Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pens 2 - Sharks 0: First Period Analysis

The Pens, coming off their first extended break after a brutal start to the season, could have easily come out flat against a San Jose team that's only lost one in their last six games. Instead, the Pens immediately jumped on the aggressive forecheck, forced a turnover, and put a quick one by Niemi from Deryk Engelland pinching in from the point. Pens weren't content to sit back and let the Sharks back in this one, quickly finding the net again a short time later on a shot from Malkin that found its way past Niemi with Neal battling a Sharks defenseman in the crease. Shortly thereafter, the Sharks pulled Niemi in favor of backup goaltender Geiss. Niemi didn't look very sharp, but this was more about a coach trying to wake up his team than sending a message to his goaltender.

The Pens continued to control most of the play throughout the period, but the Sharks did manage to wake up part-way through the period. The Sharks were able to gain some momentum by getting pucks deep behind the Pens defense and establishing their own aggressive forecheck. The Sharks were disciplined in finishing every check and pressing enough to force some turnovers by the Pens and create a few chances of their own. The Sharks tried a bit too much to make plays rather than put pucks on net, to which the Pens did a good job of team defense to keep the zone coverage tight.

For the second, the Pens need to continue to establish the tempo of the game and keep pressure on the Sharks. The Sharks aggressive pressure does force the Pens into errors and low percentage passes out of the defensive zone, so the Pens would do well to try and shorten their passes and avoid the stretch plays. The Pens defense was especially active on offense, with one defender leading the rush across the opposing blueline on quite a few occasions. On a team as offensively talented and quick as SJ, this is a risky approach.

The Pens would do well to try to simplify their game a bit and be a bit more conservative on defense to avoid allowing SJ to find a way back in this one.

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