In today's feature of what is troubling the Penguins, we're going to take a look at how advanced scouting combined with players with speed and skill within a defensive oriented setup can create offensive scoring chances that can just kill the opposition on the scoreboard and mentally derail even the most talented players.
In the first screen capture, we'll pick the play up as Dustin Jeffrey and Evgeni Malkin are stuck behind the goal line on a shot from Malkin that Evgeni Nabakov wisely catches, drops the puck and is ready to push the puck up the ice.
In the next screen, you'll see that James Neal gets the puck along the LW sheet of the ice and Lovejoy is positioned on right defense near the center red line and out of frame is Kris Letang, who is about to get the backhand pass from Neal.
Now you can see this next pic showing Neal moving it back to Letang out of screen and that Lovejoy has skated back closer to the blue line.
In the next photo, you'll see Letang accept the pass, Lovejoy has moved to inside the defensive zone at the blue line, Neal is moving to the bench for a change.
Now Letang has the whole play in front of him, sees Neal changing and I believe Jeffrey is moving up into zone to change as well, so he's skating backwards with the puck from the top of the left circle into the slot when he gets the pass above to the below pic showing he's now all the way back into the right circle below the face-off dot. Because he's taken himself so far back into the zone and only one man in support, he has two options... 1) retreat to behind the net, allow the line change to fully complete 2) move the puck up the ice to Lovejoy... as you'll see, he selected option 2.
Here's a pic showing Lovejoy received the pass, he's wide open and the full sheet of ice to his view on the forehand.
Or... so it seems because what you can't see it is New York shutting down the neutral zone and essentially forcing Lovejoy, a player with a lack of confidence and not a highly skilled defenseman, to make a decision to simply pass the puck off the boards down the ice. Notice the positioning of the Islanders skater is angling his stick to the boards.
This pic shows Lovejoy trying to guide that pass along the boards, notice the Islanders skater virtually shutting off the pass and has center zone support behind him.
This pic shows the pass being intercepted, the center zone skater (Grabner) is changing course. The Pens have one man coming off the bench at center red high, another who was moving from center to blue line forward, and another forward stationary at the RW boards at the blue line. Pens are now on their heels and in no position to defend a counter attack due to the giveaway.
Now Grabner has all the speed going to his advantage as Lovejoy is out of position, Letang is the last man back (out of frame), and 3 forwards are well behind the play.
What does speed look like on the counter-attack, look at the separation between Grabner and Lovejoy while Letang is about to feel the burn as he's in no position to angle off Grabner.
The result is Letang stretching for Grabner
And Vokoun having to make a pad save on Grabner.
The Isles did an outstanding job all game long of backing up in the neutral zone, taking away the easy chip off the boards from the defensemen and then counter-attacked with their great speed. It was New York last season, that started to really drive home these breakout issues for the Penguins using the very play outlined above.