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Old
02-16-2013, 01:59 AM
  #1
Tender Rip
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Team identity

In the plus/minus thread it is being discussed how the third line needs a new identity, and it got me thinking that we are trying to be the team that defined "Our game" and we seemingly don't have the roster to be that team. At least we don't seem to have the size, speed and intensity up front that would make this possible.

As a primer I should say that I think our breakouts, puck support and forecheck suck to a frightening degree virtually every game. That colors everything we do 5 on 5, and if we got around to improving here, perhaps all would be joy. But there are also some personnel issues here that merit discussion.

What we definitely aren't seeing is a third line that dominates possession down low. Sutter is a very good third line center and I like him and his smart defensive game, but he is never going to be Staal level beastly down low. His offense is going to come in transition when they force turnovers.
Staal's huge physical impact for that line was the main reason they could do what they did, and even if we are now also seeing a lousy version of Kennedy and a slower, less mean version of Cooke, this is something to bear in mind. We don't have third liners who can dominate physically to the extent that the old third line design is something to go for, IMO. It is what I hoped Tangradi could help bring, but of course he didn't look likely to and was never really tried on the third.
Remember when we had Connor Letestu Kennedy though? That line scares absolutely noone on paper, and played weaker competition than the Staal line would, with the top6 taking on tougher matchups instead. But they got the job done because they were buzzing and did a tremendous job with the dump and chase and a great work ethic.

Rather than looking to recreate the third as a shutdown line that camps out in the offensive zone, how about trying to make it a buzz/checking line; accept that it isn't going to contribute that much to offense, and invest the required assets to get the top6 more dominant down low? Because really that's what we want.

The top6 has big issues retaining possession also. It is pretty much only when we put Crosby and Geno together (more so with Neal and Kunitz as the third player) that we get extended zone time, because having that much skill out there forces teams on the back foot. We cannot do that very often though, as it depletes the skill level for the next two/three/four shifts big time.

Again, a major reason here is that we are not getting the zone entries and puck support needed to establish the cycle. It is also a matter of having very few bodies going hard to the net, which prevents us from doing what teams have been somewhat successfully doing against us - camp near our goal while the blueliners are taking shots. We are very much a perimeter team right now, and that contributes to our skill players having less room to operate in the offensive zone.

On Crosby's line a difference from the past is that Crosby is just not the hustle demon he was. He loses many more battles behind the net than he did, often because he doesn't contest defender like he did, and instead of him and that unit working as hard as before, they're now trying many more cute passes, and his linemates simply don't have the hands for that.
On Malkin's line.... Malkin himself can do a lot better (fly-by checking just doesn't work), but more than that... neither him or Neal are committed to grinding continuously and never were, and outside of two periods with Matt Cooke, and a game with Jeffrey, I don't think I have seen that line have coherence on a shift to shift basis in the offensive zone this season. As much as I want Bennett to succeed, I seriously do not think this is going to be the line he does it on.

The only line that largely works when it comes to the cycle is Vitale's. And that's because all of those three guys are 100% effort guys on every shift and cannot be successful playing any other way than they do.
Of course, outside of tonight we are not going to see much of any offense because of that, and they don't have the skill to sustain a cycle very long ayway. It just keeps the puck away from our end a good deal of the time they are out there, wins them an offensive zone face-off and we put skill on, which is all we want.

We really need a down low force for the top6. Either one who is an upgrade on Kunitz so we can slide him down, or someone who fits the bill for Malkin's line. I am getting to the point where I'd even like us to try for Dustin Penner . Given his inconsistent compete level that scares the hell out of me, but at least he has a history of cranking it up when he gets to the playoffs.

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Old
02-16-2013, 06:33 AM
  #2
Tender Rip
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02-16-2013, 08:42 AM
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catdaddy
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A thoughtful post and one I enjoyed reading. I don't feel competent enough to make specific comments on most of what you've written but I will say that I agree that this is a team in search of an identity. As long as Malkin's line is still in search of a third wheel and Crosby's line is missing a high quality sniper (a la Neal) I think the expectations for our 3rd line will be that it has to chip in offensively on at least a semi-consistent basis.

At this point if you commit the 3rd line to a buzz/checking role then you have a 3rd and 4th line that are pretty much the same in terms of their mission statement. I'd be fine with that if either of those two could wear down the opposition and if our top two lines were actually filled with top 6 talent. Hard to establish an identity when there are some big holes at the top of the depth chart.

