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Insider Only Penguins – Flyers X’s & O’s: Smart Hockey, Little Things are Shining for the Penguins

Inside Pittsburgh Sports

PENGUINS – FLYERS X’s & O’s

The Pittsburgh Penguins 6-2 thrashing of the Philadelphia Flyers tonight followed a familiar theme for the Penguins.

Contributions throughout the lineup from skaters 1-18 whether it was putting the puck in the net, being ferocious on the forecheck, to blocking shots, or tracking the puck, the Penguins put together another great team effort.

Offensively the Penguins continue to find that other gear, especially on home ice where they seem to have another level in them. Tonight’s win marked the fourth straight game with five goals or more and the sixth time in eight games.

The Penguins have developed a special ability to not only get a couple goals in bunches to take control of the game but to also provide a momentum changing goal when there’s a push from the opposition.

They got both tonight in sinking the Flyers.

Pittsburgh jumped on the Flyers with two first period goals, a power play marker from Sidney Crosby and a 5 v 5 goal from Beau Bennett after a beautiful individual effort from Conor Sheary. The significance was scoring the two goals a 1:05 apart.

Then came the Penguins ability to answer the Flyers anytime there was a push.

Wayne Simmonds scored with 42 seconds left in the second period to get the Flyers on the board and go into the second intermission down 3-1.

4:14 into the third period, Carl Hagelin puts the Penguins up 4-1.

Jake Voracek gets the Flyers within two goals again at 8:04 of the period with his 11th of the season and a 1:39 later Eric Fehr scores to make it 5-2 Penguins.

Tracking the Puck/Relentless on the Forecheck

The Penguins were relentless on the forecheck that caused the Flyers fits and the puck ending up in the back of Steve Mason’s net.

Patric Hornqvist netted his 21st goal of the season in the second period by ripping a shot past Steve Mason and Hornqvist was rewarded for the work he did himself leading to the goal.

Hornqvist is right there with Sidney Crosby whose game transformed this season with the coaching change. The attacking style of the forecheck has been a big reason why.

On the goal, Hornqvist pressures Gostisbehere in the corner and most importantly he keeps tracking the puck in then creating a turnover along the wall with pressure on Wayne Simmonds.

The relentlessness on the forecheck was coming from all four lines, also highlighted by Tom Kuhnhackl’s hit on Andrew MacDonald that led to Eric Fehr’s goal to give the Penguins a 5-2 lead.

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The angles many players are taking in tracking the puck carrier continues to be much improved for the Penguins in recent weeks.

“How hard they’re playing and how smart they’re playing. It’s a combination of those two things,” Mike Sullivan said afterwards about the Penguins dominant play of late in certain areas.

How smart the Penguins are playing as Sullivan mentions says it all and it’s the ‘little things’ that don’t show up in the box score.

The Fehr goal off the MacDonald turnover exemplifies the impact Matt Cullen is making from the little things like the angle he takes on Andrew MacDonald leading to the turnover, to the skilled play he makes seconds later in setting up Fehr.

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The primary goal for the F1 on the forecheck is forcing the puck carrier to their backhand. Cullen does his job perfectly in forcing MacDonald, not a strong puck handler, to his backhand that leads to MacDonald getting thumped into the boards by Kuhnhackl.

This little things like taking proper angles in forcing the puck carrier to their backhand in the defensive zone might seem like small potatoes but those type of little things are why the Penguins are a machine right now.

It doesn’t just stop there.

After the Islanders win, talked about how well the Penguins now play away from the puck. How effectively they track the puck through the neutral zone and into the d-zone was on display again tonight.

With the personnel defensively the Penguins have, they should not be playing the type of suffocating defense they are but they’ve been so good defensively because of how the forwards are playing away from the puck with their structure defensively and ability to track the puck carrier.

Here in the second period Pierre Bellemare has a zone entry into the Penguins zone and he has nowhere to go.

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Four skaters are back in the defensive zone with Dumoulin man-to-man vs Bellemare, Hagelin and Daley covering the weak side, Bonino covering strong side and Kessel tracking the puck carrier on the backcheck giving the Penguins a fifth skater entering the d-zone.

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What this allows is Brian Dumoulin to be aggressive and step up on Bellemare who turns the puck over to Nick Bonino. Pittsburgh’s success defensively is coming above the hash marks 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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