Pittsburgh Penguins Find Their Offense


Pittsburgh Penguins new Head Coach Mike Sullivan arrived with the hopes of rekindling the Pens offense. Though the goals were not there, the offense looked much more capable.

Mike Sullivan‘s first game was a doozy.  Sadly, the score didn’t reflect the Penguins’ rekindled offensive punch, and there were quite a few significant events that transpired that took over the actual game.

The Offense

Prior to the game, Coach Sullivan spoke about establishing an offense, powerplay, and shooting the puck.  Against the Capitals, it showed.  The Pens sent wave after wave in the attacking zone.  If you need proof, Braden Holtby made 44 of 45 saves.

Several of those saves, if Holtby isn’t on his game, allow this to turn into a high scoring affair straight from the Pittsburgh Penguins days of old.

There were turnovers, there were rushes, there were some miscues, but consider the Pens were transitioning from a defensively responsible system to what looked like an all-out assault system. That’s not to say they can’t be defensive, but it’s going to take more than one practice and one game to implement it. The glimpse they’ve shown appeared very encouraging.

Sullivan also was able to show what makes him different from previous coach Dan Bylsma. Bylsma’s style was, “these are our superstars, this is our system, we run-and-gun, we overwhelm, deal with it.” There were minimal match-ups, there wasn’t much in-game adjustment. There was just constant offensive pounding.  A grinder’s game.

Sullivan showed that he’s capable of maintaining an offensive pressure game while making adjustments, tinkering in-game. Adding rookie Dan Sprong to Sidney Crosby‘s line made alot of Penguins’ nation cheer. Granted it was short lived and Sprong only played 8:58 (which is to be expected of a rookie), but it showed the energy and chemistry between Crosby and the rookie.

A glimmer of offensive hope.

The stars looked rejuvenated. Crosby looked engaged on the ice and despite some lacking defense, Phil Kessel was really moving around the ice with his blazing speed. He had quite a few shots that missed the net, but when you’re a gifted, offensive-minded shooter coming out of a defensive system, you can be forgiven for being out of practice with your timing and having your chemistry a little thrown off.

It’s not like his defensive game was ever at the level of a Pavel Datsyuk anyway, right?

Beau Bennett

During the game, Beau Bennett took a legal shoulder-to-shoulder hit and fell awkwardly into the boards.  In full speed it looked like boarding. After the replays, it was a good hockey hit with bad results. Bennett’s arm was hanging lifelessly, which one can only speculate means he picked up a dislocated shoulder or something similar. He’ll be out for the next 4-6 weeks.

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It’s Beau’s luck. It’s become his calling card. Getting healthy and showing flashes of awesomeness, then getting hurt and going on long term injured reserve. At this point, it’s what the Pittsburgh Penguins faithful expect from him.

Fans jokingly say he should drink more milk, or that perhaps his uniform should be lined with bubble wrap. He always gets the tough breaks on the ice…

I feel bad for Beau.

He gets the opportunity to prove how effective he can play with Crosby. He produces points, energy, chances, and looks like he belongs…and then he ends up with some fluke injury. Like that time when he hurt himself while celebrating. How does that even happen?

With Bennett out for an extended amount of time, that opens a spot up for a prospect.

I would have liked to see Dominik Simon, the Penguins draft pick from this year’s fifth round. So far in the AHL he has 11 goals and 25 points in 24 games and is showing what a diamond-in-the-rough pick he may turn out to be.

Based on the call-ups, it looks like Conor Sheary is going to get that chance. Sheary has 6 goals and 19 assists. He is tied with Simon for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team lead in points with 25.

Scuderi Trade

The biggest event didn’t happen on the ice last night.  It was announced in the middle of the third period.

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Scapegoat Rob Scuderi and his immovable, debilitating contract was sent to the Chicago Blackhawks for Trevor Daley.

I won’t take much time here kicking Scuderi. I’ve already had my fun like most Penguins fans.

He simply wasn’t fast enough. He wasn’t a puck moving defenseman. His best effort was to get in front of the opposing teams shots and let the puck careen off him. He was just an obstacle for the other team to go around.

He earned two Stanley Cup rings doing that, but in today’s NHL defensemen have to be faster, quicker, and skilled. And those defensemen are burning up the old school way of doing things.

The focus should be Trevor Daley.  There was a little salary cap wiggle room, so unfortunately $1.1 million dollars from Scuderi’s contract was retained and Daley’s contract is $3.3 million.

Next: Penguins Recall Murray, Porter, and Sheary from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

It’s pricey for a #5 defenseman, but at least he’s mobile and can move the puck to the forwards, helping create a faster offensive breakout.

The hope is he’ll fit the new system perfectly.  He’s an offensive-minded player. He’s very mobile and with the new shoot-first philosophy, he’ll help break this team out of the pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-turnover defensive mindset that Mike Johnston forced the team into.

Things are definitely looking up for the Pittsburgh Penguins, so long as they stay focused on their new identity and find their scoring groove.