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Insider Only Game 4: It’s a big night for Mike Sullivan to try to get this tuned out group to buy-in and execute needed adjustments


Game 4 Pre-Game Buzz

Will the Penguins really go down this quietly?

What continues to be so stunning from the Penguins through three games is not just how they’ve been out-classed, out-performed in all three zones, but how hap-less they’ve been with no pushback as the noise is getting louder and louder over the last 24 hours that some in the room can’t wait for this season to end.

And that type of talk isn’t about some 4th liners getting 7-8 minutes a night.

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That’s what makes tonight so interesting on whether there’s actually going to be a pushback from the Penguins and a group that comes out and plays with some actual pride.

If they fall in Game 4, will it be going down swinging or just another Game 3 ‘whatever’ attitude?

The first 5-7 minutes could tell us a lot on the Penguins care level.

For how bad this group played in the third period of Game 3 when an 0-3 hole possibility was staring right at them, if there’s no drive to come out and set the tone early that they’re not going down quietly, then it will be clear in period one on how this one is likely going to go.

Tonight is also going to be about what if any adjustments the Penguins show.

The lines will see some tweaks and what I kind of like with the tweaks is having a north-south player on the top three lines with McCann up with Crosby/Guentzel, Rust with Malkin/Kessel and Horqvist with Blugstad/Simon. What I don’t like is Teddy Blueger not getting back in the lineup when he’s clearly one of your top-12 forwards. Jake Guentzel replacing Patric Hornqvist on the top power play unit which we finally saw some in Game 3 was a long-time coming as Hornqvist hands are completely shot at this stage of his career and Guentzel is a sneaky good player on screens where you everything he brings out-weighs Hornqvist being an elite net-front player that you lose with removing him from PP1.

Some line tweaks were obviously going to happen but most telling tonight will be whether some needed on-ice adjustments are actually implemented and the biggest question mark of all — actually executed–.

It’s a big night for Mike Sullivan.

He’s not on the hot seat, but he’s looked like a coach who’s trying to implement a style he doesn’t have the personnel for anymore and if adjustments have actually tried to be implemented by the staff, the Penguins sure look everything of a hockey club then that has tuned their head coach out.

The writing has been on the wall for this series that a conservative, less risk style would benefit the Penguins to try to beat the Islanders at their own game, but we have yet to see any of it.

Outside of Pittsburgh, some evaluators feel the best thing for the Penguins long-term would be to go out tonight so the organization can have a proper evaluation on how to re-tool this roster the right way for Sidney Crosby’s final prime years. If you believe in Mike Sullivan as being one of the NHL’s elite coaches, management has take a hard look at what core/mid-tier players they need to get out of here and the type of players to bring in to get back to being a coached Sullivan team that excels at creating offense but most importantly playing with structure that has left this group completely.

If Elite Structure/Inferior Talent toppling the Higher Talent/No Structure Penguins isn’t a wakeup call for this organization then I don’t know what will be. This Penguins’ team is lacking smart, disciplined players from a situational standpoint among their heavy minute players. That’s been exposed this series and at points this season.

Last year losing to the Capitals was a situation of just going down to a more talented team. You can live with that. The 0-3 hole against the Islanders is so eye opening because it’s an Islanders team that’s just tremendously structured and disciplined in all three zones as that combination has overwhelmed the Penguins so much because those intangibles are just not built-in with this Penguins group anymore.

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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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