Penguins aim to use shot blocking as a tool, not a crutch, down the stretch
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella had no problem pinpointing the one area of the game that gave his team the most trouble in a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.
Shot blocking. The Penguins held a 24-12 advantage in blocked shots in the game.
“Faking shots, changing the angle … it depends on the situation, but we’ve got to be cognizant of getting 24, 25 shots blocked of trying to make a little bit of an adjustment,” Tortorella said.
In general, the Penguins consider Tortorella’s comments a compliment. That’s what successful teams do at this time of year.
“The pace picks up the second half of the year, especially with the amount of games left now,” defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. “It can be that shot that gets through that ends up making or breaking that game, and for certain teams, their season. I guess, subconsciously, the will to make sure that shot doesn’t get through gets higher.”
The Penguins are eighth in the league in blocked shots this season, averaging 15.3 per game, but coach Mike Sullivan said it’s not something he necessarily emphasizes as a coaching point.
“I wouldn’t characterize us as a quote-unquote shot-blocking team, but having said that, part of solid defense is sometimes you’ve got to get in a shot lane and deny the puck getting to the net,” Sullivan said.
Jack Johnson agreed. The last thing Penguins defensemen want to do, he said, is play goalie.
“I certainly hope that not’s the only thing that we do. I think it’s just part of it,” Johnson said. “They’re a team that’s trying to shoot from everywhere and shoot everything. If you take away time and space and you’re in shot lanes, a lot of times, it’ll just hit you. We’re trying to defend well, and that’s part of it. Whether it goes off your stick or your shinpads or whatever, it’s part of playing defense.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .