Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Five things to know about the Pittsburgh Penguins

1. They're not just C Sidney Crosby and C Evgeni Malkin anymore. The Penguins are deep, witnessed by 15 players who have scored at least one goal this postseason. F Phil Kessel (right) is tied for the team lead with five goals and has a team-high 12 points. Crosby, who has 10 points, and Malkin, who has nine, have each scored three times. F Patric Hornqvist (five goals) and F Carl Hagelin (four) both have more goals than the Big Two.

2. In 2009 the Penguins changed coaches in February and went on to win the Stanley Cup. This year, GM Jim Rutherford fired Mike Johnson 28 games into the regular season and replaced him with Mike Sullivan, who was a Lightning assistant coach under John Tortorella and Rick Tocchet. It took about a month, but the Penguins eventually adjusted to Sullivan's style of play that calls for pressure all over the ice. They finished with 104 points, good enough for home-ice advantage during the conference final.

3. Can you reach the Stanley Cup final with a rookie goalie? Sure. The Canadiens did it with Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy. The Hurricanes did it with Cam Ward. The Flyers did it with Ron Hextall. All but Hextall raised the Cup. The Penguins, for now, are attempting to do that with 21-year-old Matt Murray (above), and Murray has responded with a .935 save percentage over the first two rounds. Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury, who led the Penguins to the 2009 Cup, sits even though he has recovered from the concussion he suffered March 31 against Nashville. Does Mike Sullivan continue to ride the hot hand or switch to the goalie who has won a Cup?

Roger Mooney, Times correspondent

4. Under Mike Johnson the Penguins often fell into the trap of looking for the perfect play that would lead to a goal instead of sending the puck on net. Sidney Crosby, because of his playmaking ability, was guilty of that. But when Mike Sullivan took over, the message was shoot the puck. So the Penguins have. It's a philosophy that enables the offense to remain uptempo instead of bogging down once inside the blue line. Add a defenseman to the surge and you have an offense that comes at you in waves.

5. The Penguins' run to the conference final can be traced to a July 1 trade with Toronto for Phil Kessel. C Nick Bonino, who finished off the Capitals in Game 6 with the overtime winner Tuesday, came later in the month in a trade with the Canucks. D Trevor Daley (Blackhawks) and Carl Hagelin (Ducks) were added in midseason trades. Eventually, the Penguins were fast enough, deep enough and tough enough for Sullivan's style of play.

 
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