The threat of an 0-2 deficit in the series with the New York Islanders did not sit well with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who regrouped and came out with a different plan for Game 2: to beat the Islanders at their own game.
In Game 1, the Penguins played out of their comfort zone, which cost them the game. After Game 2, head coach Mike Sullivan knew his team had to strategize differently against the playoff version of the Islanders. One of the things they did better was shadow and smother Islanders star Matthew Barzal. He had few chances in Game 1 and was rarely heard from in Game 2 because Pittsburgh didn’t give him the room to skate that he is accustomed to. The Penguins also used a more aggressive forecheck to bottle up and frustrate the Islanders attack. There was no neutral zone for their offense to roam.
Pace of Play
The Penguins never grasped the system the Islanders were playing in Game 1. They switched up their plan throughout the game to confuse Pittsburgh. In Game 2, however, The Penguins made adjustments, pushed the play, and played their own style. The defense used their mobility and offensive instincts to make quicker outlet passes and create the offense that was missing in Game 1. Whenever the Penguins’ defensemen use their speed, they could be mistaken for forwards. They slowed the pace down to the Islanders’ style to create offense more accustomed to their style. Their passes were also crisper than in the previous game, which allowed the offense to click.
Penguins Forwards Played a Complete Game
The Penguins forwards played well in Game 1 but lacked offensive creativity after tying the game 3-3. In Game 2, they created more chances, which forced Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who missed Game 1, to scramble. The Penguins had better puck control in the offensive zone and imposed their style of play.
Sidney Crosby, who led the team in the regular-season scoring with 62 points in 55 games, and his linemates were buzzing all night and continued to find holes in the Islanders defense to create chances and increase rebounds. Bryan Rust scored a goal and newcomer Jeff Carter continued his hot play with the game-winner.
Penguins’ 4th line Continues Hot Play
One of the best lines of the playoffs has been the Penguins’ underrated fourth line. Teddy Blueger, Zach Aston-Reese, and Brandon Tanev have played air-tight defense against the Islanders forwards, giving them little to no space to operate. Their speed and tenacious forechecking have been effective at preventing breakout passes and creating turnovers to give the Penguins offense room to create. Keep an eye on this group, who have been known to knock in a few timely goals.
Goaltending and Physical Play
Penguin goaltender Tristan Jarry and Varlamov put on a show in the regular season. While Varlamov did not play in Game 1, Jarry did not play well enough to get the win. However, both netminders put on a show in Game 2 with crucial stops to keep the game tight. Jarry stopping 37 of 38 shots, while Varlamov pushed aside 43 of 45 shots.
The Penguins are the more offensively creative of the two teams, while the Islanders are more aggressive and physical. In two games, the Islanders have laid 118 hits, some of them brutal. But, it has not slowed down Crosby, Rust, Guentzel from getting scoring chances. Pittsburgh has a little sandpaper in their lineup if the opportunity should present itself.
On the injury front, center Evgeni Malkin is still day-to-day with a knee injury and there is no timetable for his return though he traveled with the team. Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith is not with the team and is still out. Maxim Lagace will be the backup until DeSmith is ready to compete.
I am 43 years old from Fostoria, Ohio. Aside from my beautiful wife and 2 amazing dogs Hockey is my love. Will watch any type of hockey, regardless of league or team. Currently covering the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL.