The Pittsburgh Penguins had the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have been sinking, fired their GM Ron Hextall, and started rookie goalie Anthony Stolarz who had just nine previous games in the NHL. The Flyers were also off since Tuesday.
But the Penguins could not string together enough consistent play, as sloppiness and lateral, “pretty” plays became the norm. The Penguins passed up shots, ignored open players to chase the puck and could not finish the Flyers despite a pair of leads.
Head Mike Sullivan said his team, “lacked a conscience defensively on the ice,” on the power play. He also called the breakaways the Penguins surrendered, a “lack of awareness.”
The Penguins had 32 shots but passed up 10 more. They failed to pepper a young goalie making just his 10th NHL appearance and a Flyers defense which has been abused this season.
If you’re frustrated with the Penguins, you have company in their head coach, “we’ve talked about it and talked about it,” said Sullivan regarding their obtuse defense.
Sullivan also diagnosed another problem readers of PHN should be familiar–the Penguins lack of compete-level and support in the offensive zone. When the Penguins play simple, direct hockey with hard work in the corners and puck possession down low, they dominate. Few teams can compete with their size, skill, and speed.
Refer to the “three sticks” rule. When the Penguins are playing well, they have three sticks around the puck–whether that means a rush up ice, a defensive zone battle or working in the offensive zone. When they’re trying to be cute, it’s one stick.
However, when they play wide-open, expect cross-ice passes to be there and look for their highlight reel goals, they are every bit as beatable at the 2006 team which sputtered to last place.
Certain parts of the Penguins lineup have become stubborn, though my grandfather would have used something more colorful like “cement headed.”