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Insider Only Game 1 X’s & O’s: Penguins have expected success with targeting Dan Girardi with speed

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Game 1: PENGUINS – RANGERS X’s & O’s

Sidney Crosby (1 goal, 2 assists) and Patric Hornqvist (3 goals, 1 assist) combined for seven points and predictably it was a Penguins 5-2 Game 1 win.

“Regardless of their goalie, what stings is we talked about doing a better job against their top line and we didn’t do it,” Rangers center Derek Stepan said via The Record.

If the Rangers want to hang their hat on anything, I’m sure there’s someone in their analytic department who will point out to the coaching staff that Crosby and Hornqvist did have a poor night in driving possession.

Crosby posted a 41.1 CF% (16 CF/23 CA), Hornqvist 47%.

The key area to watch in Game 1 was how the Rangers matched up against Crosby defensively with Ryan McDonagh out.

Not surprising, Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein were most successful against Crosby, similar to the regular season meetings.

At even strength, the Penguins controlled just 24% (4 CF/13CA) of their shot attempts when Crosby was on the ice against Yandle and 35% vs Klein. The Yandle-Klein pairing projected to be the best option in defending Crosby and it was.

The pairing Crosby and his linemates projected to be able to exploit was the Marc Staal – Dan Girardi pairing, notably Girardi.

That also played out in Game 1.

Pittsburgh’s first two goals of the game, both even strength goals, were situations where the Penguins either won a foot race or got behind the Rangers D.

Both situations were the Penguins getting behind Dan Girardi.

One luxury for the short-term of not having 12 forwards to dress who can actually play in all three zones, is it gives the coaching staff more opportunities to let Sidney Crosby get a shift here and there in centering the fourth line to keep the Rangers off-guard.

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With under a minute to play in the first period, Conor Sheary got a shift with Crosby and Hornqvist.

Hornqvist makes a simple cross-ice dump to Girardi’s side and Sheary who was one of the best forwards on the ice, wins the foot race by blowing past Girardi to setup Hornqvist for the late first period goal.

This was the scouting report coming in for the Penguins. Get the puck behind the Rangers slow footed d-men like Girardi.

While Crosby was very much in the negative in driving possession against the likes of Yandle-Klein, among others, he had a quality 75 Shot Attempt For % when on the ice against Girardi 5 v 5, including 2 goals for – 0 against when on the ice against Girardi.

Crosby’s breakaway goal with a 1:04 left in the second period was a combination of things the Penguins do so well now.

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The play up the wall started with Crosby going hard at Girardi at the point in forcing a quick shot to the net and Pittsburgh’s ability to pack middle has become a staple for them defensively Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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