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PHN Extra (Free Preview): Pens Chalkboard--Pens Forwards Hold Key to Defense
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PHN Extra (Free Preview): Pens Chalkboard–Pens Forwards Hold Key to Defense

Check out the free preview of exclusive PHN Extra content as Dan breaks out the chalkboard for yesterday’s Pens-Flyers tilt.

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The Pittsburgh Penguins appeared to be two different teams. In the first period, the Flyers played “on the right side of the puck”, while the Penguins chased them. The Flyers created pressure with speed and solid transition game, while the Penguins felt it.

In the second and third periods, it was the Penguins who flexed their skating muscles and speed. Oh, and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin made a difference, too.

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray was not at his best, either. Here we go:

Travis Sanheim (1st period. 1-0).

In the first period, the Penguins forwards expressed a full aversion to the defensive zone. The Penguins defense was in position, but Phil Kessel gave a dead-legged chase.

Kessel is not yet out of position. He was on the forecheck, and both Flyers defenseman are behind him. Conor Sheary, off-screen, was changing.

However, as the play unfolds, Kessel still hasn’t entered the defensive zone.

The Flyers probably got away with too many men. The second defenseman seems a long way from the bench before the change, eh?

However, the Penguins have four players back in the defensive zone. Derick Brassard staked the middle of the ice, Brian Dumoulin¬†isolated the wall, and Justin Schultz took the player driving to the net. Everyone did their job…except the red circle at the top of the screen.

Side note–Schultz keeps getting better defensively. Notice his hard work down low, even as Sanheim beat Murray. Soft goal? Not really. It was a preventable scoring chance from the top of the circle–a goaltender wants to stop it, but some of them will light the lamp:

Brassard (First period. 1-1)

Kessel learned from his boo-boo. The Penguins first goal resulted when the shaggy winger created a turnover in the defensive zone.

Injured? You need a lawyer. Call Joshua R. Lamm.

A coveted green checkmark for Phil.

At least for a moment, the Penguins third line looked like a coordinated, well-oiled machine. Conor Sheary, who is playing his best hockey of the season, was quickly available for the breakout and made an extraordinary read to spring Brassard.

Note all five Penguins are coming back to the defensive zone.

Sheary flipped the puck over the Flyers defense like a Phil Mickelson lob wedge.

Brandon Manning (1st period. 2-1)

This time it was Evgeni Malkin who skipped out on his assignment.

Malkin tried to jump the Flyers breakout for a turnover, but it didn’t need to be an all or nothing venture. Malkin is sometimes a looper, which is an insult to Canadian players. Malkin looped around the zone instead of skating hard.

Manning is the blue circle–follow him through the play.

Even after whiffing on the break, Malkin could have made it back to the defensive zone. But notice the straight-legged coast through the neutral zone.

Malkin could have caught Manning.

The Flyers transition had four men at the red line. Bryan Rust was in hot pursuit and was able to nullify at least one of the attackers.

Brandon Manning filled the open space at the top of the offensive zone and stepped into the shot. It was another questionable goal from Murray–but those are good goals when the home team scores them:

Chad Ruhwedel and Olli Maatta did their jobs, as well. They too get green checks.

Sean Couturier (Third period. 4-4)

We’re showing this goal in partial praise of the Penguins defense. While the Penguins goals were the result of skill (see Crosby’s turnaround of Sean Couturier, Patric Hornqvist’s power-play goal, and Malkin’s walk of the Flyers defense), the Flyers had to create space and opportunity with hard work.

The Flyers’ tying goal, late in regulation, was good puck movement which created an unbalanced shift in the Penguins defense and strength down low.

See the box in which the Penguins front line found themselves. Ideally, Rust would have been able to front the point man and be in a better position to block the shot.

It’s a game of inches.

Down low, the Penguins defense did their job. Brian Dumoulin both impeded the Flyers forwards and bodied one of them. Letang had good position in front of Couturier, too. Murray had full vision of the long-range shot.

But–one bobble and everything flipped.

For Penguins fans, it’s all’s well that ends well.

Penguins get the 5-4 win. Thanks for checking out the free preview of PHN Extra!

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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