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Changing the Coach Wasn’t going to fix Penguins Biggest Problem — Perimeter Offense —


The Penguins 3-0 loss to the Bruins saw Pittsburgh have a 34-29 edge in shots, including a 59-37 edge in shot attempts at even strength. They ran into a hot goaltender again, right?

Only paid team reporters and some fan blogs might be writing about that today.

There’s wasn’t much to like from the Penguins in the loss. Through two games under Mike Sullivan we’ve seen an improvement in the Penguins getting the puck out of their own zone quicker with less reliance on the defensemen carrying the puck out of the zone themselves.

That was better vs the Bruins and puck possession wasn’t the issue. But, when you’re a perimeter offense (that doesn’t get quality shots) like the Penguins are, puck possession numbers on a nightly basis becomes overrated.

Among the issues vs Boston was forwards supporting each other in the attacking zone, which has been very poor this season and it’s continued to be poor so far under Sullivan. The Penguins are often too spaced out or players are flat footed when receiving passes. The forwards are far too often caught in situations where they have to make a 1-on-1 play.

What it all comes down to is at the forefront of the Penguins inability to score is how they’re built.

Change coaches all you want but everything points to the Penguins remaining a perimeter offense. That’s who they are, while the Penguins who are willing to mix things up in front like Patric Hornqvist can’t make a skilled play if their life depended on it. It’s just a bad combination.

This quote from Mike Sullivan stood out last night.

“We can’t be kind of a one-and-done team,” Sullivan said. “We have to stay engaged. We have to become a next play team and constantly re-engaging in a battle.”

The way Sullivan wants his team to play, I’d venture to say he’d rather have the forward group from last year that included gritty players like Daniel Winnik, Blake Comeau, Steve Downie and Max Lapierre than this group that doesn’t engage much and has to rely so much on making perfect shots. Those are Tortorella/Sullivan type players.

Why do the Penguins miss the net so much?

Because they are so wired to pick corners and make perfect shots. Hard to envision that suddenly changing.


— Another concerning aspect from the loss to the Bruins — Boston’s top players, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron were much more impactful than Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby —

— You always have to weary of overrating small samples, especially games where a player is making his NHL debut or debut for a new team. Eric Fehr’s first two games as a Penguin he looked like the second coming of Jordan Staal.

That said, making his NHL debut, Conor Sheary provided the type of speed and youth the Penguins need. Sheary was quick on pucks and created space for his line mates. It had Mike Sullivan who called Sheary’s game afterwards “terrific”, bumping him up to the Malkin line mid-way through the second period. Likely to be a drop off sooner than later but Sheary certainly earned himself more of an audition.

— The odd Penguins setup on power play went about as expected. This power play has little chance of becoming a respectable unit until they find a power play QB who can walk the blueline. Don’t ask Ranger fans about Mike Sullivan and the power play….

— Sullivan has taken complete control of the forward lines. Around eight minutes left in the third and trailing 2-0, Sullivan went over to Rick Tocchet to see who he had up next, Tocchet points to Malkin line, Sullivan over-rides Tocchet and puts out the Cullen line. Cullen has seen an increased role at even strength, playing 12:22 5 v 5 against the Bruins.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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