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Predators v. Penguins Preview: Special Teams

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These guys are good on the power play. Really good.

2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Media Day Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As the Nashville Predators prepare to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Predators are going to need to prepare to stop Sidney Crosby and the havoc he has wrecked on the power play all playoffs. Furthermore, the Predators are going to try and find ways to crack Pittsburgh’s penalty kill, especially since they had such difficulties doing so against the Anaheim Ducks. Here is what the Predators can expect to see from Pittsburgh.

Power Play

For all of the shortcomings of the Penguins’ ability to play 5v5 hockey, the Penguins are absolutely lethal when they have the man advantage. If you are not yet familiar with what is being dubbed “Sid’s Office,” get used to the area in front of the net by the left goal post.

Running an umbrella power play with two men in front, Crosby is always setting up as the man to the left of the goalie. Pittsburgh, not trying to score from the point, will just try and find a lane to get the puck to the front of the net. Once the puck reaches the net, they let Crosby work his magic to put it in the net. It’s a power play that sets Crosby up for the same goal every time they have the man advantage.

Like, every time. Seriously. This is nearly the same goal.

When Crosby is on the ice, the Predators need to make sure that Crosby cannot get free time in this area of the ice. Thankfully, during the Predators’ penalty kill, Crosby’s spot should be marked by Mattias Ekholm. Because, really, Crosby makes their power play work from his spot.

Are we done here? The Penguins have a league-high 14 power play goals these playoffs and are converting 25.0% of the time they have a man advantage. Stay out of the box and, if you can’t do that, cover the darn left post.

Penalty Kill

The Penguins’ penalty kill these playoffs has also been playing well, especially given all their injuries on defense. Like the Predators, they play a box defense. However, they are not as disciplined as the Predators.

Similar to the Blues, their forwards pinch in if given the opportunity. The odd thing is that their defense does not share this same aggression. Because they do not fully commit to attacking the puck nor simply taking away passing lanes, “soft spots” on the ice open up inside of their box when one of the corners of it is pulled out of position.

In this clip, the left corner of the Penguins box pinches, thus opening up more area inside of the box for Oshie to score. Thinking of the Predators’ system, this means that Filip Forsberg is going to likely be chased along the wall while James Neal gets more space inside. If Forsberg is quick, he may be able to find Neal inside for some in-close chances.

However, the Predators have preferred to find shooting lanes for the one timer from the point. Thankfully, with quick puck movement, the Penguins can be caught not getting back to their spots in time.

Here a scrum in the right corner of the offensive zone is quickly translated into a one-timer from the top of the left circle. Carlson is rewarded for his shot with a goal. The area in which this shot comes from is one that has already generated plenty of Predator goals these playoffs - be it bombs from Ryan Ellis hitting the back of the net or shots by Matt Irwin and P.K. Subban getting through to traffic in front.

Nonetheless, it’s the first example with the soft spot inside that the Predators are going to want to exploit. That weakness hasn’t been present in any playoff opponent thus far. The Penguins simply leave so much ice open there for a shot from the middle. While the long point shots have worked so far for the Predators, hopefully they find a way to exploit that inner ice.