Saturday, May 25, 2013

What We Have Learned From The Pittsburgh Penguins Series Win Against The Ottawa Senators

     For the 3rd time in six seasons, the Pittsburgh  Penguins have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals (08', 09') and 2nd time overall under Head Coach Dan Bylsma who would help lead the Penguins to the franchise's 3rd Stanley Cup in 2009. While the Penguins will wait to see who they will play between the winner of the Boston-New York(Rangers) series, lets recap the Penguins strengths and areas they need to improve on by looking back on their series against Ottawa as the Penguins head into the Eastern Conference Finals
Scoring Depth                                                       
     This seems like beating a dead horse, but nonetheless it is one of, if not, thee primary source for the Penguins success. 4 of the top 5 scorers in the playoffs are Pittsburgh Penguins. (Malkin, Letang, Crosby, Iginla) Factor in Pascal Dupuis who is tied with Sidney Crosby for most goals in the playoffs with seven, with fellow teammate James Neal right behind them with 6 of his own. (Neal has scored 5 goals in the last two games). With additional scoring from Penguin teammates Chris Kunitz, and Paul Martin (9 points each) and contributions from the bottom six by Brendan Morrow, Matt Cooke, and Tyler Kennedy(13 points combined) Pittsburgh has arguably the most scoring depth among all teams in the playoffs and will continue to be a burden on any opposing goaltender if they maintain the same offensive production.

Special Teams
     Pittsburgh's Penalty Kill(PK) continues to be efficient. Killing of 12 of 14 in the man disadvantage. The Power Play(PP) however, struggled a bit. Converting on only 4 of 18 opportunities in the man advantage (22%, down from their regular season average of 25%). While the Penalty Kill remains to be strong, Pittsburgh needs improvement on their Power Play if they want to have continued success in the playoffs.

Dan Bylsma
     No doubt Dan Bylsma has been using his players to put his team in the best situation to win and succeed. Despite an offensive juggernaut, the Penguins were held to just one goal in game three. A game the Penguins still should have one if it was not for Bylsma's decision to only play one D-Man while on the man advantage late in Game 3, Pittsburgh would have more than likely swept the Senators and would have not needed a Game 5 had they not given up that late goal. This has also happened a couple times in the regular season where the Penguins would give up a lot of last minute goals. Luckily each of those times, Pittsburgh had more than a one goal lead. As evident though from giving up the late goal in Game 3 in Ottawa, it ended up costing the Penguins the game. Bylsma and the Penguins need to make sure they do not get too conservative, and always apply some pressure to the opposition.

     Turnovers continue to be an issue for the Penguins.  Both Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin have had their fair share of them. The Penguins once again got lazy on the Power Play and gave up their second shorthanded goal of the postseason(Game 3 against Islanders being the other instance). Pittsburgh needs work on puck control and make better and smart decisions with the puck to prevent anymore costly mistakes.

Tomas Vokoun
     When I wrote my blog, prior to the start of the playoffs (which you can read here I stated that the Penguins success would be  determined first and foremost with the play and performance of both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. That bell still rings true. It has also become quite clear that their success end with Tomas Vokoun(after all, he is the Penguins last line of defense). Since taking over for Marc Andre Fleury, Vokoun has gone 6-1 and has a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 1.85 (3rd best among active playoff goalies) and a .941 Save Percentage (2nd best among active playoff goalies, behind on LA's Jonathan Quick).  Vokoun may not be the flashiest goalie or the most dynamic, but he brings many quality assets to the table. His veteran presence, knowledge of the game, composure, and confidence have been a big part of the Penguins success thus far. When the Penguins signed Vokoun last off-season he mentioned he came to Pittsburgh because he wanted to win a Stanley Cup (whether that be as a starter or backup) and now controls his own fate and destiny to one. Vokoun has every reason to be confident. Not only because of his performance, but the talent surrounded around him will make him that much more comfortable and composed as the Netminder.

Losing is unheard of. Perfection, unacceptable. Just win.

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