Insider Only Penguins – Blue Jackets: Telling signs series could extend beyond Game 5?

PIT-CBJ GAME 4 FALLOUT

“I don’t think we played the game the right way. You’ve got to stay on the right side of people. You’ve got to have some depth to your attack. You’ve got to reload on the 50-50 battles. If you don’t pay attention to those details, you’re going to give up odd-man rushes or high quality chances. We weren’t committed like our team usually is. I know we’re better. I know we will be better. We certainly weren’t good enough tonight” — Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.


The Columbus Blue Jackets forced a Game 5 with a 5-4 win on Tuesday night and while the Penguins have been the far better team in the series, Pittsburgh is a lucky break from a Brandon Dubinsky shot going off Marc Andre Fleury’s head in Game 3 from this series being tied 2-2 right now.

Are there any signs that this series could get extended to Game 6 or even Game 7?

The one thing that’s opened the door slightly is the Penguins have started to crack defensively.

Pittsburgh was lights out in Games 1 and 2 with their defensive commitment to shutting down the center of the ice and insulating Marc Andre Fleury in front.

The result was Fleury turning aside 70 of 72 shots and the Penguins earning two convincing wins to go up 2-0 in the series.

Games 3 and 4 started to see a lack of focus defensively emerge and the forward group playing too loose in their own end, which is problematic for this defensive personnel that needs help below the dots and short-support on breakouts as the struggles to get the puck up in transition has been there all series but often hidden by the Penguins high-end talent upfront.


Coming into Game 4, Penguin coaches were also falling into a trap of over-using Olli Maatta-Trevor Daley as their top defensive pairing.

The Blue Jackets Game 4 adjustment of attacking the Sidney Crosby line with a speed line in William Karlsson – Josh Andersen – Matt Calvert was a key adjustment that helped tilt Game 4 in the Blue Jackets favor as Crosby was held without a shot attempt and the Jackets had more speed and back pressure against the Crosby line.

The line also exposed the Penguins using Maatta with the Crosby line. When Matt Calvert and William Karlsson were on the ice against Maatta-Daley pairing, the Blue Jackets drove possession on 90% of their shot attempts.

Maatta and Daley were on the ice for 1 high danger chance For and a team-worst 10 high danger chances against. The Blue Jackets finally exposed the Maatta-Daley pairing and for things to get interesting in this series such as coming back to Columbus, that will have to continue in Game 5.

The way teams, especially the Penguins collapse to the middle of the ice defensively, it’s all about creating grade-A scoring chances in the high danger areas.

The Blue Jackets had 12 high danger chances combined in games 1 and 2, scoring two goals. They produced 28 combined high danger chances in games 3 and 4, scoring 9 goals.

Despite Matt Murray having far better numbers in stopping high danger shots, these last two games have been a good case against to the theory from the Fleury crowd claiming right now that he’s a better goaltender than Matt Murray to play behind an average defense.

As the high quality chances have dramatically improved for Columbus the last two games, so have the goals in the back of the Penguins net.


How good of a spot, though, are the Penguins in up 3-1?

They split two playoff road games after getting .892 save percentage goaltending in Game 3 and .853 save percentage goaltending in Game 4. That doesn’t happen often which brings us to Sergei Bobrovsky who has yet to even be average in the series.

The Blue Jackets survived Game 4 despite another mediocre game from Bobrovsky. The Penguins have been so good under Mike Sullivan in responding after a lackluster performance, 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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