Pittsburgh Penguins Success in Game 3 Relies on Key Adjustments Defensively

Pittsburgh Penguins Success
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As the first-round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers heads back to the Burgh’, there are quite a few areas the Penguins could improve on. The Pittsburgh Penguins have seen flashes of success in both games. After a win and a loss, PPG Paints Arena will be rocking on Saturday night as they see hockey back in the PA. In their most recent 5-2 loss the Penguins didn’t put up a very good effort defensively. Although the result was a loss, the Penguin’s offensive ability was evident as they put up over three expected goals, coming up short.

On the other side though they were good in suppressing chances with only 1.86 expected goals against. So the game got away from them, it happens. Once they get back to Pittsburgh they can’t allow this to happen. There’s a very good chance whoever wins game three will have the best chance at winning this series. A win Saturday brings the Penguin’s odds to advance to a very promising 83% while a win for the other guys would only bring a 51% chance of advancing to the second round of the dance.

Pittsburgh Penguins Success Depends on Defensive Play

Too Much Time and Space

The Penguins allowed the Rangers to do basically whatever they wanted in their own zone. Specifically, on the first goal, we see Artemi Panarin slowly walk in with the puck off of the right half wall to snap a pass over to Andrew Copp for the immediate goal. On this first tally, all three Penguins forwards are puck watching while we see Mike Matheson and Kris Letang double-teaming a guy who really only needs one-man coverage.

The other most concerning moment was the fifth and final goal. In the dying moments of the third period, Frank Vatrano comes into the zone on the left half-wall, Matheson has the option to knock the puck away but turns his body at the last second which allows Vatrano to cut in resulting in a goal.

It wasn’t the best showing for the Penguin’s big guns in the defensive zone. The Penguins cannot allow the Rangers any time, or space. They need to be content with denying entries into their own zone. If they let the Rangers walk all over them in their own zone, they have a small chance in this series.

Matheson-Letang Pairing

We simply have not seen the regular season Mike Matheson and Kris Letang. Injuries are what has caused them to be paired together. Although there’s a reason, they cannot be a paring going into game three. Putting two offensive defencemen together likely won’t result in anything positive. At least, it sure hasn’t so far. Not only is their defensive play atrocious, but they also haven’t managed to get anything going offensively which is a complete disaster.

You at least want one or the other. When on the ice together in game two, the Penguins rarely had possession while also being out-chanced. Both are actually proven to be better without each other projecting almost three goals against per game when on the ice together. Obviously, without Brian Dumoulin, it’s hard not to have these two together.

Outlook

The Penguins will need to make the necessary adjustments for Game 3 to come out on the winning side. The most recent injury news regarding Casey Desmith sure isn’t a positive sign for them. With Tristan Jarry on week 3 of his injury it’s unlikely we see him back but in a do-or-die situation, you never know. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ success will be based on if they can shut down the Rangers offensively. If the Penguins play their game, they can absolutely do that.

Almost as they did in the first game of this seven-game series. No doubt the Penguins need some depth scoring. In both games, all six goals came from the top six. An offensive contribution from the bottom six could be a huge game-changer for the Penguins. All signs point to Jason Zucker returning for game three which is a good sign for Evgeni Malkin who’s struggled to get anything going at 5v5. Mike Sullivan is in Jack Adams’s talks for a reason. As they return home, expect some jumps from this older Penguins squad.

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