A Solid Plan
Every NHL team has a plan for the playoffs. They have a good idea of how they want to set up, how they’ll exploit the other team’s weaknesses, and how they should be able to win.
The Penguins figured they could rely on their stellar offense taking the majority of the possession and burying the Islanders under a torrent of quality chances. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel up top, that’s not a bad idea.
But then again, everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face.
Game one was that punch in the face for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders countered that strategy by suffocating the Penguins with wave after wave of forechecking. The speedy transition game of the Penguins couldn’t get set up because the Islanders didn’t give them any space to breathe.
That forechecking led to turnovers and giveaways which in turn led to chances for the Islanders. Chances they buried behind Matt Murray.
The Penguins never recovered. They tried to generate more offense by putting Phil Kessel with Evgeni Malkin or by moving Jake Guentzel to the right of Crosby rather than the left. None of it worked.
Through the series, the Penguins didn’t have the slightest bit of real-estate to operate.
Whenever the Penguins managed to score, the New York Islanders answered almost immediately. The Penguins lead for just over four minutes in the entire series.
The Penguins might have had a plan, but the New York Islanders plan was clearly better.