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Insider Only Game 2 X’S & O’s: How Pens dictated Speed Game, while Sustaining “A” Game difficult task for both teams

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Game 2: What We Learned

Pittsburgh 2 – Washington 1

Shots: Pittsburgh 35 – Washington 24
Shots by Period: Pittsburgh | 1st: 14 | 2nd: 14 | 3rd: 7
Shots by Period: Washington | 1st: 5 | 2nd: 5 | 3rd: 14
Shot Attempts: Pittsburgh 79 – Washington 54
5 v 5 Goals For: Pittsburgh 2 – Washington 0
5 v 5 Shots: Pittsburgh 26 – Washington 18
5 v 5 Attempts: Pittsburgh 51 – Washington 42
5 v 5 Scoring Chances: Pittsburgh 24 – Washington 19


Through 129:33 played in the series after two games, this matchup is as simple as this.

When the Penguins play their speed game, Washington really struggles to combat it.

When the Capitals play their ‘A’ game (actually play with some desperation) of creating turnovers off the forecheck and using their size and strength below the hash marks, Pittsburgh struggles.

— Ranking the level of play by periods through two games on how each team controlled the play, not necessarily Goals For: —

Game 1:

1st Period: Washington | 2nd Period: Pittsburgh | 3rd Period: Pittsburgh | Overtime: Washington

Game 2:

1st Period: Pittsburgh | 2nd Period: Pittsburgh | 3rd Period: Washington

These two teams are too good where both are not going to be able to sustain their “A’ game for significant stretches. The opposition isn’t going to allow it.

And when they sustain their A-game for a long-stretch like the Penguins did for the first two periods of Game 2, it’s still going to be a daunting task of putting the other team away.

The Penguins had 45 shots in Game 1 but overall the play was about even from both teams. In Game 2 through the first forty minutes, Pittsburgh dictated the pace by playing a speed and possession game.

Considering the opponent, how well the Penguins transitioned out of their own end might have been the best all season and that’s saying something. They rarely let the puck get behind their own net.

It started with how effective the Penguin forwards were in pressuring the puck carrier. When Washington was trying to exit their own zone, the Penguins gave them little to no space which led to the puck getting thrown around the neutral zone by Washington. Washington wasn’t gaining the neutral zone to be able to get the puck deep and go in on the forecheck. Instead they were handing the puck back to Pittsburgh and the Penguins ‘D’ didn’t have to go chasing for the puck like Game 1.

It was like a game of hot potato as the Penguins ‘D’ would be retrieving puck just inside their own blue line, Washington aggressively would send two forwards chasing the puck carrier and the likes of Letang, Daley or Dumoulin make a quick simple pass up the ice and Pittsburgh was going the other way in a blink of the eye with the Capitals having two forwards caught deep.

You have to wonder if the best route for Washington moving forward will be sitting back more and trapping (1-1-3) in the neutral zone. Pittsburgh beating that first wave of pressure was clock work Saturday night.

Cullen lines joins the fray in playing speed game

A big key for Pittsburgh in the first two periods in dictating a speed game was the Matt Cullen line joining the fray that didn’t happen the game before. The line was a disaster in Game 1 in hemorrhaging shot attempts against.

When the Penguins have had some of their most complete games this post-season, Game 3 and 5 vs Rangers among them, the likes of Matt Cullen and Bryan Rust were dictating a speed game 5 v 5 and not playing in their own end for most of the game like Game 1 vs Washington and early in the Rangers series.

In Game 2, they were a force in creating things with their speed in periods one and two, even if the possession numbers were not good for Cullen in particular by games end.

Cullen drew two penalties in second period and when Tom Kuhnhackl is even above 45% in SAT%, you’re likely having a good night.

More Buzz

Nick Bonino picked up his 7th assist of the playoffs with a great pass to Carl Hagelin for the Penguins opening goal. A free agent after next season, this playoff run is going to make Bonino a $4 million a year + player on his next deal with whoever it is with. Scouts, Executives are buzzing about him around the league and see great playmaking ability when he’s playing with the right players. Certainly viewed as a second line capable center. Those type of players get $4 million.

Brooks Orpik facing a possible suspension has been on the ice for 4 of the Capitals 5 goals against at even strength in the series. He was beat in front by Eric Fehr for the game winning goal. That said, Dmitri Orlov or Mike Weber moving into the lineup for Orpik is a major drop off. Orpik has been very strong on the PK. One of the reasons a suspension is more likely than not is because the NHL rules so much by whether a player is injured or not.

— Penguins game winning goal came with the Malkin line against the Ovechkin line caught on a long-shift. Capitals, though, look to be playing with fire in having Tom Wilson out against Malkin so much. Over 8 minutes in Game 1, 6 + minutes in Game 2. When Malkin was on the ice vs Wilson (total 6:05 per War-on-Ice) the Penguins had 7 shot attempts 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

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