The Pittsburgh Penguins are on the up-and-up thanks to their stout defensive play.
The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Dallas Stars on Sunday night 3-1 coming off another back-to-back game. They didn’t show any sign of fatigue from the night before when they lost 5-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs up in Toronto.
Young goaltender Casey Desmith only allowed one goal, which came on a five-on-three but the story of the game was the Penguins’ defensive work. Let’s take a look at why it was so crucial to their win.
Pittsburgh held Dallas to just 18 shots throughout the night and didn’t allow Dallas to score at even strength. Their only goal was scored by Alexander Radulov. Casey Desmith ended up being very good, but as a whole, this is the best the Penguins have done at limiting shots all year long. They got sticks in the way of shooters and they were able to break up chances all game long.
Jamie Oleksiak is continuing his resurgence, and he ended up having a great defensive play on a two on one. He was able to break up Jamie Benn’s pass with the long reach of his stick to save a great chance. Even with his great defensive play, he also had an outstanding goal as time expired in the first period with a booming shot.
The Stars are now coached by Ken Hitchcock and run a different style than they did the last few years, but still, limiting shots against world-class talent is always something to celebrate.
Not many odd-man rushes
So many times this year, the Penguins have been burned with odd-man rushes. At times, they give up over four-to-five per game when they’re very sloppy defensively. Against the Stars, it was really just the Benn odd-man rush that they gave up. Not being sloppy against this team had to come up huge because the likes of Benn, Tyler Seguin and Radulov will burn any team with odd-man rushes.
Overall, along with the Penguins’ ability to score at any point, this is the blueprint for a perfect game by the Penguins. Their power play can score, they can score at even-strength and they can also play great defense as well.
Head coach Mike Sullivan even said so to the media after the game. This is part of what he said from Matt Gajtka, co-owner of PGH Hockey Now:
If the Penguins can play like this for most games going into the playoffs, it’s going to be even harder for a team to beat Pittsburgh four out of seven times.
It’s only one game of course, but it showed that when the Penguins pay attention to detail, they can shut down some of the best players in the league, including players on a team that has given the Penguins trouble over the past few seasons