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May 12, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Statistical preview


I know I’m probably going to expose my own ignorance with this post and should probably just leave the statistical analysis to Bill West, but I figured I’d take a look at the Eastern Conference finals using a couple of stats I like to use to evaluate player performance, points per 60 minutes of ice time at all manpower situations and Corsi For percentage at even strength. I think they pair together pretty well to give and indication of how a player is doing.

Let’s start with the Penguins forwards:


Kessel, Bonino and Hornqvist have picked up their scoring rates significantly. Hagelin hasn’t, which shows me just how good he really was in the regular season. Malkin is also remarkably consistent when it comes to point production. The fourth line has been badly out-possessed in the playoffs.

Now, the Penguins defense:


The fact that only Letang has a positive Corsi for percentage tells me that the Penguins’ plan to have a quick, mobile defense lead the transition game is harder to pull off in the playoffs than in the regular season. I mean, it’s working. They’re 8-3 in the playoffs. But it’s harder.

Now to the Tampa Bay forwards


Tyler Johnston is living up to his reputation as a playoff performer. Nikita Kucherov is a certified stud. Jonathan Drouin looks to be the real deal. Alex Killorn is having a great postseason, and he was particularly effective against the Penguins in the regular season. The bottom six, meanwhile, looks weak. It makes me wonder if home ice might be more important for the Penguins this round than it was in the previous two. It looks like there are some matchups that could be exploited. Like, think about the HBK line or the Malkin line against the Boyle line. Might be trouble for Tampa.

Finally, the Tampa defense:


Hedman is as good as it gets, but you already knew that. Stralman has owned the Penguins this season. After that, nothing jumps out at me. Again, might be fertile ground for some matchup plays. I’m guessing at these pairs because Stralman is returning from injury.

So in conclusion:

When I look at the big picture, I can’t help but think this could be another series where Sidney Crosby’s contributions won’t be best measured on the scoresheet. If his line goes out and plays the Hedman pair or the Johnson line to a stalemate, the Penguins could peck away at some potential weaknesses elsewhere.

Feel free to hit up the comments and tell me my analysis is sophomoric. I’m not an experienced stats guy, and I know this.

Bye for now,



May 11, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Game 6 Washington postgame


Two big picture points and two small picture points come to mind after the Penguins closed out Washington tonight.

Big picture point No. 1
The Penguins are resilient.

Coach Mike Sullivan has talked about that concept pretty much since he took over, but tonight’s display was something else.

This team blew a three-goal lead, took three delay of game minors in a span of 2:02 in the third period and won in overtime anyway. That’s some kind of resiliency.

“You definitely don’t draw it up that way,” Sidney Crosby said. “There were some anxious moments there in the last 12 minutes of the game. I haven’t seen back-to-back delay of games over the glass, let alone three. Just some bad bounces. We handled it well. We obviously had to kill that other one that Tanger ended up getting with a couple minutes left in a tie game. So we showed a lot of poise to kill that one off and just get some time to come in here and regroup. I thought in overtime, we carried the play. We wanted it, and I thought we bounced back, considering what happened.”

Big picture point No. 2
The Penguins can win a series without significant offensive contributions from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

I’m a firm believer that Crosby and Malkin played important roles in this series. They ate up the toughest minutes against Washington’s top players. They drove possession in most cases.

But Crosby has no goals and two assists and Malkin had one goal and one assist and the Penguins won anyway.

I’m not sure if the Penguins made a concerted effort on the organizational level to create a roster that could thrive without their top two players scoring, but they did.

Sullivan didn’t talk about that specifically after the game, but he sort of alluded to it.

“When we have the balance the way we do, I think it presents matchup challenges for our opponents. Sid’s line gets a lot of the top defense pair or one of the top lines. Geno’s line usually gets one as well. I think Bones’ line, that line as a whole, is a really good line. They present a matchup challenge when that type of situation presents itself. That’s one of the things, as coaching staff, that we like about the make-up of our four lines the way we have them right now.”

