It’s fitting that the night Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma moved into a tie for second place on the franchise’s all-time win list (135), his team played a textbook example of the system he preaches.
Bylsma emphasizes the importance of gaining puck possession, getting into the offensive zone and using a strong forecheck to tilt the majority of the play in the attacking end.
Well, the Penguins executed that strategy to near perfection against Carolina, spending nearly 80 percent of the game in the offensive zone. The result was a 4-2 victory and 52-18 advantage in shots.
“Looking up and seeing 52 shots for us and keeping a team under 20, this was one of our better games in playing the way we needed to play and playing it for 60 minutes,” Bylsma said.
The Penguins’ 52 shots were the most they’ve fired since having 55 against the New York Rangers on March 4, 2010 (5-4 OTW).
“It’s a good thing,” forward Jordan Staal
said. “It shows that we’re playing a great game when we’re getting over 50 and other teams are getting under 20.”
And although the score was knotted at 1-1 entering the final frame, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Penguins cracked Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters – which is exactly what they did.
“When you’re controlling the offensive zone like that you’re going to get your bounces,” forward James Neal
said. “We just want to stick with it and we did that.”
Yes, the Penguins are pleased with the amount of pucks they threw to the cage. But what they were most pleased about was the way all six players on the ice – including goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
– retrieved pucks in their own end.
Doing that not only allowed them to get down the ice quickly and establish a number of odd-man rushes, but it kept the Hurricanes from establishing any sort of attack of their own.
Carolina had seven shots in the first period, a mere three in the second – the lowest total surrendered by the Penguins all season – and eight in the third.
“We felt like we did get in their zone and control the cycles and the pucks,” forward Pascal Dupuis
explained. “We won some battles down low in their zone. But the main thing here is the puck retrieval.
“We didn’t stay too long in our zone. Our D men were great tonight at getting the puck out of our zone and we took advantage of it playing there.”
Added forward Craig Adams
, “When you do that, it frustrates a team and they can’t get a forecheck going. You end up playing in their end a lot and the shots were indicative of that.”