How can a great hockey team drop points?
Dumb penalties, that’s how.
The Penguins gave a seminar in stupid over their last two games and were lucky to split. The Penguins put Phoenix on the power play nine times, allowing two man-advantage goals en route to a 3-0 home loss. Then Philadelphia had seven chances with the extra skater, netting twice as the Pens eked out a 5-4 road victory.
Penalties are part of hockey. You need to take X amount by way of defending, playing hard and negating opposition opportunities when killing two minutes beats fishing a puck out of your net.
Don’t forget, they might not call it.
But to minimize the damage done by penalties…
*Don’t take offensive-zone penalties. You’re not in danger. The net you’re defending is over 100 feet away. There is zero upside.
*Don’t take careless penalties. Evgeni Malkin’s high-sticking double-minor vs. Phoenix wasn’t malicious. It was just reckless.
*Don’t let frustration get the better of you. Sidney Crosby’s two slashing infractions against the Coyotes in no way helped the Pens. They didn’t prevent chances, nor deliver a message. They just forced the trailing Penguins to play minus their best player and shorthanded for four minutes. Not a good way to catch up.
Matt Cooke took a tragic penalty against Phoenix. Cooke committed an offensive-zone infraction 40 seconds in. The Coyotes are a below-average team. They were on the road. They were playing the Stanley Cup champions. They were probably just looking for a soft place to land. Cooke’s penalty gave them hope, not to mention early momentum.
Jordan Staal was whistled for a brutal penalty in the second period at Philadelphia. Staal not only committed an offensive-zone penalty, it was born of frustration and put the Flyers up two men. Staal got tangled up with Kimmo Timonen, slashed him, Jeff Carter scored, the Penguins’ lead was cut to 4-3, game on.
The Penguins are 3-1. No complaint there. They won at Philadelphia, their fifth victory in their last seven visits to the Wachovia.
But if the Penguins are to maximize their chances of repeating as champions, discipline needs to be their watchword. You can’t turn it on and off as needed. Discipline must be a habit.
The Pens had some bad luck on Philadelphia’s second goal. Cooke lost his stick, clumsily tried to block a pass, and the puck bounced to Daniel Briere for a tap-in. My question: Why doesn’t a player who breaks his stick immediately skate to the bench and get a new one? Wouldn’t playing shorthanded for 7-8 seconds be better than the equivalent of playing shorthanded indefinitely?
To my knowledge, the only coach that had his players do what I’m suggesting was the late Fred Shero, the architect of the Flyers’ two Cup wins in 1974 and ’75 and father of Pens GM Ray Shero. “Freddie the Fog” was a non-traditionalist in many ways.
ANYTHING would be better than the events leading up to Philly’s fourth goal. Unless my eyes deceived me, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury broke his stick. Brooks Orpik handed his stick to Fleury. Cooke handed his stick to Orpik. Two guys were playing with unfamiliar sticks, one with no stick. Gee, it’s hard to believe the Flyers scored.