Small picture point No. 1
Those delay of game penalties. Are you kidding me?

You could watch hockey games for 100 years and not see a team commit three delay of game penalties for clearing pucks over the glass in a span of 2:02. You could watch for another 100 years and not see a team do that and somehow win the game anyway.

But that’s what the Penguins did.

I’ve been on record for years saying I think it’s a horrible rule. At the very least, it needs to be amended to not include pucks batted out of midair.

Small picture point No. 2
The Bonino line dominated.

At even strength, the matchups went, for the most part, like this: Crosby against the Backstrom line, Malkin against the Kuznetsov-Ovechkin line and Bonino against the line of Justin Williams, Jay Beagle and Jason Chimera.

If you look at the possession numbers — as well as the goals that were scored — Bonino’s line owned Beagle’s line. It was probably the difference in the game.

It was also another chance to break out the “cerebral assassin” nickname that Bill West gave Bonino.

“Bones is a really good player,” Sullivan said. “We use him in a lot of key situations. I’ve said on a number of occasions that he’s a cerebral guy. He really sees the game really well on both sides of the puck.”

Bye for now,



May 10, 2016
by Bill West

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Frustrated by Sid and Geno, eh?


After about a week of build-up, the avalanche of criticism about Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s performances in the Penguins’ second-round series against Washington finally came rumbling down media mountain on Monday night and Tuesday morning (after coach Mike Sullivan was kind enough to remove the Marc-Andre Fleury/Matt Murray debate from the menu).

Let’s be clear about a few things: Sullivan is correct that Crosby and Malkin are playing better than their limited scoring production suggests. They’ve been central to the Penguins’ puck possession efforts. The lines centered by Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen delivered some notable goals in this series, but they’ve spent more time and energy in front of Matt Murray than near Captials netminder Braden Holtby. Over the course of multiple games, that’s a losing proposition.

Those who wish to criticize Crosby and Malkin would be wise to look beyond scoring production, which is notoriously unpredictable in a small sample size (like a playoff series). Many fancy stats portray the star centers in a better light than their point totals, but not all.

Crosby Malkin series WOI

Check out’s score-adjusted for five-on-five play in this series. If you’re not familiar with War-on-Ice or with hockey’s advanced metrics in general, here’s a fairly simple guide: Almost any stat that ends in “F” — like SF, CF, FF, SCF, GF — represents “For,” as in what the Penguins did while that player was on the ice in this series. Almost any stat that ends in “A” — SA, CA, FA, SCA, GA — represents “Against,” as in what the Penguins allowed while that player was on the ice. So even if you don’t know the difference between a shot, a Corsi, a Fenwick and a scoring chance, you can understand that ideally a player is doing well if the Penguins have more “For” than “Against” while that individual is on the ice.

The yellow arrows on the chart (inserted by me using MS Paint…third-grade quality work at best) identify what I regard as stats deserving of criticism, if one must do so with Crosby and Malkin.

You’ll notice Malkin’s “For” versus “Against” stats are mostly favorable. Scoring chances with Malkin on the ice, however, have a negative differential. That likely indicates that while he and his linemates are getting pucks to the net or at least attempting to, they’re not necessarily doing it from the slot area, which is where War-on-Ice and most other sites track scoring chances.

Crosby, meanwhile, leaves something to be desired with his individual shot outcomes. He has missed the net with eight shot attempts, most on the team. He’s also taken just four shots in five-on-five play that Holtby saved, which ranks well below the Penguins’ other skilled shooters. So Crosby clearly is trying to shoot, but he’s struggling to force Holtby to make stops.

Sid Geno indy ratesCrosby Malkin indy rates WSH

I delved a little deeper into Crosby (and Malkin’s) individual shooting tendencies in this series on and compared the five-on-five data to what each did during the regular season. The numbers confirm the conclusion draw from the War-on-Ice data: Crosby’s greatest failing against Washington in this series is his inability to accurately shoot through traffic. He was about twice as good at getting pucks to the net in five-on-five play during the regular season.

