Penguins Insider: It's time to adapt to Islanders
The Penguins have said all the right things during their series with the Islanders: Keep it simple. Get the puck deep. Be physical.
Doing those things, however, has proven to be challenging.
The Islanders know many of the Penguins' tendencies, namely their proclivity for the “stretch pass,” which usually sees a Penguins defenseman find a winger with a long pass near the boards. The winger, in turn, ideally will make a short pass or “chip” to center Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, who are at their best when skating with speed through the neutral zone.
When it works, scoring chances come easily for the Penguins.
When it doesn't, turnovers are an issue.
“They've done a good job of getting pucks in and making adjustments,” defenseman Paul Martin said. “We like to get out of the zone a certain way. We've had to change certain things. We've been making some decisions that aren't typical of our defense or our team. It's something we've talked about.”
The Islanders have used a 1-3-1 look in this series, and it has effectively clogged the center of the ice. Whether because of stretch passes that simply weren't open or simply attempting to make difficult, cross-ice passes, the Penguins haven't been as effective as usual in this series and have failed to adjust. At times, the Islanders have dared the Penguins to get the puck deep and go to work, but the Penguins have seldom accepted the invitation.
“We know we need to do a better job of that,” left wing Chris Kunitz said.
Teams that give the Penguins the most trouble typically play in the Atlantic Division.
Coach Dan Bylsma's worst record against any team is against the Devils (8-13-1). His teams have also struggled with the Flyers and, at times, the Islanders.
Countering that, unfamiliar teams rarely have success against the Penguins, who went 12-2-3 against the Western Conference last season but just 12-10-2 against the Atlantic Division.
The Penguins hardly believe a wholesale change in their style or system is needed.
“Part of the game,” Martin said, “is reading and reacting.”