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Insider Only Post-Game Analysis: Failure to defend leads for “Revamped Defense”

Post-Game Observations
At the root of the Penguins epic third period collapse tonight was misreads and miscues by the Penguins who instead of trying to secure a lead played “risky” hockey.
“We made big mistakes, ” Captain Sidney Crosby said. “That’s basically what it was. Not like we gave them a ton of chances. One’s we did were big ones and they capitalized on them all. We got into playing pretty big risky hockey and we paid for it.”
The Bruins pounced on the Penguins miscues turning Penguins turnovers into goals. “We made some critical errors and critical reads in situations where we know the situation and we know the play to make and we didn’t make the play tonight and left our goaltender in a difficult spot on a couple of those and we have to be better in those areas to be successful, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
Coming into the season, defending leads was a top priority for the Penguins coaching staff and something that the Penguins believed was addressed with the revamping of their defense by dishing out $45 million combined to bringing Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek on board.
“I think we’ve improved with our defense and our ability to defend, and the mindset that’s something we’re going to be doing, protecting leads and winning one goal games, ” Bylsma said on October 5th, two days before the Penguins 2010-2011 season opener.
Through 16 games, the Penguins revamped defense has not delivered in one of the most important areas of being an elite team.
“Standard that we want to play is managing the puck in the game and we’ve not done that as well as we need to in situations when we’ve been up, ” Bylsma said in his post-game comments. “We did not do that, well tonight.”
“Decisions with the puck and even some of our reads need to be better in those situations and that’s something we talk about, ” Bylsma said.
As a whole defensively, the Penguins appeared to play a more team game when they were missing key defensemen but now with their top-7 intact, the unit is regressing.
From an individual analysis breakdown, Alex Goligoski had a horrific game against Boston. He played a factor (in a negative way) in four of the Bruins first five goals.
Goligoski’s decision making was extremely poor, getting caught in the neutral zone on Brad Marchand’s 1st period tally and making a major mental mistake in pinching for the puck along the left boards, that led to an odd-man break and Shawn Thornton scoring the game winning goal.
Goligoski though hasn’t been the only defensemen who is underachieving or regressing.
Paul Martin has taking a step back defensively after playing like one of the best two-way defenseman in the league during the first handful of hockey games.
However, the concern for me is with….

Zbynek Michalek. His play at times in a Penguins uniform has been a nightmare and he was beaten badly in the corner by Mark Recchi leading to Boston’s sixth goal, which is inexcusable.
I hate to knock a player whose only appeared in seven games this season but as I’ve stated in the past, I just don’t have the feeling Michalek is going to be the type of dominant defender that his contract may indicate he should be.
Michalek to me is a younger version of Mark Eaton getting Dan Hamhuis money.
The Penguins have a significant amount of money invested into their top-4 blueliners and this is a group that has to establish themselves into being a dominant group or the Penguins are going to be facing cap hell with a deal like Michalek’s, who you can make a strong argument is and will be the Penguins 4th best defenseman behind Letang, Orpik and Martin.
Ben Lovejoy got back into the lineup tonight and was a team worst minus-3 in the game along with Pascal Dupuis and Mark Letestu. Not the kind of impression he was looking to make.

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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