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Sloppy defending and marking become the downfall of the Penguins in their season opener

St Louis Blues v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

The Penguins hosted the St. Louis Blues last night, raising a Stanley Cup Championship banner and going home with only one point, losing 5-4 in Overtime.

They would find themselves trailing 4-2 and rally back to force the extra frame and at least come out of the night with something, but the notable events of the night were on the defensive side of the puck.

A lack of awareness tracking players entering the defensive zone late made things rough for goaltender Matt Murray.

Penalty Kill Overload

Late in the first period, shorthanded at the time, the Penguins were trying to kill off a penalty.

3 of the 4 penalty killers all in the same 5-foot area seems suboptimal, but let’s see how this pla-oh wait, Colton Parayko found himself wide open in the slot.

Not ideal!

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that the Penguins shorthanded special teams unit might need some time to work though some growing pains. When you remember that their two best shorthanded centers are no longer on the team (Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen), you can give the current ones a little slack.

Failing to Track the Last Player Entering the Zone

Late in the second period, the game was tied — and then it wasn’t. The Penguins lost Alex Pietrangelo entering the zone after he started the breakout.

As Vladimir Sobotka controlled the puck entering the zone, Pietrangelo was trailing behind. He would leave the puck for Pietrangelo, who would move towards the center of the ice.

For argument’s sake, we can highlight the non-call for interference/a slight pick play, but that’s neither here nor there. Regardless of the non-call, the inability to pick up Pietrangelo was the downfall on this play.

Once he got to the middle of the ice with a clear lane and shot on goal, a wrist-shot was teed up and that was that.

And Again

Different goal, same story, this time giving the Blues a 4-2 lead.

Again, it is Vladimir Sobotka making a play to set up one of his teammates.

Sidney Crosby was caught back defending, who ended up being danced around by Sobotka.

After Sobotka was down low, he looked back to center ice and a streaking Paul Stastny was bearing down on the Penguins.


Gap Control

It’s hard to criticize player tracking and defensive assignments during 3-on-3 hockey, as things can just get goofy all of a sudden, sometimes.

However, what can be criticized here was Justin Schultz’s gap control and the space he allowed Alex Pietrangelo to have to shoot the game winner.

As we saw on the go-ahead goal to give the Blues a 3-2 lead, the guy can shoot a tremendous wrist shot from that part of the ice.

Schultz backed up on him way too much and just like that, goodnight sweet princes.

Final Thoughts

The good to come out of this — the Penguins showed that they are still capable of scoring at will, rallying back in the third period with two quick goals to force OT.

My other positive thought is that the mistakes that were being made tonight seemed to be more mental than anything; things that can be fixed in the film room and things that can improve the more new linemates and defensive pairings start playing together.