Team Defense/Play Away from the Puck shines
Pittsburgh’s 7-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes had former Penguin Jordan Staal saying the Penguins made the Hurricanes look like a “high school” team and multiple Canes players echoing the word embarrassing on their performance.
“It was a team that made us look like a high school team,” Staal said via the News & Observer.
The Penguins are so explosive offensively that when they find that other gear combined with playing smothering defense from their play away from the puck like they did Friday night, it can be a lethal combination, especially against inferior teams.
The last two games have been the recipe that made Pittsburgh so hard to beat four times in a series last spring.
Scoring throughout the lineup, a commitment from the forwards to play all three zones and stability in goal from Matt Murray.
Even with the Penguins missing their top-2 defenseman, Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin, they’ve made up for it because the forward group is playing smothering defense with their speed in how they’re tracking the puck. It’s what overwhelmed clubs last spring and that trait has come back to the picture vs the Canadiens, Hurricanes this week.
“I know we’re not a real physical team with size and strength, but I think we can be physical in the sense that we use our quickness and our sticks to take time and space [away] and get our stick on the puck and make it hard for teams to make clean plays in all three zones,” Mike Sullivan said. “I thought the last two games might be two of our best all year, just as far as being more difficult to play against. Our game is starting to grow as far as our play away from the puck in our end zone.”