Oh how the tide has turned Penguins fans! This time last year the Pens were limping into the playoffs.
A coaching change and a few personnel changes later, the Boys of Winter are not only in the playoffs, but they are making a bold statement as they finish up the regular season. What’s the biggest change?
3-29 vs BUF
- The bottom half of the forward lines contributed
- As in most game recently, Kris Letang is a huge positive
- Finding a way to win and not giving up after the 1st period
- The 1st period (3 GAA on 9 shots)
- 30 shots against
3-31 vs NSH
- 2nd line speed
- Powerplay and Penalty Kill
- Allowed under 30 shots
- Fleury got hurt
4-2 vs NYI
- There just is not enough time to go into all of the positives.
- Near flawless game
- Hard pressed to find one
4-3 vs PHI
- Shot blocking machine Kuhnhackl
- Murray’s calm
- Kessel’s smart play
- Sid on the PP
Let us start with how important it is in today’s game to have guys who are willing to lay their lives on the line to block a shot. There is not a team in the modern era that has won a cup without guys who are willing to lay it on the line for the best of their team. While the guys who score game winning goals in game 7 or make highlight reel saves to finish the series sweep in the playoffs, it’s the little things like blocking shots, back checking properly, finishing checks, and boxing out players that go unappreciated by many. If these guys do get recognition, it’s short lived. Max Talbot is still celebrated to this day for his game 7 goals, not his Eastern Conference semi-final shot blocking. But those players don’t lay down in front of 90 mph shots for the glory, the do it to keep their roster spot, to help their team win, to hoist that chalice and put a ring on their finger. This Penguins team has those guys and they are going to be very useful and needed come playoff time. Beyond that, Matt Murray was once again cool as a cucumber in the crease, even after Wayne Simmonds attempted decapitation. Crosby moved all around on the powerplay and did was he does best down low, and that’s find pucks quick and then put them to the twine. Kessel was making cerebral plays by shooting for rebounds instead of missing the net when he had teammates going to the net. This team needs Kessel to continue to use his speed and make smart plays like that. On Crosby’s powerplay goal, if Kessel shoots to score there, he most likely misses the net like he usually does from there or puts it into the goalie’s logo. Instead he waited for 87 to curl around the cage and set up shop in front of the Flyer’s goalie. He then shot for the far leg pad generating a dead rebound in front of Crosby, and he rarely ever doesn’t find those and bury them. It was a very smart play and something players don’t do enough of.
- 2nd period
- 30 shots against
- Neutral Zone turnovers
All in all, this team has come together and have become resilient to any obstacle that gets thrown at them, whether that be injuries, dirty play, bad bounces, or amazingly awful officiating.
Good talk, see ya out there!
Born and raised in Pittsburgh and have Black n’ Gold running through my veins. I had a very short stint for a Professional Minor League team before the league ceased operations and then I began my coaching career. Worked in the NAHL & NA3HL in many different roles which include coaching, media relations, marketing, and scouting. Currently a scout for the Salt Lake City Moose of the WSHL as well as a personal hockey coach with CoachUp a web based scheduling company, that helps athletes find coaches in for all sports in their area (click the link above to learn more about myself and CoachUp)
Feel free to talk hockey anytime with me on Twitter @coachhagmaier2