Tonight’s game could wildly change all of these numbers. That’s the thing about small sample sizes — one new wave of data can alter everything. But at least through five games, it’s clear that Crosby and Malkin aren’t the underachievers their point totals suggest, but they are deserving of a little scrutiny.


May 10, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Game 6 Washington pregame



It’s a concept worth thinking about heading into Game 6 of a playoff series tonight.

I know there are fans that are panicking after the Penguins lost Game 5 Saturday night.

They saw Alex Ovechkin bombing one-timers in Game 5 and they didn’t see Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin answering with goals of their own. They saw the Penguins blow a 3-1 series lead to the Rangers just two springs ago.

They know that if the Penguins lose tonight, they’ll be walking into a snake pit in Washington for Game 7 on a two-game losing streak.

This has been a terribly even series, whether you measure by games, goals or possession stats, but that can’t be any consolation for fans who are panicking. Quite the opposite, actually. If both teams play like they have in the first five games, it’s probably going to come down to a break here or a break there.

That’s not a comforting thought for a fan who has an emotional investment in this series. So by all means, panic away.

The bigger question, though, is whether anyone who actually has an impact on the outcome of the games — beyond wearing the same socks and sitting on the same couch cushion as you did for Games 3 and 4 — is panicking.

In the Penguins locker room, I see no evidence of that.

Matt Cullen might be less prone to panic than others, given his experience level, but his comments after morning skate seem to be pretty indicative of the mood of the room.

“We’re excited. It’s another opportunity here. We came pretty close last time to closing it out. It’s not easy. They’re a good team. Everyone expected it to be a tight series and every game has been awfully tight. We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

A more interesting study is in the coach’s office.

Mike Sullivan, as far as his personality is concerned, doesn’t seem to be the type who is prone to panic. He’s more likely to get ticked off by a loss than rattled by one.

But that line juggling in Game 5? That could be interpreted as panicky.

Shake up each and every combination, essentially benching your leading postseason goal scorer in Patric Hornqvist in the process? I understand the motivation. Find lightning in a line combination that produces just one goal and it changes the complexion of the game. But let’s face it. It’s a little less than steely.

Sullivan has done similar things already in these playoffs. He pulled out the bingo hopper in Game 2 against the Rangers. He sat Malkin down for long stretches while protecting a lead in the third period of Game 3.

It worked out fine, of course, but he followed that up with calming the personnel shake-ups down for Games 4 and 5 as the Penguins pulled away and finished the series. A similar approach might be a good idea tonight.

Yesterday, Sullivan took one big step away from the panic button when he announced Matt Murray would be starting tonight.

It’s the kind of decision, emphasized by announcing it a day ahead of time, that instills confidence in a team. The message is, “Play like you have been, with the same goalie behind you, and you’ll be fine.”

Like I wrote before, it’s been a very even series. I’m not sure a coach conveying a sense of calm to his team will make much of a difference or way or the other. But I guess it can’t hurt.

More after the game.

Bye for now,



May 8, 2016
by Bill West

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Now who’s unlucky?


After three straight games in which the Washington Capitals argued they played well enough to deserve a win — and had some evidence to support the claim —  it became the Penguins’ turn to embrace that way of thinking on Saturday following a 3-1 loss at the Verizon Center.

“I don’t think we sat back, and I don’t think we took anything for granted,” Sidney Crosby said. “We generated some good chances. That’s playoff hockey. Sometimes you play well and lose. I thought for the most part, we did a lot of good things. Unfortunately they capitalized on a couple mistakes.”

A metric known as expected goals (xG) certainly thought the Penguins played better than the result suggested. Check out the graphic from, which displays the Penguins in blue and the Capitals in red. Pens Caps Game 5 xG

The sentiments shared by Crosby reflected what many of the Penguins believed about the loss. And coach Mike Sullivan, certainly more likely than his players to get critical of things when necessary, refused to change the tune.

