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Insider Only Series Buzz: Penguins eyeing more balance to matchup against Caps line changes from Game 5

Series Buzz

Game 6: Capitals @ Penguins

Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals saw a shake of the lines pay dividends in the third period of Game 5 and tonight in Game 6 it will be the Pittsburgh Penguins shaking things up.

In a close out situation again, Mike Sullivan and the Penguins coaching staff are experimenting with going back to the HBK line as there was a shakeup this morning with the top-9:

Sidney Crosby centered Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist; Evgeni Malkin centering Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust; Nick Bonino centering his old pals Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel with Chris Kunitz – Matt Cullen – Tom Kuhnhackl rounding out the four lines.

It’s basically the same top three lines as last post-season, with the rookie Guentzel in Kunitz’ place on the Malkin line.

“We’re trying to put lines together that we think gives us the best chance to win,” Sullivan said this morning. “We evaluate that on a game by game basis with the players that we have available to us. We try to put lines together that we think give us the balance that we’re looking for.

The HBK line has failed all season in trying to rekindle their magic from the 2016 postseason. The line drove possession around 45% during the regular season.

Sullivan going back to the HBK line is newsworthy but maybe more newsworthy this morning was Sullivan being a bit critical of Evgeni Malkin who leads the NHL in playoff scoring, by sending a message that Malkin needs to do some things better, despite the point totals.

Sullivan wants to see Malkin hang on the puck longer and let plays develop.

“He can be a dangerous player when he hangs on to the puck and he forces our opponents to defend against him,” Sullivan said. “We’re hopeful tonight that he’ll have the puck more, and he’ll hang on to the puck more and he’ll be more patient with it. He’ll force them to defend him and then make his plays off of that.”

The Penguins have tried to match Malkin up against the Capitals bottom-6 but that didn’t play out in Game 5 on the road as Malkin went head-to-head against Evgeny Kutznetsov for 7:42 at even strength.

Is losing Trevor Daley a loss for the Penguins tonight?

Penguin coaches certainly believe he’s a loss, but those on the outside of that room are likely more in the ‘no’ department.

Daley’s play has not been good this series and of the six, he’s graded out the worst through five games.

But, will the Penguins make the right move with his replacement?

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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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