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PHN EXTRA: ‘We Don’t Make it Easy’, Penguins Report Card vs. Dallas



Penguins Trade, Matt Murray Pittsburgh Penguins
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 02: Pittsburgh Penguins Goalie Matt Murray (30) tries to cover a rebound during the second period of the National Hockey League game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers on January 2, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

In recent weeks, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been extended to overtime and the shootout with regularity despite outplaying their opponents. Saturday night, the Penguins got one back as the Dallas Stars had greater quality and greater volume of offensive chances. The universe tends to even things out as the Penguins got brilliant goaltending and sniping for a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Arena.

Jared McCann’s two goals were the result of his speed and his linemates, as Teddy Blueger set him up for the fantastic Spin-o-Rama goal and Phil Kessel’s burst of speed put Kessel in the middle of a D-to-D pass which he handed back to McCann for the sniping goal.

However, the Penguins couldn’t resist tempting fate. Or poking it with a stick. Almost like a compulsion to beat the hockey gods, the Penguins Bryan Rust took a penalty with only minutes remaining. If they can’t hold the lead when the other team has an extra attacker, how about two extra attackers?

“We don’t make it easy on ourselves,” Sidney Crosby chuckled in a moment of levity. “Goodness, it was 6v5; we had to make it 6v4 to really test ourselves.”

It’s important to note the tactical approach the Penguins employed in the final minutes. Building on their aggressive PK from Nashville which was successful, the Penguins attacked the final two minutes despite being shorthanded. Dallas had little space or room to set up. The Penguins pressured the puck and the points to avoid puck carriers having time to find open players.

“That was a big kill. Murr [sic] made some unbelievable saves, but it was good to close that one out, that way,” Crosby said.

The Dallas Stars would do well in the Metro Division (but don’t give the NHL any ideas). They forechecked the daylights out of the Penguins, often sent at least two forwards deep into the zone and they crashed the net. They’re big and they’re talented. Wow, is their top line talented; Alexander Radulov is the elusive, skilled, big winger which the Penguins have always wanted but never had (at least in this generation).

There were too many plays to count which I had to watch several times to figure out how it developed, mostly from the Dallas top line. On one sequence in the middle of the first period, after Brian Dumoulin and Patric Hornqvist couldn’t connect cleanly to exit the zone. Dallas–in two passes–set up Roope Hintz for a glorious chance. The amazing thing–Hintz didn’t even look at the puck. He turned and darted for the net before Dallas made the interception at the blue line.

You can’t analyze that.

Dallas also sought to neutralize the Penguins low game with superior numbers, too. Dallas often ceded the wall battle to surround the puck. The Bjugstad line had specific trouble with this tactic as they cornered the Penguins low play then transitioned.

The Penguins found success when they were faster. For example–Jared McCann who scored two goals. He and Teddy Blueger were standouts.

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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.