FF Telestrator: Round One - Game 4
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The Penguins blew a lead in the third period of a playoff game.
They allowed six total goals.
Marc-Andre Fleury allowed a behind-the-net backbreaker to Kyle Okposo that changed the tide of the game.
The Penguins mismanagement of the puck was egregious at best.
They also took terribly undisciplined penalties en route to the loss.
Wait, don’t stop to check your calendar. You are not Marty McFly. You have not been transported back to April of 2012.
To quote Doc from back to the future: Great Scott! These problems are surfacing again.
We addressed the breakout in our last telestrator. We showed a diagram of the stretch pass the Penguins loved and how the Islanders were able to prevent it.
For a quick reminder:
While the stretch pass was used when appropriate last night, the structure and approach of the breakout changed drastically.
Let’s take a look at what direction the Penguins went and how they managed to garner more space for themselves in the neutral zone.
I kind of liken this to what’s called an “Over” Strategy. The idea behind this breakout is the Islanders are flooding the ice on the puck carrying defenseman’s side. So the Center provides puck support in the middle and bursts through the neutral zone with speed.
Here’s the breakout in action:
Orpik is going to make a play to Kunitz along the wall. This is sort of a step one. If Orpik can skate it, or if Kunitz can skate it, Crosby heads up the wall for puck support.
But, like we said, the Islanders are flooding the strong side of the ice. Kunitz is covered so he’s going to move the puck to Crosby, who has speed coming out of the zone.
Kunitz gets pressured, the Islanders are fast on the puck.
He’s already postured for a touch pass to Crosby, who has a ton of open space.
Crosby gets pressured, he returns the favor with a drop pass to Kunitz. All they’ve done here is kept the Islanders guessing, provided puck support, and gained the zone with speed.
When the puck finally enters the zone, Kunitz is lost in the shuffle, gets a clean shot off, and Dupuis gets the deflection.
The breakout wasn’t the problem. It was the turnovers that haunted the Penguins. Continued gross mismanagement with the puck has been a recurring theme in this series, as it was last year.
And the worst part of all is that no one seems immune to the contagion of the turnover. From Malkin on down, the Penguins are gifting the Islanders way too many scoring chances.
This is a play that I hope Dan Bylsma repeatedly shows in the video room today. It’s time to have a frank discussion about Malkin’s puck management.
This is a selfish play by Evgeni Malkin, especially considering he’s got a future hall of famer a simple bank pass away here.
The smart move is to use the boards to your advantage here. Iginla is coming up the ice with speed. A simple backhand bank pass off the boards is enough to spring Iginla one on one against the Isles defense.
Instead, Malkin looks for Neal. And to get it to Neal, he has to pass it through Brad Boyes. He elevates the pass to the point that it nearly lands in Boyes’ lap.
I often use the phrase “live to fight another day.”
This is what I mean by that.
When you’re on the road, the simple play is the right play. Not every single rush up ice is going to result in a scoring opportunity. If the homerun play isn’t there, you have to do what Crosby & Co. did in the prior stills. You have to methodically work the puck up ice.
Malkin turns the puck over to Boyes. John Tavares is on the ice. This is a case of a greedy play that can’t happen when the most foreboding line of the opposition is on the ice. It’s downright inexcusable.
The worst part is the reverse in flow now has the Penguins defense standing flat footed and out of position.
I’m going to say this in all capital letters because I cannot drive this point home enough.
TURNOVERS IN YOUR OWN ZONE MAKE YOUR TEAMS DEFENSE LOOK WORSE THAN IT ACTUALLY IS.
In this instance, Orpik and Martin both fell to the ice to block the shot and prevent the pass. They ended up recovering. But Malkin heads straight back into the zone to make a run at Tavares and ends up neutralizing his own goaltender in the process.
General rules that prevent turnovers:
1. Let the puck dictate the direction you go.
2. Regroup, support. Don’t force the puck into traffic.
The Pittsburgh Penguins problem is that they have a hard time making the safe play. They want to go North, but they can’t do it the right way. This Malkin play is a key example of that.
The Penguins can win this series. And I still think they will. But in order to do so, they have to stop making things so complicated on themselves. They need to be aware of where they’re sending the puck and win each individual battle on the ice.
It’s a three game series. The team that stays out of the box and reduces offensive chances wins.
It’s all on the Penguins now.