“I think for long stretches of the game we were the better team,” Sullivan said. “I thought we had the puck more. I thought we controlled territory. I thought five-on-five our play was pretty strong. … Our penalty kill, we couldn’t seem the win the first faceoff. When you get that first clear, I think that’s when our penalty kill has an opportunity to be at its best, and we couldn’t seem to get that first faceoff win. And as a result, they got some zone time. But give them credit, they made a couple of good plays. But for long stretches of the game, I really liked our game. I liked our team. I thought we were moving the puck. I thought we were playing fast. Listen, they’re a good team. We’re a good team. This is a pretty close series. We knew this series wasn’t going to be easy going in.”

Brian Dumoulin likely became the goat of the game in many Penguins fans’ eyes because of his defensive-zone giveaway. And make no mistake, it was ugly.

But a bevy of teammates, not to mention Sullivan, came to his defense.

“They were able to get a goal off a turnover but they forced it with a heavy slash as Brian was making the correct pass,” Ben Lovejoy said.

“Brian has played a lot of great hockey for us,” Sullivan said. “When you play as many minutes as he’s played, and you’re playing against top players, you’re not going to play a perfect game. I’m sure he’d like to have that one back, but we have to find a way as a group to recover.”

Just like the Capitals after Game 2, 3 and 4, the Penguins promised to clean up the costly miscues ahead of Tuesday’s Game 6. And they’ll certainly need to, because this series has been even closer than the scores and series record indicate. Even if you don’t understand the many numbers listed in the Corsica screen grab, you only need to realize how many of the figures are comparable to appreciate the even nature of the series. Only goals, perhaps the most unpredictable stat in hockey, differ considerably.Pens Caps thru 4 games


May 7, 2016
by Bill West

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Penguins & the psychology of success


In all likelihood, regardless of how Saturday night’s Game 5 between with the Washington Capitals ends, the Penguins’ psyche will emerge as a topic of discussion in the aftermath.

Win, and talking heads will commend the Penguins for their ability to put away the NHL’s top regular-season team on the road.

Lose, and questions will likely arise about whether the Penguins are still somehow haunted by their recent postseason disappointments.

Earlier this week, a story in the Trib attempted to explore how the Penguins moved past their “fragile” phase and became “resilient,” to steal two terms often used by coach Mike Sullivan.

For Sullivan and the Penguins to say their mentality changed is fine. Results certainly suggest the team better at dealing with all kinds of circumstances, both good and bad. But I wanted a third-party perspective from someone with psychology expertise.

Enter Aimee Kimball, a prominent Pittsburgh-based mental training consultant with a Ph.D in sports psychology.

Below are her remarks on the topics of molding a team’s mindset and restoring its confidence. What intrigued me most about her input was how much it aligned with what Sullivan has said and done since taking over on Dec. 12. At this point, there’s a pretty strong consensus that Sullivan is a smart man whose intelligence extends beyond player deployment and scheme adjustments. Kimball’s explanations affirmed for me that Sullivan speaks as a coach who has studied the best ways to communicate and connect with those he leads, and not as a former player or jock type who fixates on grit and heart, though he values those intangibles.

Kimball on moving a team from fragility to resiliency: “Generally speaking, a coach, when they want to build up the resiliency and mental toughness of a team, it’s about creating the culture to do so. A lot of that is how they communicate with players. They make the players feel like they are a part of this team, and they contribute to it. And really getting the players to be competitive. To me, when I’m working with teams or individuals, it’s really talking about what competitiveness is, and that’s playing to win or playing to do your best rather than playing not to lose or trying to avoid mistakes. I think a lot of times athletes of any age get caught up in, ‘I just don’t want to make a mistake. I don’t want to lose.’ So they play very tentatively. But when you’re looking at building the confidence of a team and building a culture of success, it has more to do with focusing on going out there and doing everything you can to win. A lot of players, when they start to lose confidence, it’s because they’re almost playing out of fear instead of playing out of passion.”

