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Insider Only Penguins – Capitals What We Learned



Washington Capitals

The Penguins 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals Tuesday night can be looked at in a lot of ways.

One way to look at the Penguins night is to take a positive spin out of it in that the Penguins played the Capitals competitive in a back-to-back situation and did some things well that could cause Washington trouble in a seven-game series.

What I did like, though, was some of the quotes coming out of the Penguins room. When the Penguins have lost to some quality (playoff) teams of late, it’s normally the same complacency with comments like ‘we had our chances, we deserved better, ect.’

Last night there seemed to be some frustration from a few that the Penguins after taking a 2-0 lead and dictating the game in the first 20 minutes, struggled to handle the Capitals push back and were never able to grab momentum back once the Capitals made it a 2-1 game, 4:24 into the second period.

“We’ve got to simplify the game when we lose momentum. We’ve got to grab a hold of it. It starts with one shift” — Mike Sullivan.

“We need to learn from this. Lucky that is happened now and not later in the season — Patric Hornqvist

“They had a push back. They picked it up a little bit, and maybe we didn’t match it” — Bryan Rust

Big picture I think we learned some things where each team can cause each other problems.

The Penguins two goals were examples of areas they can cause the Capitals trouble — Capitalizing on mental mistakes Washington makes in defending the neutral zone —

Pittsburgh is now a team that is most dangerous when attacking with speed through the neutral zone and attacking off the rush. Zone entries are so critical to their offensive success.

On Evgeni Malkin’s goal, Brooks Orpik goes for a big hit on Carl Hagelin just by Pittsburgh’s bench and the Penguins were off to the races with Malkin scoring off a 2-on-1 rush.

Pittsburgh’s second goal of the game, Washington makes a bad change and gets scattered in the neutral zone, the Penguins capitalize with a pretty goal from Hornqvist.

The Penguins are not a team built to impose their will in the net-front area against teams that box out well and collapse to the middle like the Rangers, Capitals do. It’s all about winning the neutral zone for them. They did early in the game vs Washington and not so much after that.

For Washington, we saw when they started to ratchet up the physicality led by Alexander Ovechkin in the second period, the Capitals started to overwhelm Pittsburgh physicality. Washington’s ability to wear down teams over sixty minutes is their greatest attribute and that will especially be the case in a seven game series.

Pittsburgh can skate with Washington and a good argument to be made that they’re a faster team, but the Capitals 1-12 have a superior combination of skill/physicality upfront that projects to wear a type of blueline the Penguins have down as it did Tuesday night.

Coming out of this game, there’s lots of talk that the Capitals are a slightly better matchup for the Penguins than Pittsburgh facing the Rangers. That’s one I will buy, especially if John Carlson is not fully healthy for round 1.

As long as Marc Andre Fleury doesn’t revert back to 2012 or 2013 playoff Marc Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh would have a good chance of being competitive with the Capitals with a lot of games likely being one-goal games.

One of the reasons Jim Rutherford was so obsessed with acquiring Phil Kessel last summer is he looked at the Rangers series last spring as one where the Penguins were able to play tight scoring games with a superior team and felt having a Phil Kessel could have been the difference in making one more play than the Rangers.

The problem with that belief is more often than not, Kessel doesn’t show up against teams like the Capitals, Rangers that play with great structure and are very effective at keeping passive wingers like Kessel outside the dots.

Kessel had one shot on goal and one shot attempt in the loss to the Capitals and his first shot didn’t come until three minutes into the third on a chance in front off a setup from Evgeni Malkin where he fanned on the opportunity.

If there’s any disappointment for the Penguins having a missed opportunity last night in getting two points, it was the Capitals able to limit Sidney Crosby without Carlson in the lineup. Crosby was held without a shot and had a poor possession night at 35.4 % (5 v 5).

Bryan Rust was +16 in corsi differential 5 v 5, Sidney Crosby was minus-9. If that’s reverse, maybe the Penguins come out with a point or two.

Where the Capitals had success in limiting Crosby was using Mike Richards on him 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

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