Rossi: Penguins establishing their identity
It was a big number, but it seemed small to the Penguins by the end of the regular season.
They finished with 529 man-games lost to injury, the most in the NHL. However, to open the Stanley Cup playoffs they were without only three projected regulars, and that is probably the way it will be for a potential series clinching Game 5 against the New York Rangers on Friday night at Consol Energy Center.
When Round 2 was in New York, captain Sidney Crosby acknowledged developing a team identity provided a challenge the Penguins probably were not up for during the regular season.
“It was difficult because we hadn't had a full lineup,” Crosby said. “The one thing we had to be aware of, and I think we've done a pretty good job, was getting better as the playoffs go along.”
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said after Game 4 on Wednesday night that the Penguins have “maybe figured out our problem from the last few years.”
They have surrendered fewer than 25 shots in three of 10 playoff games and held opponents less than 30 in five of the past six contests dating to Round 1.
“We play a tighter game,” Fleury said. “We still go play in their zone and play hard offensively, but we don't give them as many odd-man rushes and scoring chances — and that's a big difference.”
The Penguins were the NHL's highest scoring team entering last postseason, but finished with only two goals against Boston in the conference final. A lot of external attention was focused on the lack of offense, but coaches believed overall improvement was needed defensively.
Against the Bruins, the Penguins lost the neutral zone — stymieing their puck-retrieval offensive attack because forwards were forced to exert too much energy playing in their own zone.
A new neutral-zone system was installed during training camp, and assistant coach Jacques Martin was tasked with teaching skilled forwards the benefit of take-away defending that could lead to transition scoring chances. The Penguins have scored 11 goals, at least five from transition, and forwards are credited with 24 takeaways in Round 2.
The Penguins always believed, defenseman Paul Martin said, they could score and defend to win. They just needed some time to get on the same page.
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.
- Russian winger Plotnikov could join Penguins in August
- New Penguin Kessel’s shot is what makes him special
- Ex-teammates say Kessel unfairly criticized
- Penguins’ Kessel ‘thrilled’ with chance to play with Crosby, Malkin
- Hurricanes owner rips Rutherford, Penguins
- Penguins sign defensive prospect
- Scouts think Penguins could regain luster with minor tinkering
- Starkey: Rutherford hits jackpot with Kessel
- Penguins notebook: Rutherford proves savvy in deal
- Penguins get their man in making trade with Toronto for Kessel
- Examining the draft trends of the last 3 Penguins GMs