It’s well-known around the world of sports that great defense yields great results on the other end, and in Game 4 of this Penguins vs. Flyers matchup, Pittsburgh’s focus on the defensive side of the game was on full display for the entire 60 minutes of play. Mike Sullivan mentioned in his post-game media conference that the Penguins are at their hardest to play against whenever defense is at the fore-front of the team’s mindset. With a 5-0 victory as evidence, the man isn’t kidding.
Pittsburgh is always touted for how highly skilled it is at shooting, passing, and puck-handling, but what often flies under the radar is its ability to shut down opposing teams with its two-way play. It may be because of how inconsistent the defense has been in all season. It may also be due to the highlight-reel of goals the offense produces on a regular basis. Ultimately, it’s probably a mixture of both.
But the defense in Game 4 was tight all evening. The Penguins got their sticks into lanes to break up many of the Flyers passes, they were stiffer on pucks and in the corners, they eliminated any open looks, Matt Murray’s crease was defended wonderfully, and according to Sidney Crosby, they were recognized as having a “good gap.” Philly was visually stifled and provided next-to-no spark all night. This was totally by design.
Kris Letang mentioned that it may have been his best two-way play all year. Jamie Oleksiak and Chad Ruhwedel have been incredibly consistent, strong, and perfectly positioned this entire series. Olli Maatta is continuing to add to his fantastic season. Brian Dumoulin is scoring goals. Everything seems to be falling into place for the entire defensive corps. It’s hard to find any substantial critiques, which is irrevocably refreshing.
Additionally, in Game 4, the Penguins dominated Philly in just about every facet, but what might be the biggest takeaway is the fact that they killed all four penalties they took. You can either take this as the Flyers power play being totally useless (even on a four-minute major to Evgeni Malkin for a high stick), but we’re going to chalk it up to the constant, irritating messes caused by Pittsburgh’s penalty kill.
Things are really going the Penguins way. Hopefully this series ends on Friday night in Game 5 so the preparation for tougher squads in the second round can finally begin.