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Stanley Cup Final

Penguins put trust in 20-minute video before Game 2 of Cup Final

Pittsburgh looks to screen session for answers, adjustments prior to facing Predators

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

PITTSBURGH -- Twenty minutes. That's it.

The Pittsburgh Penguins spent about 20 minutes going over video of 5-on-5 play before an optional practice Tuesday, then about another 20 minutes going over video of special teams Wednesday after an optional morning skate.

That was their main preparation for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), even though they knew they played poorly in a 5-3 win in Game 1 on Monday.

 

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No marathon meetings after blowing a 3-0 lead and going 37 minutes without a shot, including the first period without a shot in the Final since the NHL began tracking the statistic in 1957-58.

No full practices after mustering 12 shots, by far their lowest total of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and going 1-for-3 on the penalty kill.

"It's never crazy long," forward Scott Wilson said.

For good reason.

After 102 games -- 82 in the regular season, 20 in the playoffs -- the Penguins know their X's and O's. They need reminders and rest, not in-depth tutorials.

Coach Mike Sullivan doesn't want to become Professor Mike Sullivan, droning on in the front of the class as his students' eyes glaze over in the back.

Bueller? Bueller?

Bonino? Bonino?

"I think coaches realize that anything much longer and you can start to lose guys," defenseman Ian Cole wrote in his player blog on NHL.com. "They lose their focus and attention. Concise and businesslike is always better."

Sullivan doesn't want his players overthinking on the ice, either. The Penguins want to play with speed. Too much information, too much processing, leads to hesitation and slows them down.

And so the coaches put a lot of work into those 20 minutes. 

"A lot of hours," Sullivan said. "That's part of our responsibility. That's part of our job. That's one of the parts of our job that I really enjoy, is just how we can help our team game to game? How do we get better as a group?

"In today's game, in today's world, the use of the video is vitally important in that process. So we spend a lot of time at it. We try to be as efficient as we can so we don't waste our players' time, so we try to take the time as a coaching staff to be as prepared and to the point and as theme-oriented as we can in order to facilitate that process."

Video: Reaction to Stanley Cup Final Game 1

The Penguins need to adjust. In Game 1, they struggled to generate shots mainly because they had a difficult time exiting their zone and entering Nashville's.

They need better structure in their zone, so the defensemen make quicker plays and get the puck to their forwards with speed.

"Our ability to get out of our end zone as efficiently and effectively as we can is critically important," Sullivan said.

They need to keep Nashville from setting up its 1-3-1 system in the neutral zone. When that happens, the Predators force the Penguins to dump in the puck. When that happens, puck-handling goaltender Pekka Rinne can diffuse the forecheck.

"I think when you let them set up in their left-wing lock in the neutral zone, they kind of can see where we're coming from and stop us," forward Nick Bonino said. "I think when we're able to play fast and get in position to help the [defensemen], get open for them, we can attack the other way and try to catch them off guard."

If they do dump in the puck, they have to be aware of Rinne and Nashville's skilled, mobile defensemen.

"When we go on the forecheck and try to hit them, and they bounce off and beat us up ice, we're in trouble," Bonino said. "We have to make better dumps. We have to keep it away from Rinne, make it tougher to get out. When they do get it out, they're always jumping up. So if we can bump them, chip their body and make it hard for them to get in the play, that's always good."

It's a good guess all of that was part of those 20 minutes of video, and it's a good bet the Penguins will be better in Game 2. They are 3-0 in Game 2 in these playoffs, when Sullivan and his staff have had a chance to see their opponents, analyze them and get to the point with the players.

"We're trying to do our due diligence," Sullivan said. "What can we learn from it? How can we improve our team? Do we need to make any adjustments? Do we have to game plan differently? These are all the discussions that we have behind the scenes in between games to try to help our team continue to have success."

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