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02-16-2013, 08:44 AM
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WhatsaMaatta
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It seems like you've put a lot of thought into this.

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02-16-2013, 08:50 AM
  #5
WhatsaMaatta
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Seriously, though, we keep asking for a top 6 winger, etc, but is there any one thing that is going to make this team a playoff contender? Sid needs some help on the wing, our 3rd line isn't half of what it used to be, the PP continues to be an issue. . .

IMO, a lot of this can be solved by some added hustle and, mainly, puck support.

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02-16-2013, 09:14 AM
  #6
UnrealMachine
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I'm much more worried about our top 6 than the bottom 6. Crosby's line tends to try to do an impersonation of our 4th line and it isn't working at all. It's actually kind of boring to watch as well. Spot on are the comments from the +/- thread regarding Sid not coming in with enough speed and trying to actually challenge a defender. If he is purposely trying to avoid contact (not saying that he necessarily is), that's fine, but we need to employ a much different offensive strategy in that case. Defensively, the 1st line has actually been much better than in the past.

The second line is much worse. The actually do a better job of maintaining possession, but their entire game is forced towards the perimeter or behind the net. Add to that, I don't see many people getting open as the skaters look like football receivers who cannot shed man-coverage. Malkin ends up along the boards too often and there is no threat in the middle of the ice. Perhaps they got so accustomed to playing with Kunitz that they don't know how to adjust their game to whoever is the left wing? Malkin only has 1 more goal than Craig Adams at the moment, and one less goal than Adams at even strength. And if their offense is sub par, their defense is borderline disastrous. Malkin/Neal are averaging over a goal/60 against more than Crosby's line.

I'm not really worried about the 3rd line because they've done an excellent job defensively against some very stiff competition. That's their job. Perhaps more scoring will come. For what it's worth, Sutter has more goals than Staal (who gets more ice time, top PP time, and has much better linemates). He is also dealing with a non-scoring version of Kennedy, so that has to be rough.

The 4th line seems to get at least one super shift every game that bottles the other team up in their zone, so keep up the good work. I'd like to see them at least try Jeffrey there instead of Glass sometime (how does he have an ironclad roster spot, exactly?).

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02-16-2013, 09:36 AM
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cheesedanish87
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One thing that i never see mentioned about the pens season is that other teams almost always bring their A game when they play the pens. Pens are a team that gets alot of attention and teams get up to play them and we rarely see a teams backup goalie. Other teams will play against teams that just dont show up for a particular game we rarely get that.

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02-16-2013, 09:45 AM
  #8
mpp9
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With Sid, I think he definitely has altered his game a little. It's not necessarily bad, but he needs more talent around him to get the most from that line.

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02-16-2013, 10:49 AM
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Darth Vitale
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I cannot bring myself to read multiple paragraphs describing "Our Game". Mostly because no one knows what it is. "Go North" "Grind" "Battle"... OK. Like I said in the other thread, I dream of a day when we no longer debate the 3rd line because the first two are so ****ing good that it doesn't matter / no one cares.

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02-16-2013, 11:04 AM
  #10
Jag68Sid87
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I'm with CV. The problem with this team's identity is that it caters more towards the fourth line than the first. It makes ZERO sense. I've said it ad nauseum, but when is Shero finally going to build this team around two of the best players in the league, instead of building around a bi-polar spazz of a goaltender?

We've spent countless first round picks on defensemen. We went blueline shopping a couple of years ago and spent close to $10m/year there. When our schizophrenic goalie bottomed out last spring, we spent more money for a veteran backup to push him.

I'm not saying ANY of those moves were bad, per se. But in a salary-cap world, you need to make tough decisions. And it always comes back to where your starting point is. And this team's starting point is in goal. And that makes zero sense for THIS team.

We've already lost one indispensable forward (Staal). I don't want to lose anymore. But if we continue to focus on playing this ridiculous system of 'grinding those b*tches down', we will regret it.

I wanna be Chicago. Why can't we be Chicago? Skill everywhere, skill coming out of their ears. They're not built around Corey Crawford. They're built around Toews and Kane. Like they're supposed to be.

Everything with this team is ass-backwards.

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02-16-2013, 12:39 PM
  #11
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To go on a few of your points TR, here is what I think:

- I watched Morrow pretty closely this season from Dallas and he's a guy that isn't as fast as he was, but still wins battles on the board. He would be a PERFECT match for Sid/Dupers.

