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Insider Only Penguins – Blues Fallout: A blue print on how to defend smallish Penguins?


Penguins – Blues Fallout

The Penguins 3-0 shutout loss to the Blues Tuesday night has brought up talk of whether the Penguins Achilles heel will eventually be running into a heavy team built like the Blues.

The Penguins have struggled this season against the heaviest teams and have been lights out against the lightest teams. Per Jonathan Bombulie of the Trib, the Penguins are 7-0-0 against the five lightest teams.

St. Louis did a great job in taking away the center of the ice in the neutral zone and defensive zone, similar to how the Rangers would stifle the Penguins prior to last season. Against the Blues size on the backend, Pittsburgh didn’t have the same type of success below the dots like the they did in previous games of late where they overwhelmed the likes of Montreal and Carolina.

The Penguins are the lightest team in the NHL but this is not a real concern for now because their personnel is more built for the East than the West.

You get to the Stanley Cup Final by having to win three rounds in the East, not the West. Teams built like the Blues, Kings, just don’t exist in the East.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the 8th heaviest team in the NHL and the closest thing to a high level team in the East that is built similar to Western Conference teams. Washington after being the 3rd heaviest team in the NHL two seasons ago, has become a smaller team over the last year, now 10th.

Pittsburgh’s concern with these type of teams, should be more from a defensive standpoint in defending physical forwards below the circles and in the net-front than a blueprint being out there in how to slow down the Penguins offensively.

“I don’t think we have to change anything,” Sidney Crosby said. “It’s something you have to be aware of. Our speed is our biggest strength. When we use that, it’s hard for guys to finish checks if you’re getting by them and moving the puck quickly. We can’t change anything based on who we play, but we have to know what we’re in for.”

— The Penguins were 0-6 on the power play vs the Blues and the inability to gain possession off faceoffs was a factor.

Sidney Crosby was 2-9 (22%) on offensive zone faceoffs during 5-on-4 play.

Crosby was 4 of 13 on draws against Paul Stastny.

— A talking point for the Penguins today is Sidney Crosby’s possession numbers dipping with Bryan Rust on his line. The Crosby line was on the ice for 7 shot attempts, 9 against vs the Blues.

Among wingers Crosby has played with for over 100 minutes this season, Crosby’s possession numbers when on the ice with Rust is hovering around 50%.

Carl Hagelin – 62 CF%
Patric Hornqvist – 54.2 CF%
Conor Sheary – 53.7 CF%
Bryan Rust – 51 CF%.

Last season the Kunitz – Crosby – Hornqvist line was 57%.

Jake Guentzel pointless in his last three games continues to do the little things well by creating offense with controlled entries and patience in waiting for the play to develop.

Where Guentzel has to get more active is putting the puck on net. After recording 5 shots in NHL debut, Guentzel has 5 shots over his last nine NHL games.

Since his latest recall, he has just 2 shots in 5 games, one of those recorded shots was a deflection goal against the Canadiens.

Guentzel averaged 3 shots per game in the AHL.

Chris Kunitz to the fourth line has accomplished one feat for the Penguins coaching staff. Without Matt Cullen, Kunitz has improved the ability of the line in driving possession and getting controlled entries. Pittsburgh controlled 65% of their shot attempts when Kunitz – Fehr – Wilson were on the ice together last night.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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