Penguins overpower listless Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres hadn’t scored in their previous two games prior to Thurday’s contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They now have the hat trick. Buffalo isn’t great with Eichel. They are a horror show at the moment without him. Pittsburgh scored five times and coasted to victory and another two points. The Capitals and Islanders both won so the Penguins didn’t make up any ground. They did keep pace. Pittsburgh’s playoff probability is up to 96% per Micah Blake McCurdy’s model.
The power play was the main weapon the Penguins used last night. They went three for four and moved the puck around successfully. This was a huge departure from the recent stretch of games where teams were predicting their strategy and assertively defending it. The biggest difference is the team is now taking their 2v1’s where the opposition is giving them. When Pittsburgh uses a legit #1 unit they have players on the ice that are able to take advantage of the 2v1’s no matter where they are because it is a nice blend of ability. Sabres didn’t want Phil Kessel to get the puck up to the point so instead of forcing it and creating a turnover Kessel kept the puck low and used that time and space.
The Royal Road passing lane is there because the killer up top didn’t slouch back. Top guy on the diamond needs to retreat down low when the puck isn’t up top. He didn’t. The scouting report was that Pittsburgh forces it up top and Sabres cheated there.
On the next power play goal the Sabres did suck down low and it allowed Phil to move it up high
By differentiating the approach and taking what the team gives you the power play becomes an advantage once again. You have to be willing to use multiple looks to be consistently successful. This was an example of the players making proper reads.
These were two different approaches to eventually getting the puck to the net. Both are very good, depending on how you manipulate the killers. I liked how the Penguins handled business in this area. The good news is that this isn’t a difficult thing to execute. If they stay disciplined and committed to differentiating based on approach the success should continue.
Brian Dumoulin scored his third goal of the year.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t understand why Brian Dumoulin doesn’t score more goals. His physical skills might not be top end, but he’s certainly capable of shooting the puck and he thinks the game fine enough. Given the fact his quality of teammate is always very high I feel like he should be scoring ten goals a year and not scraping to hit the five goal mark. Be assertive Brian!
I saw this tweet before the game
It seemed very 2013-14ish and wouldn’t you know it, it is. In 2013-14:
Crosby on ice GF 69 GA 51 GF% 57.50
Crosby off ice GF 84 GA 96 GF% 46.66
The GF% this year with Sid on the ice is a whopping 68.1%
The GF% without him looks very similar to 2013-14 at 46.50%
On-ice save percentage is skewing the GF% with Crosby a little bit because in 2013-14 it was .911 and this year it is .933, but what is that saying about the other lines when the goaltending is better this year and the GF% is still just as bad without Sid on the ice as it was in 2013-14?
The non-Crosby lines are going to have to chip in more for the Penguins to make real noise this postseason.
Erik Gudbranson was on the lower end of the Penguins possession last night, but when it is a CF 16 CA 18 it is something you can work with. The good run continues.
Conor Sheary was the best Sabres forward last night. He played well, but if the Sabres are going to compete he probably shouldn’t be the standout player.
Pittsburgh was able to give Matt Murray some much needed rest. Casey DeSmith earned his third shutout of the season. DeSmith hadn’t played in three weeks. It’s nice when you can rest a starter down the stretch and the backup doesn’t tempt you to put the starter in the game. The Penguins have a back to back coming up this weekend and they should be able to give Murray another day off. They’ll have the choice between St. Louis and Philadelphia.
Thanks for reading!