The Pittsburgh Penguins plain and simple have a system problem that right now falls on the shoulders of the coaching staff. Mike Sullivan does not believe in having a heavy style of play at the forward position but Sullivan along with management prioritized over the summer of getting heavier on the backend. Yet, Sullivan and his staff are still running a system like they have six Mike Matheson’s who have the green light at every instance to pinch and think join the play, join the play at all costs. When you’re flawed personnel wise in some areas like the Penguins are right now, simple can better, yet, none of the power players in the organization from the coaches to the core players see it that way. Hence, the Penguins have a system problem combined with a lack of believing they need to change or want to change from the top players on the team on down.

Newsflash to the coaches and players, you don’t have the horses on the backend to run the system like the Penguins are still trying to do like it’s 2016 with Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Trevor Daley who excelled at joining the rush in waves.

Mike Sullivan’s system is all about pushing the pace with three players attacking and pinching the walls when possessing in the offensive zone. It’s a heavy emphasis on d-men joining the neutral zone rush from the weakside. And this way of thinking is absolutely killing the Penguins play away from the puck. Pittsburgh has a major problem with too many playing disinterested hockey when the pucks not on their stick, but this coaching staff has been their own worst enemy in not adjusting to the personnel.

Nothing exposed this more than the Penguins 6-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. Pittsburgh was outscored 5-1 during 5-vs-5 play against a bottom feeder team on an east coast trip that was playing the second night of a back-to-back.

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It’s all coming back to the system and a lack of not wanting to change. It’s not the third pair and bottom-level forwards just playing pond hockey. It’s pretty much a collective team issue right. Pittsburgh’s at the point of the season where every point is monumental. Here the team is four minutes from getting to overtime, a neutral zone turnover with all three forwards at the Sharks blueline in no man’s land leads to the puck in the back of the Penguins net. Forwards providing poor puck support has also been a continued theme.


More Defensive Gaffes with multiple players doing who knows what. The Gregor goal illustrated how soft this roster is. Clear 2-to-1 numbers advantage Pittsburgh has and Couture blows right through Rakell and Petry with ease.

The lead up to the goal showed two poor decisions from Evgeni Malkin with the puck and more of the questionable use with Pittsburgh’s system on their d-men. Jeff Petry has a good shot, good hockey awareness, puck skills. But, if you want to try to rekindle Montreal Jeff Petry from two years ago, trying to make him play like Kris Letang isn’t going to be it. His strength’s are more of being a methodical puck moving defenseman than try to play fast. You want to wear out a 36 year old defenseman? Play Mike Sullivan’s system.

Petry’s first instinct in this system is to join the rush as he does here, Evgeni Malkin makes a low percentage cross-ice pass to Petry that’s easily broken up and seconds later, Petry looks gassed in trying to defend Couture on the Gregor goal.

And what about that defensive prowess of the Penguins on the Erik Karlsson goal to close out . All five players puck watching on the strong side of the puck. Don’t account for the best offensive player on the ice in the final seconds of a period is just laziness.


The Penguins over-pursuing to the strong side of the puck and others puck watching has been a collaborate team issue for much of the season. The team has no structure to its defensive play when defending below the goal line. The structure seems to be everyone follow the puck!

With a 10-12 second stretch of defending like it was a pickup game, it’s not a shock the Penguins looked as bad as they could on the Eyssimont goal. Somehow they basically allowed a 2-0 in the net-front area.

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