On pushing players to think about “playing the right way” without causing paralysis through analysis: “You want athletes to be able to strategize and be able to think about the game before their game. But when they play, you don’t want them overthinking. You want them to be able to shut that off and play more with just their intelligence, their knowledge of the sport. Because if they’ve trained the right way and prepared the right way, they shouldn’t need to think about it (actively). They should be able to just go out there and do it. You want them to prepare and work and study the film and have done the training and know the strategy so that it’s all there in their filing cabinet. But when they get out on the court or the field or the ice, they just put that to use. … You never want to be so emotional or so thought out. You want to pay attention to details at the right time and the right place, but you don’t want to overthink it so much that you’re a robot. Very few sports are so slow-paced where you have that.”

On how the Penguins might’ve become “fragile” in the first place: “What tends to happen is athletes are focusing on the wrong things. They’ll focus on the crowds, the situations or the playing time. So it’s not necessarily that they don’t believe they’re good enough. Their focus has just shifted away from how good to they are to, ‘What if?’ They’re thinking about things that aren’t task-specific. Their playing time, the crowd, the playoffs — these things don’t matter unless they make it matter.”


May 4, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Game 4 Washington pregame


Two interesting topics in the build-up to Game 4 tonight: What will the Penguins D corps look like without the suspended Kris Letang and what role will call-up Tom Sestito play?

On the defense situation, here’s what pairs looked like at morning skate:


Here’s what Lovejoy had to say about the topic:

“As a team, we want to play to our strengths. We are not out there playing crazy, physical, shutdown hockey. We’re out there playing with speed, trying to make their forwards and their D uncomfortable with smart decisions and lots of speed. We’re going to try to play as much as we can in the offensive zone tonight and try to be difficult to play against that way.”

The Dumoulin-Lovejoy pair has been together a lot this year, with pretty good success. The Cole-Schultz pair has familiarity too. Pouliot and Daley have only played together for 25:48 at even strength. The Penguins scored one goal and allowed none during that time.

While we’re on the topic, here’s a look at goals against per 60 minutes of even-strength ice time for the D pairs who played together more than 100 minutes this season. Notice the magical and unforgettable Maatta-Scuderi pairing at the top of the list.

COLE-SCHULTZ 2.02 2.02
COLE-LETANG 285 2.52
COLE-DALEY 123 2.92

As far as Sestito goes, he took line rushes on the fourth line in Bryan Rust’s place with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnhackl at morning skate. Coach Mike Sullivan said Rust is day to day. Rust was back in a walking boot this morning. Sullivan also said Eric Fehr is day to day with an undisclosed injury. He didn’t skate this morning.

If Fehr and Rust are out, with Beau Bennett apparently still not cleared to play, Oskar Sundqvist and Sestito will both be in the lineup. If Fehr plays, I think Sestito will be in and Sundqvist will be scratched, based largely on the fact that Sestito came off the ice before Sundqvist at the end of morning skate.

I asked Steve Oleksy, who also was called up yesterday, what he thought Sestito would bring if he plays.

First, Olesky said Sestito was very effective in Wilkes-Barre’s first-round playoff upset of Providence.

“He was awesome,” Olesky said. “They had him starting every game and he came out flying and got a couple big hits early and I think the team really fed off that. I think that’s one of the big reasons for our success in that series.”

Second, Olesky said he thinks Sestito can be effective in a series that has turned ugly at times.

“It takes a lot of pressure off (other) guys when you’ve got a guy like that who’s obviously pretty successful with the fighting aspect,” Olesky said. “Not only that, but brings that physical side and stands up for his teammates and makes the other team think twice when taking some of those roads.”

Sestito, for what it’s worth, sounds ready to go.