- The third line would be fine if Cooke/TK showed up to play this year. Their time in Pittsburgh is almost up so we can get some new blood in. Cooke still does good on the PK, but he's lousy this year 5 on 5. And TK has been a ghost since he signed his 2M per year contract. He forgot everything that got hi that contract in the first place.

- There is also one major key factor why we aren't winning battles and that's the numbers game. We haven't outnumbered a team in the neutral or offensive zone all year. We need better support. It sounded like DB was trying to infuse that at practice, but it didn't work.

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02-16-2013, 12:53 PM
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Polaris Husky
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jag68Sid87 View Post
I'm with CV. The problem with this team's identity is that it caters more towards the fourth line than the first. It makes ZERO sense. I've said it ad nauseum, but when is Shero finally going to build this team around two of the best players in the league, instead of building around a bi-polar spazz of a goaltender?

We've spent countless first round picks on defensemen. We went blueline shopping a couple of years ago and spent close to $10m/year there. When our schizophrenic goalie bottomed out last spring, we spent more money for a veteran backup to push him.

I'm not saying ANY of those moves were bad, per se. But in a salary-cap world, you need to make tough decisions. And it always comes back to where your starting point is. And this team's starting point is in goal. And that makes zero sense for THIS team.

We've already lost one indispensable forward (Staal). I don't want to lose anymore. But if we continue to focus on playing this ridiculous system of 'grinding those b*tches down', we will regret it.

I wanna be Chicago. Why can't we be Chicago? Skill everywhere, skill coming out of their ears. They're not built around Corey Crawford. They're built around Toews and Kane. Like they're supposed to be.

Everything with this team is ass-backwards.
I don't think Bylsma has even the faintest idea of how to coach skilled players. He wants people who play like 4th line grinders, because they're the guys he knows what to tell to do. Offensive creativity isn't exactly a point of familiarity to DB.

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02-16-2013, 01:15 PM
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You mean our third line isn't as good with out Staal? Who could have imagined that?

It wouldn't hurt so much if we used that cap space created to invest in some one to help Sid but we didn't. Dupuis is a black hole on that line. He's a straight line player who would better be served on a third line. Sid passes him the puck & the offense ends there.

It also doesn't help the third line that we are constantly taking players off it to plug holes in the two lines.

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02-16-2013, 01:16 PM
  #14
BlindWillyMcHurt
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Sure this team has an identity!

Being incredibly difficult to watch, most nights. Even when they win.

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02-16-2013, 01:45 PM
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You can go to every teams forum, besides maybe Chicago and jersey and you will see fans complaining about their team. Is stil very early, not to mention how much time these players had off. Not sure why some completely ignore the lockout having an effect. We are doing what we have to do right now and that is keep winning games, while getting past the lockout. No matter how ugly it looks.

The FO surely knows what we need to add before the deadline. I'm not worried about that. Only thing I'm concerned about is the lack of sellers. But I still think we add a legit winger.

Like I said, even though its a shortened season....and there's only 33 games left...we are just now entering November in a normal year.

I understand the concerns with our system and everything else people have been talking about. I'm just looking around the league and seeing problems everywhere , except a few teams. Who are peaking way too early

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02-16-2013, 04:44 PM
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Luigi Lemieux
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColePens View Post
To go on a few of your points TR, here is what I think:

- I watched Morrow pretty closely this season from Dallas and he's a guy that isn't as fast as he was, but still wins battles on the board. He would be a PERFECT match for Sid/Dupers.

- The third line would be fine if Cooke/TK showed up to play this year. Their time in Pittsburgh is almost up so we can get some new blood in. Cooke still does good on the PK, but he's lousy this year 5 on 5. And TK has been a ghost since he signed his 2M per year contract. He forgot everything that got hi that contract in the first place.

- There is also one major key factor why we aren't winning battles and that's the numbers game. We haven't outnumbered a team in the neutral or offensive zone all year. We need better support. It sounded like DB was trying to infuse that at practice, but it didn't work.
Honestly, i think we miss Staal. I think Cooke/TK depended on him quite a bit to hold possession for that line, and Sutter doesn't quite have Staal strength to be able to dominate the boards like Staal does. As a result we've spent a lot more time in our own zone this season than in years past. Not to mention we're missing his secondary scoring.

