Pittsburgh Penguins

Can key adjustments keep the Penguins winning?

After losing to the Capitals 4-3 in game one, the Pittsburgh Penguins had an outstanding game two as they won the game 2-1. They dominated play during the first two periods and most of the third period, though the Capitals scored to tie the game, before Eric Fehr’s game-winning goal.

A lot of their Game 2 success has to do with Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan making some good adjustments so the Penguins could come out on top. Continuing in this vein is going to be important as they head to Game 3 tonight.

Playing a Speed Game

When the Penguins are playing their A-game, they are using their speed to wear down the other team. They did just that Saturday as they dictated the pace by playing a speed and posession game. They also outshot the Capitals 28-10 through the first two periods.

The Penguins were so fast at getting out of their own zone and because of that, Washington was chasing Pittsburgh all game long. Washington never had a chance to set up plays; the puck rarely went behind Pittsburgh’s net.

The fastest line of the game was Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel and the Capitals had no answer. Each time they go onto the ice they drive posession, create grade-A scoring chances, and very often turn those into goals. Saturday was a great example, as Bonino had an amazing feed from behind the net to Carl Hagelin in front who finished it beautifully.

That line has been matched up against the Kuznetsov line for the first couple games so it may be wise for Barry Trotz to change things up in Game 3. If the Penguins continue to play their game as they did last night, the Capitals are going to have a hard time winning this series.

Changing Defensive Pairs

March 17 2016: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) blocks a shot from reaching Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30). (Photo by Justin Berl/Icon Sportswire)

This may not be an adjustment that the Penguins were expecting to make, but it worked nonetheless. After Olli Maatta got knocked out of the game because of a dirty hit by Brooks Orpik, the Penguins were down to five defenseman. That meant that each one had to pick up a lot more minutes than usual.

Kris Letang played 35:22, which was a career high, and did it with different defensive partners such as Trevor Daley, Ian Cole, and Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin had his third highest time on ice of the year, as he played 24:27.

Even though the Penguins only played with five defenseman for most of the game, they didn’t seem like they were getting worn down at all. They put up an amazing display of shot supression as they held the Capitals to just 25 shot attempts through two periods compared to the Penguins’ 63. Pittsburgh finished the game with a plus-11 differential in shots and plus-25 differential in shot attempts.

It looks like the Penguins will be without Olli Maatta for Game 3 due to an upper-body injury he suffered (speculated to be a concussion). Whatever the case, playing with five defenseman and putting up good shot supression is a great accomplishment, and hopefully one they can pull off with a replacement in the lineup.

Shutting Down Core Players

In game one, TJ Oshie torched Pittsburgh with three goals, and Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both added assists. This didn’t happen in Game 2, as the Penguins completely shut down all three of them. Ovechkin especially must be hurting, as he still doesn’t have a goal against the Penguins this season.

Pittsburgh blocked a lot of shots and didn’t allow the Capitals to have a lot of zone time, leading to Washington’s low shot total. Pittsburgh was also able to slow down the Capitals viscious forecheck, which clearly frustrated them as the game went on.

It’ll be interesting to see if this can continue for the Penguins as the series shifts to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4.


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