“I think people are going to be hitting everybody,” he said. “Maybe they answer the bell. Maybe they don’t. But I’m going to be out there dishing out the same hits they are.”

Bye for now,



May 3, 2016
by Bill West

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Pens-Caps Game 3 afterthoughts


Matt Murray stole a win for the Penguins tonight, and every player in the home dressing room knew it.

Just look at the shot attempt charts from Game 1 through 3, and it’s easy to see why coach Mike Sullivan came across as fairly sour in his postgame press conference, despite being the guy in charge of the winning team. (The colors in the charts are based on home and away, not Capitals’ blue and Penguins’ black, by the way. This frequently confuses people.)

Pens Caps Game 1 poss Pens Caps Game 2 Pens Caps Game 3

Sullivan recognizes the importance of possession in determining long-term success. His post-game opening remarks made that clear:

“The disparity in shots was because they had the puck all night, and we didn’t,” Sullivan said. “That’s an area where, in the first two games, we felt as though we had the puck for long stretches of the game. Tonight was a different story. I thought they beat us to loose pucks. They won puck battles. They outplayed us in a lot of aspects of the game. I thought the scoring chances that we got, we were very opportunistic. They were high-quality chances, and we were able to finish on them.”

He later added: “When our team is at its best, our defense starts 190 feet from our net with our puck pursuit, hanging onto pucks down low in the offensive zone, controlling territory, and using our foot speed to our advantage. I didn’t think we were able to do that tonight.”

Washington coach Barry Trotz harped on the disconnect between the game’s events and outcome, too.

“I thought our first period was really good,” Trotz said. “They got two goals. One was a fortunate goal, in the sense that it went off their guy, our guy and then it goes on net. The first goal, we can prevent that. That was just a little bit of a missed detail by us.
“But the rest of the game, I thought Murray was really good in the first. I thought he was good all game. There was no question he was the reason that they had success. Our game reminded me a lot of our Game 3 in the Island last year. It took us a couple games to find our game, and once we found our game, I thought we were good. I got a little bit of the same feeling.”
(In the first round last season, the Capitals lost to the Islanders 2-1 in overtime in Game 3 to fall behind 2-1 in the series. They won three of the next four to advance in seven games.)

We’ve seen the Penguins and Capitals stay even with each other, as well as each team dominate possession. All signs point to this series dragging on for a few more games, but if tonight proved anything, it’s that hockey and unpredictability enjoy each other’s company.


May 2, 2016
by Bill West

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What’s up with the Penguins’ power play?


Nothing like a click bait-y post headline to set up some cold, sensible takes, eh?

After the Penguins scored eight power-play goals in five games against the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, much ado was made about the strength of the special teams play. And it was deserved, as the Penguins’ power play and their penalty kill both arguably overachieved.

Two games into the second-round series with the Washington Capitals, the Penguins are without a power-play goal despite seven opportunities. Somewhat predictably, the players have begun to face questions about whether they’re squandering chances against the powerhouse Capitals.

Coach Mike Sullivan and his power play skaters certainly aren’t pleased that they’re yet to put a puck in the back of the net while they have a man advantage. But they sense they’re on the cusp, a feeling confirmed by a variety of metrics.

If anything, the Penguins are actually overachieving in terms of what they’re generating during power plays.

Here’s what Sullivan said following Monday’s morning skate:

“I told our group this morning not to get discouraged because we were close. We had a number of grade-A scoring chances that we didn’t convert. Our (zone) entries were (at) a very high success rate. We won a lot of faceoffs. I think we can have a little bit more of a shooting mentality. I think we can move the puck a little bit quicker, which will help us generate more opportunities, I think. But it wasn’t far off. We’ve given our guys a couple of ideas that we think can help them in tonight’s game. What’s most important from my standpoint is that they keep their swagger and their confidence level, because they’ve been really important to helping us have success here down the stretch.”

