cullen to left wing) we could make room for one of ’em.

      I’ve wondered, too, if a more mobile defenseman like Ruhwedel or Streit might be a better option than, say, Hainsey. But that’s an awfully big reach. And Hainsey does give us a bigger body back there, which I like.


      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        May 8, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Hey Rick,

        I may have kept the line up pretty much what it was over the last couple of weeks of the season, with both Archibald and Rowney in there. I can’t remember the exact line up, but Rowney, Archibald, and Wilson were on fire together. Maybe something like this;

        Crosby – Guentzel – Rust
        Malkin – Kuhnhackl – Hornqvist
        Bonino – Cullen – Kessel
        Rowney – Wilson – Archibald

        * Both Rust and Kuhnhackl played LW this season as well as RW.
        ** Sheary would be my odd man out right now, maybe only until we go against a lighter team.

        I am not sure what we can due for the D right now other than pray it holds up a little better. If I were to sub anyone I would choose either to play Ruhwedel over Daley or Streit over Domoulin. But the Pens best chance to upgrade this area came and went with the trade deadline.

        As I said I would have tried to get Zadorov even if I would have to wait until the playoffs to get his services. I seem to recall he was either sispended for a couple of games or hurt.

        Failing to obtain him, I would have tried to get Tryamkin from Van.

        I understand, if the Pens already suspected Letang may not be playing in the playoffs, to go after Striet, but I get tired of people thinking that experience is that important when you already have an older team. If the Pens were Edm, I could understand looking for a veteran like Striet but they’re not. they’re one of the older teams. Seems to me they need more youth.


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