The Penguins needed a statement game to stay alive in this series.

I’d say scoring ten goals in game four is about as big as it gets.

Before we focus on the positive, let’s revisit a little of the negative.

In our Game 3 telestration, we pointed out a repeated miscue that was occurring on the penalty-kill that allowed the Flyers to walk in the wide lane uncontested.

The Flyers have the puck at the corner of the net after some sustained pressure.

You know the Penguins are in trouble when you have three white jerseys standing within sticks reach of each other.

On the wide side, you have Jakub Voracek driving to the net. Vitale is turning around to head back to his lane, but he never marks Voracek on entry.

This is the 3rd goal the Flyers have scored on the power-play of this ilk.

Joe Vitale cannot mark Voracek. Fleury is again forced to head side to side on a quick east to west opportunity that leads to a goal.

If the Penguins have any hope of evening this series, this is a problem that must be addressed immediately. The penalty kill is chasing a bit. They’re consistently focusing on the puck. If the Flyers are allowed this type of time and space, the series could end as quickly as the Penguins comeback started.

Let’s focus on the positive for a second, primarily on the power-play.

To get a good understanding of what the Penguins power-play is about, let’s revisit the general set-up. Bear in mind, this system hasn’t changed much over the course of the year. The personnel has shuffled regularly in the face of injury, but the systematic approach has remained the same.

The Penguins run a modified umbrella here. There are a few key things to take into account here:

1. The man at the point is the general of the power-play and all traffic and success flows through him.

2. The rover in the slot’s responsibility is to draw defenders to him and open up space in the slot, either for a one-timer to the rover or a cross ice pass as identified by the lateral arrow.

3. A net front presence is key.

4. The two X’s on the outside of the circle signify the potential east-to-west one-timer that exists.

Movement drives the success of this power-play. The Flyers forecheckers are pressing the two off-handed one-timers. If you don’t respond, you end up with something that looks like this:

The Flyers have disrupted this stagnant power-play by pressing the top side of their box towards the point. With a lack of time and space, the Penguins entire systematic approach to the power-play has been ruined.

Sometimes you need to get out of position to make something work.

Last night the Penguins took the initiative and created a ton of movement, all while staying within the parameters of Bylsma’s power-play.

Let’s take a look:

Above is the set-up of Letang’s 2nd period goal. In this sequence, Evgeni Malkin has a defender on his hip and is highlighted in green.

As the rover, Malkin will draw a defender to him (Coburn), back up the Flyers defense, and open up a lane through the middle of the ice as designated by the black arrow.

Steve Sullivan has the puck. He’s the general. He’s watching Malkin do his work behind the play. The Flyers have no idea what’s coming, but Sullivan is ready for it.

Crosby fakes one-timer. This freezes the low Flyer forward. Sean Couturier is now on an island.

Take a look at Geno. He’s back in the slot. His movement has opened up a lane. Coburn is now going to engage on Malkin and leave a little bit of room in the high-slot for a beautiful east-west pass.

The entire unit is moving in harmony here.

Letang has drifted in behind Couturier, who went to make a play on Crosby. Kunitz is in front of the net, and the goaltender is unable to see the cross-ice pass.

Malkin’s drifting into the slot (green circle) has drawn Brayden Coburn directly to him. Crosby has mesmerized the Flyers defense by drifting in and faking shot.

Letang is wide open.

Not only is Letang open, but he wastes no time in getting the puck directly to the net for an easy goal.

Dan Bylsma’s heart grew three sizes on that goal.

For the Penguins to win this series, execution and focus must be perfect. The insertion of Despres and Strait into the lineup seemed to calm and focus the team.

Nothing needs to change from a systematic standpoint, the execution just needs to be there for a full 60 minutes.

Kudos to Staal before we end for the day.

That is the posture of a man that is about to pass the puck across the ice.

The defenseman thought so too, he’s laid out to prevent the pass. The goaltender starts to cheat right just a hair.


Keep goaltenders guessing, and you’re going to reap the rewards. With continued play like this, the Penguins might make the long road back in this series seem just a bit shorter.