Here are some simple stats to keep in mind: Washington finished the regular season with the second best penalty kill (85.16%) in the league, while the Rangers ranked 26th (78.19%). So the Capitals presented a greater challenge for the Penguins from the get go.

Through two games in their series with Washington, though, the Penguins produced shots, shot attempts and high-danger scoring chances at higher rates than they did against the Rangers and during the regular season.

Check the numbers, which come from

  • Shots attempts for, per 60 minutes: 144.9 vs Capitals, 102.1 vs Rangers, 97.2 in the regular season.
  • Shots on goal for, per 60 minutes: 53.1 vs Capitals, 48.8 vs Rangers, 54.5 in the regular season.
  • High-danger scoring chances for, per 60 minutes: 38.6 vs Capitals, 31.1 vs Rangers, 20.5 in the regular season.

Goals for, per 60 minutes, tell a different story: 0.0 vs Capitals, 17.8 vs Rangers, 6.8 in the regular season. But shooting percentage should normalize to some degree, and the Penguins will turn their many shots into a few tallies.

One area of power play execution where Sullivan likely encouraged tweaks (other than faster puck movement) would be shot location. The Capitals kept almost all of the Penguins’ power play shots on goal out at the wings and allowed very little to come from the slot or blue line. (Charts also courtesy of

Pens PP Game 1 shot locateGame 2 PP shot locate

All of those blocks stuck with the Penguins’ most trusted shooters.

“They get in the lane,” Phil Kessel said. “They don’t let you get a ton of pucks to the net. And they’ve got a good goalie. So we’ve got to try and get more pucks there, create more secondary chances.”

So a little puck luck and a little more pursuit of rebounds might get the job done for the Penguins. And if that happens for a team that’s already looked so strong in five-on-five play, I’m not sure what the media will ask about then.



May 1, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Game 2 Washington postgame (Bombulie)


When sports writers talk about “letting a team hang around” in a game, they’re usually referring to a vastly superior team failing to put away an inferior team.

That obviously doesn’t apply to this series. These are two very good teams.

But the story of Game 2 was that the Penguins let the Capitals hang around.

The Penguins played pretty much exactly how they wanted to play. They transitioned quickly. They forced turnovers. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone.

But they could only take a 1-0 lead and needed a late Eric Fehr goal to win because they didn’t pad their lead when they had the chance.

That’s probably a pretty strong indication that no one’s going to pull away at all in this series. After tonight’s game, I expect it to go seven more than ever before.

Anyway, both coaches saw tonight’s game pretty much the same way.

Mike Sullivan: “I liked our energy. I thought we were controlling play. I thought we were coming out of our end zone very efficiently and we were hanging on to pucks down low underneath the hash marks. When we do that, I think we’re hard to play against. I thought we managed the puck through the neutral zone the right way. We tried not to feed their transition game. We tried to make the right decisions. When we do that, we’re a team that can be hard to play against. We can control territory. I thought for long stretches of the first two periods, that’s what we did.”

Barry Trotz: “In the first two periods, I thought we didn’t manage the puck. We didn’t place it in the right areas. We’d get to the red line and it was really easy for them to break out and play in our end a little bit more than we wanted them to.  … They got people stacked up at the blue line and we’re trying to skate into a hornet’s nest at the blue line and it’s not working. Put it behind them and go to work. Get it on the other side of them.”

The one thing that could have derailed the Penguins more than anything else – more than playing with five defensemen after Olli Maatta was injured on a Brooks Orpik hit, more than Braden Holtby’s strong play – was a power play that went 0 for 5.

It didn’t, which is pretty remarkable. Trying to win with tonight’s power play numbers – Washington went 1 for 2 – is playing with fire.

“There are critical moments in every game that arise, and you have to handle them the right way if you’re going to control the result,” Sullivan said. “I thought we did that tonight. It could have deflated us that our power play wasn’t at its best in the second period, but it didn’t. We didn’t allow those types of situations to get our team down.”

Bye for now,


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