When another Matt Niskanen power-play goal gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead against the Columbus Blue Jackets, you got the impression the Penguins were becoming the offensive bullies of this series.

When they were awarded a string of power-plays midway through the second period, you got the feeling they were about to put a nail in the coffin.

Instead, the Penguins squandered away Game 2 and have relinquished their home-ice advantage.

Pressure-Down – Trap Down

Perhaps the most egregious offender for the Penguins in the first two games of this series has been the penalty-kill.

We’re going to get into what we’ve gotten used to seeing from the Penguins penalty-kill and what’s changed that seems to have hampered them recently.

As far as we can tell, the shift in focus for the Penguins came in two back-to-back games against the Washington Capitals on March 10th and March 11th of 2014.

The Penguins have an internal timer on the penalty-kill, traditionally seven or eight seconds, where the apply high pressure to the puck carriers when the power-play is attempting to establish itself.

This also involves a swing forcheck that hopes to place four penalty-killers along the defensive blue line in the hopes that the puck carriers can be denied zone entry on the breakout and forced to dump the puck in the zone.

If the attacking team is able to establish possession, this is where I’ve seen a change in the Penguins approach.

The Penguins were infamous for running a Trap-Down, Pressure-Down” system, the goal of which was to force the puck into the corner and prevent the attacking team from working the play into a high percentage scoring area.

On the dry-erase board, it looks something like this:

The basis of what you’re looking at is the high forward peels towards a puck carrier on the half wall to force the play down to the corner, where the defenseman can pinch down and take away any play to the middle of the ice.

The Penguins are just trying to put themselves in a position here to prevent high percentage scoring plays from developing. If they can keep the puck along the wall, the perfect alignment would give them a great opportunity to take on the power-play with an advantage in numbers despite being shorthanded.

Now, the obvious risk that can be run here is forcing the goaltender to move side to side or having a player sneak into the slot for a quick pass to a high percentage scoring area.

But, let me point out, that’s what Marc-Andre Fleury is good at. No matter what version of Fleury Penguins fans have seen over the years, and there’s been plenty, he’s always boasted the title of one of the most athletic goaltenders in the NHL.

I would rather see Fleury take his chances in those side-to-side situations than the chances he’s currently facing, which have been compliations of bad screens that have immediately put him at a disadvantage.

Let’s take a look at the Johansen power-play goal from last night. We’ve almost seen the Penguins make a shift from trying to keep the puck outside to trying to prevent high-percentage passes from getting made. This despite the fact that the had the best penalty kill in the National Hockey League going into those games against the Washington Capitals.

In looking at that video, there’s no semblance of the structure we saw in the screenshots above is simply gone. It almost appears if the Penguins are running a passive box, sort of a small zone that’s designed to clog up the middle of the ice and prevent the puck from moving through high-percentage scoring areas.

Here’s the issue, it’s allowing opposing attacks free reign to terrorize Marc-Andre Fleury.

A good follow on Twitter, @jaschiff155 sent me the following montage of Marc-Andre Fleury’s life on the penalty kill since early March.

This is a disrespect to Marc-Andre Fleury for two reasons:

1. You’re denying him the chance to use his athleticism.
2. You’re allowing the team to put your penalty-kill at an immediate disadvantage.

Make no mistake about it, if the Penguins continue to allow guys like Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky space in front of their goaltender, their chances of winning this series will drastically diminish.

Richards Isn’t Afraid Of Crosby

The Penguins combination of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin has now gone 20 periods of post-season hockey without scoring a goal. This, obviously, dates back to last year against the Bruins, where they were held scoreless through four games.

However, going goalless against Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron is one thing, doing it against Dubinsky, Wisniewski, and Murray is another.

Todd Richards commented after the game on why he decided to move away from the Crosby/Dubinsky match-up that we saw all throughout Game 1 and the better part of Game 2.

“I saw the success that other guys were having against Crosby,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “It wasn’t something I needed to chase.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5947865-74/penguins-yxy-blue#ixzz2zTsr6MSb


If there’s ever been an indictment of a superstar player, it’s the opposing coach no longer worrying about who plays against you.

One thing is for certain, the Penguins need a hero. Sidney Crosby would be well served to bulletin-board that quote.