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PHN EXTRA: Pekka Stones Penguins, Report Card vs. Predators



Pittsburgh Penguins trade talk: Jared McCann
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 29: Pittsburgh Penguins Left Wing Jared McCann (19) tries to deflect the puck past Nashville Predators Goalie Pekka Rinne (35) during the second period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators on March 29, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire)

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins controlled territory, shots and if there was a metric for pressure, they would have controlled that, too. However, it is the scoreboard which matters and the Penguins were not able to get the golden shot past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Nashville returned the favor for the Penguins beating them in Nashville eight days ago and won 3-1 at PPG Paints Arena.

The advanced stats did not tell the story, or anything close Friday night. According to the advanced stats, the Predators dominated play with a 59 percent Cosi and outchanced the Penguins 23-14 at 5v5. Stats via 

The Penguins swarmed the Nashville goal and the scoring zone with 21 shots in the first period. Circle Patric Hornqvist as a player who played loud and created more havoc in front of the net and in the low zone than one player should be allowed. The Penguins third line with Nick Bjugstad line with Hornqvist and Dominik Simon was dominant.

“I thought that line was very good and Dom [sic] was a big part of it,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “The thing that (Simon) does for the line, when he’s at his best is he’s a good playmaker. He’s strong on the puck and he’s on the puck a lot. And when that happens he helps his line mates. He helps with offensive zone time.

Tactics / Strategy

*An interesting dynamic evolved throughout the first period. Each team worked to change the angle of attack through the neutral zone with cross-ice passes which were open as forecheckers pursued the puck and defenseman were forced to respect the opponent’s rush. Cross passes the weak side sprung numerous rushes and set up offensive plays.

However, the Penguins are still struggling to find ways to score ugly goals. They’re not getting enough rebound chances at even strength and they’re not creating enough traffic.

“I thought we battled hard. We had a lot of quality scoring chances. Especially in the first period,” Sullivan said. “Our power play had four Grade A chances.”

The Penguins power play was 0-4 but had 15 shots on goal. That’s extraordinary.

“I thought we had some really good chances. Sometimes it doesn’t go in for you, but if you keep the right things over and over, it’s going to come. I’m not worried about it at all,” Patric Hornqvist said.

Hornqvist led all players with six shots on goal. On the power play, he had a few whacks at his first goal in forever, and a couple days.

*Nashville made a PK adjustment with PK Subban after the Penguins lit up their first power play with seven shots. First, Nick Bonino was in Justin Schultz’s kitchen with a spatula. Nashville neutralized the point with pressure. Also–perhaps most importantly, Nashville conceded the net front to Hornqvist, who was otherwise a bear in front of the net.

So, Nashville stopped fighting it. Subban slid higher which created a box higher in the zone and allowed them to also pressure the mid-wall, A.K.A, Phil Kessel. Kessel was pushed back to the first row.

Nashville conceded the net front but effectively stopped pucks from getting there, at least from good angles.

Tactical Part II

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.