For a few days, Pittsburgh Hockey Now chatted with some of the new guys who will presumably make a big difference in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup. While the Penguins’ core remains intact, the bottom six and the blue line got a good shuffle.
From the additional video tutoring, instinctual play, to a system that allows players to make mistakes, the new players shared what makes the Penguins different.
Learning a new system can be complicated. Typically, an adjustment period follows, especially for defensemen.
In the preseason, Penguins fans probably noticed a few spotty moments for defenseman Jeff Petry against Detroit on Monday, and Ty Smith has not been immune to a few blunders or outright whiffs, either.
New guys, new situations, and new methods.
“Obviously, we’re still covering some things … So I think we’re getting in that rhythm five-on-five,” Petry said. “Things kind of fell into place, and (I’m) understanding the system a little bit better, playing it, (things like) getting to know your partner and your teammates’ tendencies. So this is a step in the right direction.”
Petry, Ryan Poehling, Josh Archibald, Jan Rutta, and Smith are the newbs in black and gold.
It was a common theme, speaking to most of the new players who figure to inhabit the Penguins lines on a nightly basis, the straight ahead but intuitive nature of head coach Mike Sullivan’s system.
You already know the Penguins play fast, but the particulars are a not-so-delicate balance of responsibility, layers, and instinct.
“(The Penguins’ system) is just a lot more direct and kind of where to be — If you’re in the right spot, you’re rewarded for it. So I think that’s part of it.”
Poehling has increasingly settled into the lineup and played more confidently. He set up several offensive chances in the last couple of preseason games.
Penguins Compare & Contrast
As Archibald noted, he’s an old new guy. Seven years ago, Archibald broke into the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins after playing a couple of seasons for the WBS Penguins and even a stretch with the Wheeling Nailers in 2014-15.
Over three seasons, he played only 14 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins but plenty more with the WBS Penguins, including a couple of months with Sullivan in 2015 before Sullivan got the NHL call. In December 2017, the Penguins traded him to the Arizona Coyotes for depth goalie Michael Leighton.
Archibald has some experience with the way things were with the “new” Mike Sullivan.
“(Sullivan) lets you play, but there are things you need to do and systems to follow. When you’re out there, it’s a pretty straight line, pretty straightforward,” said Archibald. “But there’s definitely the small things. I think that one of (Sullivan’s) big things is you’ve got to take care of the little things. And the big things then take care of themselves.”
Petry noted a few things that make the Penguins successful, especially regarding Sullivan, the system, and training methods. He did not impugn other teams but did praise the Penguins’ “extras” and the reasons that Sullivan is the second longest-tenured head coach in the NHL.
“I think everything is built to prevent if something happens…where you’re not going into the corner, and if you fall or something, there’s a straight line to the net (for the puck carrier). And there are layers,” Petry said. “You know, I didn’t realize how much detail–everything goes with the video system and things–we’ve covered everything. Every question mark has been answered in terms of the system.”