FF Telestrator: Isles Revenge Game
The game started last night with a power-play goal just 3:00 into the contest. James Neal was able to find himself open for a shooting opportunity that he buried under the pad of Evgeni Nabokov. Let’s start by taking a look at how that play developed.
After the opening faceoff, Travis Hamonic (green circle) went back to make a play on the puck to clear the zone.
Under duress from James Neal, the easiest play Hamonic can make with his back to the defensive zone is to slap the puck high off the wall for what could be an easy clear down the ice.
But, the Penguins already know this play is coming. Their pressure on the forecheck has put them in good position to break up this clearing attempt. Sidney Crosby will follow the red arrow into the boards, and James Neal will find open ice, like any good 40 goal scorer would.
Bad news for the Islanders; Sidney Crosby found the puck.
What’s worse for the Islanders is the result of this dump. Every player in the defensive zone refocuses their vision to Crosby as he corrals the puck. James Neal is already sneaking off to find a cushion.
The Islanders aren’t cognizant of Neal’s presence in the offensive zone at all. Hamonic’s turnover has created a bit of defensive disarray for the Islanders. Neal, again showing his goal scoring prowess, is going to give Crosby an easy pass cross ice.
Two key things take place in the above still.
1. Chris Kunitz runs some subtle interference on the Islanders penalty-killer in the red box. Kunitz is an absolute master at opening space up with his body. This is what we mean when we say someone “creates space” for big time forwards. Crosby has an easy pass over to Neal courtesy of Kunitz “accidental” collision with the Islanders PK.
2. Neal didn’t just skate into the circle. He went behind the net. Hamonic has no idea how Neal found his way into that position. Neal is a sneaky, sneaky guy. He’s not going to risk his open ice by skating right through Travis Hamonic’s line of vision. He follows a path behind the net and actually retrieves this Crosby pass just as he comes around the other side.
That is three offensive players operating in complete harmony for a goal. Really a beautiful thing to watch!
I wanted to take a quick second as well to focus on the play of the penalty kill last night. The Penguins gambled in a big way by taking seven penalties against an Islanders team that torched them for two goals on two chances in the previous game.
Let’s take a look at how much ice the PK covered for the Penguins last night.
Tanner Glass and Craig Adams both did an amazing job last night taking turns applying pressure and forcing the decision making of the Islander forwards. Let’s take a look at a few stills.
As the puck gets worked to the point, Adams steps up to force the gap between he and the point man, applying token pressure to move the puck and break up the continuity of what the Islanders want to do.
But watch as the puck gets distributed to the other side of the ice. Tanner Glass steps in, and like poetry, the dance continues.
Tanner Glass steps up on Streit, forcing him to play patty-cake with his defensive partner. Craig Adams, head on a swivel, forces back up ice to read the play and provide more pressure on the power-play trigger man.
Both of these players are covering large distances on the ice, starting and stopping, and getting a real workout on the PK.
There are a few things happening here. First off, the D to D pass being covered by Adams goes to the far wall, and Adams reads it to immediately put pressure on the half wall.
There is no pass from the half wall back to Streit because Tanner Glass is ready to pounce on any pass attempt.
In front of the net, Brooks Orpik has everything covered and a great view of the developing play.
There are no open lanes, no open players, and the Islanders play has been reduced to perimeter passing.
Finally, the puck works out from the side of the net and gets thrown in front. Take a look at the collapsing box of the Penguins. There is literally no room for any Islander to step in here and play this puck.
More importantly, Brooks Orpik has completely cut off John Tavares from even attempting to step to the front of the net. Shoulder to shoulder, Orpik gives Fleury a chance to clear this puck out and prevents any chance of this puck getting banged in on a rebound.
Overall, another strong performance from the Penguins in every category. Washington inside the CONSOL Energy Center will be a litmus test for the team. Washington is backed into a corner, and the Penguins need to continue to prove they can win at home.