Practically everything that needed to be done to ignite a slumping team was executed last night by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their thrilling overtime victory proved that the coaching staff preached a "back to the basics" sermon that the players took to heart.
First, I liked the move of starting Johnson instead of Fleury. Not that Fleury was to blame, or the recent skid but, we lost with him so why not gamble without him. Anything to shake things up and maybe create a spark.
Second, pinching the defense throughout the game really paid off. It really paid off for Jay McKee as he scored for the first time in eighty-four games. Newcomers Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland even got into the act with Lovejoy getting an assist and Engelland pressuring deep. Deryk even dropped the gloves to try to light a fire early for the Penguins.
All of last night's defense corps contributed as Eaton scored a goal and Skoula received an assist in the overtime period.
Third, Matt Cooke was a body in front of the net. This is something the Penguins have been very reluctant to do. His work helped in getting Thomas off his game and allowed the Pens to put one in the net.
Fourth, the hit count was 24-14 in favor of the Penguins. You have to finish your checks in order to slow down and wear out you opponent. It would be nice to see that hit count increase.
Fifth, the Pens kept putting the puck on the net. This was something that they have not been doing the last two weeks. As the old hockey adage goes "put the puck on the net and good things will happen."
Sixth, with the return of Malkin, Dan Bylsma put him on the number one line with Crosby. With the Pens being the home team, this gave them last change status and played havoc with the Bruins. They were always shuffling to get Chara out there against the Penguins top line.
Just by the coaching staff going back to the basics of a goaltending and line change, pinch your defense and get them involved in the play, create traffic in front of the net, and finish your checks as well as putting the puck on the net, they came away with a memorable victory.
It seems so easy, but yet so hard sometimes to keep it simple and remember the basics. If you can, it will pay off almost every time. It certainly did for the Penguins last night.