PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins have played 20 games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’ve been outshot in 14 of them, including all seven against the Washington Capitals in the second round.
Compare that to the five times that happened last year when they were puck possession darlings and went on to beat the San Jose Sharks in the Final.
This isn’t the strategy that head coach Mike Sullivan and his staff drew up, but having the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel needing just one chance to change a game, it’s been working.
“It obviously helps when you have those high-caliber players who don’t need that many opportunities,” said forward Bryan Rust. “It allows us to play a little bit of a quick strike game even though we’d like to have a little more O-zone time.”
So once again, it didn’t matter in Game 1 that the Penguins coughed up a 3-0 lead and were outshot 26-12, which included a 37-minute stretch where Pekka Rinne didn’t need to make a save. Despite the tie game and the possession way in Nashville’s favor, all Pittsburgh needed was that one chance and Jake Guentzel delivered.
“The character in this room, the resilience we have,” said defenseman Olli Maatta. “It doesn’t matter how the game’s going we know somebody’s always stepping up. That’s been a big key for us.”
The Penguins look at puck possession numbers. They know how theirs in 2016 (53.8 percent Fenwick, via Natural Stat Trick) compares to that of 2017 (46.8 percent Fenwick). But the stats, to some players, don’t reflect their impression of Game 1.
“We just find ways to win. We’ve done that. Whether we’re leading late in the game, whether we’re trailing, whether we’re up a bunch, down a bunch, we play the same way,” said forward Nick Bonino. “We try to get wins. I think it’s deceiving, puck possession. We looked at it. We had more time in their zone than they did in ours. We just couldn’t get pucks to the net. We’ve got to do a better job of that.”
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