Dunlap: Penguins Power Play Should Be Difference

Colin Dunlap
April 10, 2019 - 2:16 pm
Sidney Crosby

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - You probably have heard this before. I’m guessing if you have immersed yourself --- or even just had a tepid interest --- in the coverage leading up to the first-round series that begins tonight between the Penguins and Islanders, I am sure you have heard this.

You ready? Here goes: This might be boring hockey. It might be plodding, it could be laboring and pedantic. It might just be something of a snoozer of a series. 

The Islanders will make it that way. That’s their style and system. 

Don’t fret --- it might also be exactly what the Penguins need to do to stay disciplined and carry out the smartest game plan with the best chance at winning. Weird how that works, but the Penguins playing into someone else’s structure could just be the perfect plan in all of this. 

You see, the Isles will set up that picket fence across their defensive blue line. At times it might look like a game of Red Rover --- which, incidentally, I’m guessing they probably aren’t permitted to play in school anymore because someone complained. 

So what do you do if you are the Penguins? 

Don’t get beat deep. Don’t pinch in with your defensemen. Don’t allow a breakout the other way and, most certainly, don’t get caught up in trying to race through the middle only to be left unable to carry the puck into the offensive zone. 

Instead, chip away. Then chip some more. Then, if that isn’t working, keep chipping. Eventually the stone will crack. 

Chip that puck, dump that puck and go chase it with a heavy forecheck. The Penguins need to use their speed and skill advantage ---- and they have both ---- to beat the Isles to 50/50 pucks and then get into an offensive rhythm.

As pretty as that isn’t, it probably will serve the Penguins best in this series and patience and persistence is something that should prevail. 

But there is something in all of this that hasn’t been talked about nearly enough. Just how much damage the Penguins could do on special teams and how poor the Islanders are on those units. 

I anticipate a Penguins puck-cycling wherein they dump the puck, go get it and are able to command some zone time. While in it, ask yourself, aren’t the Penguins’ forwards simply better than the Islanders’ defensemen? It says here they are. And it says here that the Isles can’t just sit back and wait; that they won’t be able to pack it in and block every single shot. At some point there will need to be engagement and, more to the point, at some juncture some of the game will need to be played in the neutral zone.

Know what that leads to? The Penguins getting hauled down. The Isles players not being able to match skill with Pittsburgh. 

And it all will come back to that Islanders team that ranks 18th in the NHL in penalty kill trying to stop a power play that has Crosby, Kessel, Malkin, Hornqvist and Letang on it. And although they had a penchant for yielding shorthanded goals, what’s perhaps lost in everything is they finishing fifth in the NHL in scoring this season.

Fifth. Yes, fifth. All that and seemingly all we hear about it how poorly they played with the man advantage. 

Again, they were fifth. 

So for me if the Penguins show a patience, if they are able to endure the brand of hockey the Islanders will undoubtedly attempt to impose, they will get their power play chances. 

And it says here that will be the difference. ​

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