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Coach's analysis: Senators slowed down Penguins in Game 1

Former NHL assistant Jim Corsi says Ottawa denied Pittsburgh speed through neutral zone in opener of conference final

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Jim Corsi to break down the action from the Senators' perspective. Corsi will be checking in throughout the series.

Corsi, 62, is the former goaltending coach for the Buffalo Sabres (2001-14) and St. Louis Blues (2014-17). He also played 26 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1979-80 season.

 

PITTSBURGH -- The Ottawa Senators need to be prepared for a different and simpler offensive approach from the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Senators lead the best-of-7 series 1-0.

 

[RELATED: Complete Senators vs. Penguins series coverage]

 

"I think in Ottawa's case the adjustments will come from if the Penguins are going to be dumping it in more, they're going to have to be a much more vigilant group," former NHL goaltending coach Jim Corsi said after analyzing the Senators' 2-1 overtime win in Game 1 on Saturday. "It's about having the second man in quick and the outlet pass. Those are the keys. If Ottawa maintains what we'll call the denial of speed entries, that will ultimately lead to some kind of dump in or lob into the soft areas by the Penguins.

"The second man in and the release pass are going to be key to Ottawa maintaining control of their defensive zone. They have to anticipate the adjustment by Pittsburgh."

Corsi said the Senators controlled their defensive zone at even strength in Game 1 because they controlled the Penguins' speed as they tried to enter the zone.

The Penguins were able to get through the Senators' 1-3-1 setup through the neutral zone, but rarely did they do that with any type of speed and rarely did that lead to an aggressive forecheck when the Penguins outnumbered the Senators and generated offensive opportunities because of that.

In fact, the only time it really worked in Pittsburgh's favor, it resulted in a goal.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm1: Malkin ties game with tip-in goal

Penguins defenseman Ron Hainsey dumped the puck in and went and chased it down himself. He got help from forward Chris Kunitz, who was the second man in. Kunitz brought the puck up the half-wall, shot it at the net and the Penguins scored on Evgeni Malkin's redirection at 14:25 of the third period.

It was one of Pittsburgh's six even-strength shots on goal in the third period. Ottawa had 14.

"Pittsburgh at even strength had 17 shots and Ottawa had 32, almost double, for the game," Corsi said. "Ottawa is staying on the message. The Penguins got through, but they sure didn't get much out of it. You're talking about the Pittsburgh Penguins here, so denying entries is one thing, but what you want to do is really deny the speed of the entry because now you can defend."

Corsi was also impressed with how the Senators stayed in control of the faceoffs, especially through the first two periods and in overtime. He credited them for using their feet to help win the draw, a point the Penguins emphasized as something they are now aware of.

Ottawa won 26 of 43 faceoffs through 40 minutes and four of five in overtime, including the last one from Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the defensive zone that led to Bobby Ryan getting sprung for a breakaway overtime goal.

Video: OTT@PIT, Gm1: Ryan roofs game-winning goal in OT

Kyle Turris won 15 of 25 faceoffs, including seven of 10 in the defensive zone. Derick Brassard won eight of his 15 faceoffs, including five of six in the neutral zone.

"Pittsburgh managed to get a number of faceoffs in the offensive zone [29], but you watch Ottawa's 'D' zone faceoffs, and Turris' in particular," Corsi said. "What happened was Pittsburgh was sending two guys in off of lost draws, and Ottawa's weakside winger would drop off toward the wall and they'd go 'D' to 'D', two guys chasing, the guy would pass it to the weakside winger and out they go."

The Penguins dominated faceoffs in the third period, winning 17 of 23, including seven of eight in the offensive zone, but they generated seven shots on goal, including one shorthanded. Ottawa lost all those faceoffs and had 14 shots on goal.

Corsi said the Senators were good at tying up and defending after a lost faceoff in the defensive zone.

"There was only one dangerous play," Corsi said. "Generally they'll bring three guys up and they'll make some kind of play, and the way you respond to that is you release your centerman and he goes to the weakside and picks up that weakside guy. The one time it didn't work, the guy stayed with his player and [Phil] Kessel had a walk in. Kessel had a bomb shot and [Cody] Ceci made the block with a crowd in front of the net [at 6:56 of the third period].

"That right now is the theme, the Penguins trying to generate offense on the faceoffs, but Ottawa works the faceoff dot well. That's one of the hallmark parts of the Penguins offense and they couldn't do much with it."

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