A Few, Simple Changes Could Make All The Difference.

I've read the hand-wringing, the exasperation, and also the calming words of many Pittsburgh followers in the wake of Game 4. It's true: The Pens have looked terrible for the past two games of this series, and they weren't particularly sharp in Game 2, either. If I could get just five minutes with Bylsma, Granato and Rierden, there are a few simple changes that I would suggest to make a huge difference going forward in the remaining best-of-3 with the Islanders.

1. More dump, less carry.

The best line in Game 4 was Cooke/Sutter/Morrow. Why? They simplified their game to "dump, hit, second man collect the puck." It worked amazingly well on the Sutter goal.

The Pensblog's gif shows it best:

By separating the D from the puck, Boyes needs to play cover for Streit, rather than camping out in the slot to watch for a pass through the middle. 3 seconds later, Morrow finds Sutter cruising where Boyes could've cut off the pass or deflected the shot.

The other scoring lines have the proper wingers to crash the forecheck and separate the puck--Kunitz/Dupuis with Crosby, and Iginla/Neal with Malkin. Unfortunately, these lines have tried to carry the puck into the zone more often than dumping and chasing. Get it in, bang bodies, and collect turnovers.

It's gonna be a long series, and the more of this punishment you dole out, the better, come Games 6 and 7.

2. Vokoun.

This is a no-brainer at this point. Fleury's got that "Luongo vs. Blackhawks" face going. He's rattled big-time, and Vokoun's a solid goaltender. Vokoun has only had a single NHL playoff series in his life, and I'm betting he'll be fired up for his chance to get it done. Two words: Ken Wregget.


I believe Fleury could come back stronger if, and when, Vokoun falters. It could be as soon as the 2nd Period of Game 5, if Vokoun gives up a few softies. It could be, well, next season. But at this point, there is no reason to have Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes at the next puck drop.

3. Quick outs, using the walls and glass.

It's tough to change your breakout plan mid-series, but it needs to be done. The Pens seem to have abandoned the "chip it off the glass to neutral ice" approach to clearing the zone when under pressure, and it's leading to numerous egregious turnovers in their own zone to players walking down the slot. The real problem is the first forward to touch the puck along the half-wall after the D chips it from the corner. Instead of banging the puck out of the zone off the boards/glass, they continually drop the puck out into the high slot where it's picked off by an on-coming Islander.

These are your friends, wingers.

The Pens' D-zone breakout under pressure needs to focus first on getting the puck to center ice, then simply getting it deep (see topic #1, above). Remember, Pens, you have home ice advantage in Games 5 and 7, and with that comes the last change. The ability to control match-ups means that you can employ this strategy simply to play smart defensive hockey, and ensure that skill players take all of your offensive zone draws. Roll all four lines, get that puck out, and get it deep.

The content expressed in fanposts does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff here at FanPosts are opinions expressed by fans of various teams throughout the league but may be more Pittsburgh-centric for obvious reasons.

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