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Insider Only Game 3 Analysis: Alfredsson shorthanded goal stands as a symbol of how special teams game has swung in favor of Sens

R2G3pic1PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PLAYOFF ANALYSIS
SPECIAL TEAMS
ROUND 2, GAME 3
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
Pittsburgh walked away from their 2-1 loss in double overtime in Game 3 with a lot of “what-if” scenarios. Going 0-for-6 on the power play was a big one of those, but none was bigger than the game-tying, shorthanded goal they allowed in the final minute of regulation. The play was nearly inexcusable and could prove to be the turning point if Ottawa goes on to win the series.
But for now, the shorthanded goal stands as a symbol of how the special teams game has swung in favor of the Senators in the series. The Penguins dominated Game 1 on both the power play and penalty kill. They have maintained their edge while down a man, but Ottawa has seemingly solved and smothered the Pittsburgh power play. It was nearly forgotten that the Senators had the league’s #1 power play in the regular season, but that point shines through strongly now.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS POWER PLAY
Power Play Goals = 0
Power Play Opportunities = 6
Power Play Percentage = 0%
Power Play Shots = 12
5-on-3 Situations = 1 opportunity (0:58), 0 goals, 2 shots
Shorthanded Chances = 3 shots allowed, 1 goal against
Minutes of Power Play Time = 10:38
Power Play Faceoffs = 10 of 17, 58.8%
Primary 1st unit = Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Kunitz, Neal
Primary 2nd unit = Martin, Iginla, Niskanen, Morrow, Sutter
Power Play Goal Scorers = none
Analysis:
  • The hindsight analysis of the shorthanded goal raises this debate: why put your top unit of offensive stars in a very passive mode in the final 90 seconds instead of putting out a defensive-oriented unit (the old “power play 3” again)? It did seem as though the next group on the ice was going to be just that, as Brandon Sutter had already jumped on for Sidney Crosby, but it was not soon enough. Or if the top power play had potentially gone after zone time, the outcome may have been different. Instead they dumped the puck and dropped back. Questionable coaching, for sure, but in the end, the players need to execute, especially your stars.
  • The ad-lib approach continues to be employed often, giving the power play the full freedom to improvise. It is feast or famine when it comes to this method for the Penguins, and unfortunately for them, it has been famine for the past two games. When they are in-sync, they are unpredictable to the opposition and capable of scoring in a multitude of ways. When they are out-of-sync, they are unpredictable to each other and prone to bad turnovers.
  • Similarly, the improvisation of personnel on the top unit does not help them stay in a rhythm. Last night’s game saw Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang joined by a mix of Chris Kunitz, Jarome Iginla, James Neal, and Paul Martin over the course of the five power plays. The combination of ad-libbing and rotation players just does not lead to consistency. Pittsburgh is going to have to pick one or the other if they expect to get their power play back on track, and to this point in the series, they seem to create much better chances when they get set, particularly with Letang at center point, Malkin on the right win, and Crosby at the bottom of the right circle.
  • As a whole, the Penguins need to create more rebound opportunities. This is especially true when they put Neal, Kunitz, and even Crosby around the net. They seem to be shooting as if Evgeni Nabokov is still in the opposing net, not Craig Anderson, who got beat low often in the first two games.
  • Malkin knew right away that he made a mistake during the five-on-three. Chris Phillips was without a stick on the lower left side of the zone, and the Penguins worked the puck to the top-right of their Box+1 formation. Malkin chose to shoot instead of trying to explode the weakness back to the other corner of the ice. This would not have been a bad choice had there been a rebound from the shot, but Craig Anderson made an aggressive save and smothered the puck into his body.
  • The Penguins were rather poor on face-offs throughout regulation time, but they were very strong on draws with the man advantage. Crosby in particular won several draws, going an eye-opening 71% (15-for-21) on face-offs in this offensive zone over the course of the night.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS PENALTY KILL
Power Play Goals Allowed = 0
Power Play Opportunities = 3
Penalty Kill Percentage = 100%
Power Play Shots Allowed = 2
5-on-3 Situations = 0 opportunities, 0 goals, 0 shots
Total Time Shorthanded: 5:36
Shorthanded Chances = 0 shots, 0 goals
Shorthanded Faceoffs = 1 of 4, 25.0%
Analysis:
  • The Penguins did a lot of things right in Game 3, and their penalty kill could very well be at the top of that list. Not only did they blank Ottawa on three tries, they were strong on their kill in the overtime. On top of that, Ottawa was limited to just two shots with the man advantage, and one of those was a bad-angle shot from the left wing boards.
  • Shot-blocking was superb for Pittsburgh all night collecting 29 total blocks in the game. Many of those came during the time spent shorthanded, including a few from Douglas Murray and several from Martin and Brooks Orpik. Multiple other shot attempts were forced wide simply because Pittsburgh had a body squarely in the shooting lane.
  • Not only are bodies lined up to disrupt shots, the Penguins are constantly positioning themselves in the right spots during the penalty kill. There are bodies at the blue line on zone entry, there is a body fronting every Senator that tries to set up on the back door, and there are stick very actively disrupting passing attempts. For as much as the power play has faltered lately, the penalty kill has raised their execution to even greater heights.
  • The penalty kill in the second overtime was a thing of beauty for Pittsburgh. It was a high-pressure situation, but the team showed no sign of panic. Ottawa got nothing going for any of their two minutes with the extra man. Unfortunately, the PK was almost too good because they generated a counter-attack as the penalty expired, which prompted Matt Niskanen to join the rush coming out of the penalty box. That ultimately put three defensemen on the ice, causing the Penguins to be out-of-sync with each other when the play returned to their defensive zone. That confusion resulting in the game-winning goal from the Senators.
  • Martin has quietly been the Penguins’ most-consistent player in the post-season. Night in and night out, he is contributing on both sides of the special teams game, moved the puck well out of his own end, matched-up against the opposition’s better players, and generated a good bit of offense. His 8 shots blocks last night provided yet another impressive stat to his post-season resume.

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Dave Fryer

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