FF Telestrator: Crosby's Chemistry
The Penguins are coming off a very impressive 2-0 start to the season.
Defensively, the team is clicking in a major way, which we’ll touch on in a second.
Offensively, they’ve generated a ton of scoring chances through the first two games and seem to be scoring goals with ease.
I wanted to take a second to remind everyone what the Penguins want to accomplish in the offensive zone, and why the Crosby line is executing the game plan better than anyone right now.
On offense, the Penguins like to position their forwards along the wall to engage the defense physically and take away any easy play off the boards.
If you think about this from the oppositions perspective, it’s rather daunting. You’re chasing down a dumped puck with Chris Kunitz bearing down on you via the forcheck.
What’s the easiest way to get the puck up the ice? You probably instinctively want to bank it off the boards or play it around the horn to get the pressure off of you. The Penguins are prepared for this, and align themselves as such:
If you take a look at the O’s on this diagram, it’s the Penguins forwards engaged on the defensemen “X’s” – taking away any play off the glass or easy outlet that can be garnered from the opposing defense.
It also allows the Penguins to put themselves in man-advantage situations along the wall.
The Crosby line throws a little wrinkle into this by running what I like to call “The Triangle of Death.”
The top line forwards find themselves in a bit of a triangular cycle here. They’re fluid in their positions and can rotate accordingly. The idea here is to open up shooting lanes in the slot, open up lanes to drive to the net, or confuse the defense to work the puck up high to the blueline.
This is exactly how they scored their first goal on Saturday night.
As this play starts, Dupuis has the puck on the wall. Crosby is behind him along the goal line. Kunitz is in the high slot.
The Sabres have this play pretty well defended based on this still. So the Penguins keep the cycle going and they re-arrange their attacking triangle a little bit.
Dupuis moves up to the slot, Crosby to the half wall, and now Kunitz will transfer below the goal line.
I drew a line denoting Crosby’s eventual path to the net, the red line indicates the hole that will open up once he dishes this puck off to Pascal Dupuis in the high slot.
The sight line of every Buffalo Sabre is on Pascal Dupuis. No one has Crosby or Kunitz marked.
On game night, we all remarked on Twitter about the dogged determination of Sidney Crosby on this goal. What allows him a path to the net, again denoted in red, is his ability to cut inside here because the Sabres are thoroughly confused.
The Crosby “triangle of death” is about to strike again.
Like the parting of the Red Sea, Crosby has a wide open path to the net on a backhand pass from Dupuis.
Take a look inside the orange circle. The Sabres have three guys covering Pascal Dupuis, and he doesn’t even have the puck. Tyler Myers, the other Sabres defenseman, is standing alone on an island here.
Kunitz is positioned right behind Crosby as the calvary in case this puck squirts free to the side of the cage.
Dupuis, as the high forward, is in a position for a quick turnaround to defense, which is something we’ll talk about later.
The Penguins have a ton of options here. They want to work the puck into the slot, but teams aren’t going to just allow you to camp there in such a high percentage scoring area. This flow allows the Penguins to find lanes to not only shoot the puck, but to drive the puck inside line Crosby did here.
This isn’t your typical every-day cycle as well. Most teams utilize the area behind the net. The Penguins use the side of the cage to protect themselves as they move the puck.
Keep an eye on this against Carolina tomorrow night. The Crosby line has basically destroyed any questions I had about whether or not chemistry in hockey is a tangible thing. They are not only doing what Dan Bylsma asks them to do, they’re doing it in an unreal fashion.