NHL Insider: Penguins have no problem playing it tough
James Neal is known for his big shot not big hits.
That is not to suggest he will shy away from trying the latter.
Real-time statistics — hits, giveaways and takeaways, specifically — are fairly denounced by all NHL general managers and coaches, but Neal was credited with four hits in a victory that opened the Penguins' Round 2 playoff series against Ottawa on Tuesday.
The Penguins were credited with 40 hits, and they rated fourth among remaining Stanley Cup playoffs clubs with 219 hits before games played Wednesday.
Neal said after an optional practice at Consol Energy Center that opponents are still taken aback by the Penguins' willingness to play a physical brand of hockey.
“We like to play like that and try to catch teams off guard,” Neal said. “We are a fast team, come hard, and we can be physical.”
The Senators advanced to this Eastern Conference semifinal partly because they pushed around Montreal's skilled-but-smaller forwards in Round 1. Ottawa was credited with an average of about 36 hits in that series.
The Senators were credited with 26 hits in Game 1 on Tuesday.
Senators coach Paul MacLean's concern must be that a game heavy with hitting — Game 1 featured a combined 66 credited hits — could turn into a battle of special teams. That would favor the Penguins, who began Wednesday first in power play and second in penalty kill among remaining clubs.
Senators right winger Chris Neal said he and teammates need to “finish a guy, just stick with him” in Game 2 on Friday night.
Of course, the Penguins' most skilled forwards, centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, prefer contact because their ability to absorb it while protecting the puck allows them to create space.
Also, in-season acquisitions of Brenden Morrow, right winger Jarome Iginla and defenseman Douglas Murray were made with an eye toward toughening up the Penguins.
This is not a group that will be pushed around successfully by any opponent.
However, this is a group that was extended to six games in Round 1 because the New York Islanders pushed the pace.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Penguins’ Scuderi offers honest assessment of his 2013-14 performance
- Now healthy, Penguins’ Bennett eyes bigger role
- Penguins backup goaltender Zatkoff eyes new challenge with team