The Pittsburgh Penguins met an unceremonious end in 2018 because the forwards did not consistently participate in enough of the defensive responsibilities and because the defensemen were mistake prone. In Game One Wednesday night, the Penguins defensemen again looked like that ill-fated team instead of the stout defenders they’ve been for most of the season.
The New York Islanders were left uncovered, uncontested and left victorious over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in OT Wednesday night.
The reasons for the result are not as difficult as cracking the Da Vinci code. The Penguins defensemen committed an inordinate number of turnovers and made too many coverage mistakes. The Penguins struggled to exit their own zone cleanly as the New York dumped the puck in and aggressively pressured the puck. And New York played one of their best games.
New York played to their identity without fear. The Penguins had trouble maintaining the simple gritty game.
“We’ve got to get out of our end. We can’t score from 200 feet away, so we’ve got to do a better job of getting out of our end,” Sidney Crosby said. “And do a better job in the defensive zone.”
Crosby was referring specifically to his line but his words apply to every line. The Penguins were too often forced to chip the puck off the glass or softly to center ice just to get a line change or alleviate the pressure.
Brian Dumoulin returned to the lineup after being injured on March 31. He was the culprit when he left his post to make a hit and New York scored a power-play goal late in the first period.
Olli Maatta had rougher night than all Penguins defensemen combined. A couple of the goals were hung on his mistakes. Sometimes your windshield–sometimes you’re the bug. Wednesday night, Maatta was definitely not the windshield.
Kris Letang had four turnovers including the brutal turnover at the New York blue line which resulted in the two-on-one chance which ended the game in overtime.
Tactically, the Penguins struggled to get speed out of their zone. The bad ice helped. The New York forecheck helped more. The Penguins tried to fly the zone or transition to offense too quickly too many times which left their already struggling defensemen alone.