When Mike Sullivan took over as Pittsburgh’s head coach in December, one of the areas he really focused on was the breakout.
“I think it’s important that you have to try to come out of your end zone as clean as you can, and as efficient as you can,” Sullivan said. “Preferably, you’d like to come out with the puck and so, we’re going to try to implement some schemes to help us try to do that. We’re going to work on that a lot, and that’s going to be a point of emphasis.”
It’s a fairly important thing in hockey, moving the puck from one end of the ice to the other. And especially for the Penguins, with all the firepower they boast up front, the last thing they want is to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get on the attack.
To illustrate, that’s exactly what happened to the Blues last night in St. Louis, where they got smoked, 4-0, by the Sharks.
“We turned it over, fed their engine, had it stuck in our zone,” said Ken Hitchcock. “We had a lot of clean exits we could have gone with, we went the other way, got hemmed in quite a bit.”
Anyway, when Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston, GM Jim Rutherford admitted that he was partly to blame for the Penguins’ struggles, “because I didn’t get the defensemen that were necessary to have more movement from the back end.”
With Kris Letang, Daley, and Schultz, the Penguins now have a puck-moving defenseman on each pairing.
“I think he’s done a terrific job as far as retooling the roster and giving the coaching staff the means to play the way we want to play,” Sullivan said today of Rutherford.
“I think, when you look at the guys that Jim’s acquired over the last nine or ten months, they’re all guys that, I think, have allowed us to establish the identity that we have to this day. They can skate. They’re puck movers. They’re guys that like to play with the puck. They allow us to play that speed game that, I think, really suits the core players that are here.”
Sullivan concluded: “I think that’s a big reason why we’re where we are today.”