FF Telestrator: Game 14 vs. Senators
Before we get into our unabashed praise of the Pittsburgh power-play, let’s take a look at James Neal’s second goal of the evening coming off of a textbook job of forcing the play by the Malkin line.
When a defenseman has the puck in the boards under pressure, or behind the net in the case we’re about to review, there are a limited number of “safe” options that exist to get the puck out of the zone.
The easiest way, especially if you have help along the wall, is to bank the puck off the glass for an easy outlet to a forward or defensive partner.
One thing the Penguins are great at doing is taking that easy option for a play off the wall completely away from the opposing defense by sealing off those key areas.
The play starts by Weircioch sending a D to D pass over to Mike Lundin who is on the far boards. Neal is getting in position to forcheck here, but Matt Cooke is just out of the picture along the far boards. He’s cutting off the bank pass along the wall and bearing down on Lundin as well.
The stage is set for Pittsburgh to force Ottawa to make a bad play with the puck.
Lundin makes the call to skate around his own net to try create something up ice. Cooke is bearing down on him. Geno is about to show up here and cut off Lundin’s path along the near boards.
The easy play for Lundin is gone. The Penguins have upped the pressure on the forcheck and have cut off every easy lane out of the zone.
No surprise that Lundin can’t make a good play on the puck and it eventually squirts out to Evgeni Malkin. Malkin will now confuse the Senators even more by making the play flow high to low. Once the puck hits the point, the Senators drift up ice, especially Lundin, and Neal is wide open down low.
The puck gets worked high to Engelland, who puts it directly on net. Look at Mike Lundin in the green circle, the chaos behind the net has caused him to completely lose track of where he is on the ice. There are two black shirts against one white shirt down low. No one is covering for the missing defenseman.
We’ve talked a lot about how sneaky James Neal is the last few days. Take a look at him here. When the shot is taken, he is completely removed from the play.
You can’t teach hockey sense. Neal has placed himself in a perfect position to receive this rebound at the side of the net.
This is a still that no NHL team wants to see. Two men down low, defense outnumbered, and James Neal with a verifiable tap in for the goal.
Let’s take a brief look at what sparked Neal’s first goal on the power-play.
The Penguins’ biggest problem at times is a lack of movement. Lanes don’t open themselves up and penalty killers don’t casually move out of the way so you can throw in a cross-ice pass.
The Penguins last night used movement to their advantage to open up lanes and create trouble for the Senators’ penalty kill.
The blue line denotes the pass Geno wants to make. He’s got Paul Martin wide open at the far side of the ice. That’s where this goal starts.
But the pass isn’t there, so Sidney Crosby and James Neal are going to give Geno the look he wants by completely drifting into the corner of the near side of the ice, drawing the penalty kill with them, and opening up a look to Martin.
There you have it, Geno connects to Martin. Now, Martin could shoot, or he can walk the puck in. He chooses the latter. James Neal is all the way next to Geno in the near boards, but when he scores, he’ll be in the far circle totally away from the play. Let’s watch and see how he gets there.
Martin walks the puck into the zone. Crosby is in the low boards. Neal has now entered the general vicinity of where he’ll end up scoring from. But take a look, Neal has Senators draped all over him. How does this situation eventually turn into a goal with a shot from nearly the same spot?
Martin’s mobility has completely collapsed the Senators PK unit. And all James Neal had to do was slightly drift away from the play into the circle and he found himself wide open.
Crosby threads the needle to Neal, and goodnight.
Overall, another solid performance from the Penguins, especially on the Special Teams front.