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Conference Final

Coach's analysis: Penguins don't need to change approach for Game 7

Former NHL assistant Jim Corsi says attacking Senators down low could be best way to return to Stanley Cup 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. Corsi has been checking in throughout the series and dissecting the games from the Senators' perspective. He added to his responsibilities after Game 6 to talk about the Penguins' side of things too.

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.

OTTAWA -- The Pittsburgh Penguins' down-low attack generated plenty of scoring chances against the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday. It just didn't work well enough to beat goalie Craig Anderson more than once in a 2-1 loss.

Nevertheless, former NHL assistant Jim Corsi doesn't see any reason for the Penguins to change their approach in Game 7 at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). 

 

[RELATED: Schultz,Hornqvist could return in Game 7 Complete Penguins-Senators series coverage]

 

The same approach might be their best way to advance to face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final.

"Ottawa, it looked to me, decided it couldn't fight the fight in the transition game so it decided to fight the fight down low," Corsi said. "There were a number of chances in favor of Pittsburgh, but they were directly related to the fact that the Senators were playing almost like they were penalty-killing with five guys. And then most of the shooting was hash marks down, throw it at the net, look for loose change. That is tough, tough sledding [for the Senators]."

Corsi said that's a change in attacking style from how the Penguins were trying to generate offense earlier in the series.

"They used to come up high, get the puck, swing and try to come through the neutral zone with speed," Corsi said. "Now it's quick up, chip it in and fight the fight down low."

Video: PIT@OTT, Gm6: Anderson slides across to rob Crosby

By doing that, Corsi said the Penguins were able to keep the Senators stuck in their own zone defending, tiring them out, especially in the second period, the period of the long change for each team.

"The outlet pass worked well for Ottawa," Corsi said. "It was just once they got their outlet that Pittsburgh, especially in the second period, decided it was going to push down in the neutral zone. What happens when you defend is you're the furthest away from the bench in the second period, so you saw their guys scrambling to jump off the ice in the neutral zone whereas Pittsburgh is just coming right back down at them. That's why you got these long shifts and continuous action in Ottawa's zone."

That was evident on the score sheet. The Penguins outshot Ottawa 46-30, including 41-21 at even strength. Pittsburgh had a 75-46 advantage in total shot attempts.

"You also have to remember that Pittsburgh played a dirty goalie game," Corsi said. "Anything that was below the circles they threw it to the paint, toward legs. That was Pittsburgh's play."

Video: PIT@OTT, Gm6: Malkin backhands home own rebound

What happened too was that when the Penguins got the puck down low, it forced the Senators to turn toward the puck; that means the Ottawa players had their backs turned toward the top of the zone.
 
"So what Pittsburgh is doing is getting a high F3, three guys up at the blue line, just so Ottawa has to stretch their defense even more," Corsi said. "Then, secondly, with that high F3 it's allowed Pittsburgh's D-man to jump in." 

He pointed to a disallowed goal for goalie interference at 3:04 of the second period as an example.

"Who was the guy in the crease? It was Trevor Daley, a defenseman," Corsi said. "Pittsburgh's change is to be down below the hash marks. It gives them two options, get it lower and have Ottawa turn or throw it at the net. It works."

Anderson made 45 saves and didn't allow the Penguins' strategy to defeat the Senators in Game 6, but that same game plan could work in Game 7 to get Pittsburgh back into the Cup Final.

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