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02-19-2013, 12:05 AM
  #17
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To sum it up imo. This team used to not be a regular season team so to speak but built for the post season. Due to system and some players it isn't anymore. In 08/09 ect this team was nasty to play against. They were super physical, were not careless with the puck and seriously wore teams out over the course of a series. Remember when this team used to go down by 3 goals and you still felt they could comeback and win ? This team is ****ing stale and lacks desire. This team used to have 4 lines that cycled the puck great, it now has 1 and a half. Combine that with a bi-polar goalie and this is what you get. Also add in for this season the Malkin of 2010 who is back to taking retarded penalities and putting 5 passes right on the stick of defenders every game. I'm aware of the fact we don't really have a left winger for him but he still has BY FAR the best winger on the team on him line.


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02-19-2013, 09:32 AM
  #18
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I had been meaning to say this over the long weekend but got super busy (Surely you all care). But thanks to TR for making this thread. This is the kind of hockey discussion on steroids I come to the boards for. You can see the real value adders (IMO) in the thought out responses.

I have been harping on identity for some time now. Sure every team has issues, and i am certainly not disappointed with our team because lets be honest.....we still get to win games and watch great talents play. But i just can't help notice the shift approach or identity the past few years.

Few good points already covered. We need 4 lines who can cycle. That is what we had when we were harder to play against, and IMO better built for playoff success. This also includes Cole's point on puck support. It hasn't been there so neither has the cycle. I will also add my own thoughts that we A) got too small when we thought the game would remain extremely wide open. Now that some obstruction has returned, our cycle (when established) has a hard working the puck into the slot area. B) DB's systems, and this is not a critique of him overall, seem so geared to rigid execution that some basics of dump, chase, and establish support seem to be outside our players "responsibility". We are trying to control the puck at all times, even on zone entry. Or, we are trying to work the stretch pass and chip which isn't allowing enough forwards to retrieve the puck. When we get it in deep, we other forwards turned loose to retrieve.

My main concern is this getting to our game approach. Seems counter intuitive to say we need to "focus less on our game" and "need more identity". But our identity now is a systemic approach to the game. Systems are fine when they are more of a umbrella governing decisions, ala NJ Devil hockey which is boring as chastity but effective. Our system is more like gears in a machine. If the gears get thrown off, we fall apart. It happens on both sides of the hockey coin too. Teams who trap throw us off, and teams that turn the game into old time hockey throw us off. When you are so formulaic the variables cause greater swings in results.

The good news is, I think a few personnel changes...and not necessarily "upgrades" from an asset perspective can have a major impact.

We need 2 more guys dressed each game who play like Bortuzzo. When he gets TOI you can see the edge in his game is contagious. Similar to Clarkson on NJD. Like it or not, he makes almost every game interesting. A move on the 3rd line and 4th line could be the shake up needed to add size and emotion on a nightly basis. Focus on bringing in a wing for Malkin is also important but patience is needed. It needs to be the right guy for the line, and for the larger team identity. Not just anyone with skill IMO.

I have a feeling that come playoffs shero will have made moves to address both of these issues. More emotion and size for the bottom 6, and a top 6 player for Malkin's wing.

(Side note, i have seen the 4th line beginning to play a nice 4th line game with Adams Vitale and Glass. I hope DB continues to juggle them less and use them more to set the tone. When he juggles everyone with Sid and Geno, the whole team starts watching and waiting instead of playing like units with chemistry and purpose).

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02-19-2013, 10:05 AM
  #19
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One Major difference in my mind watching the 90's Pens vs the Pens of today is this.

I had the perception that when the 90's teams went on the ice, they were never searching for there game. They had an attitude we are the best team on the planet prepare to be defeated.

I dont get that vibe from this current team.

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02-19-2013, 10:13 AM
  #20
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Fully agree that the third line lacks some buzz. To be honest it lacks some size and toughness too.

I think Sutter has been good not great. He's playing a safe game and is always in position but I really thought he would be more active and harder on pucks. Right now I would describe him as "sleepishly good" and I'm not sure thats a good thing.

The thing about Cooke and TK is that I think the Pens have changed their style over the start of this season and I don't think it suits them. Pucks weren't going in deep but we've seen a lot of east/ west plays high in the offenseive zone and even in the neutral zone. Kind of like when they started off the '11 season so bad. The Pens seem to be back to end boards play now so over the next few games I'm hoping Cookie and TK can pick it up.

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02-19-2013, 12:32 PM
  #21
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Geno's got yer identity RIGHT HERE...

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