BOSTON – As the Bruins and Penguins prepared fore Game 3 tonight both coaches have been laying out their plans, one to consolidate their lead, the other to rebuild confidence and craft a strategy for more time spent in the offensive zone.
Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma spoke today about the need for creating more time and space in the offensive zone for talent-laden forwards.
“To our unliking, most of the game or great portions of the game have played in the neutral zone. There hasn’t been a lot of offensive zone play by either team in either game, and we’d certainly like to change that and get to the offensive zone a lot more and spend more time there than we have,” Bylsma said. “You know, the neutral zone game between the top of the circles is a game we’d like to stay away from in terms of how the game has been played the last two and more in-zone time where we need to be at our best.”
For Bylsma it is more than dictating the flow of the game, it is about the game plan meshed with the matchups in Boston where the Penguins will not have the luxury of the home team.
“Their team, the coaches, matched up Chara just really against Sid and Geno, not exclusively against one or the other. Him and Seidenberg are together sometimes but not all the time. They’re certainly going to use Bergeron in conjunction with their D pairing to get the match-up that they (want),” Bylsma said. “With Chara and Seidenberg against the lineup they want or if that’s not the case they’ll get Bergeron. So they’ll continue to do that. We’re going to look for ways — it’s a little bit harder, but look for ways on the road to get either Sid or Geno’s line on the ice in situations where they don’t have those guys on the ice.
“A lot of that’s dictated by us being able to play in the offensive zone. I’ve already said today that we haven’t really done a lot of playing in the offensive zone, so it’s been more to the match-up liking for their team, whether that’s home or on the road. If we can do a better job of playing the offensive zone and making those players play in those positions and then what shifts after get match-ups to our liking, that’s what we’ll try to do and try to do on the road when they have the match-up after the whistle.”
For Boston, the issue is not getting ahead of itself as a roster with the 2-0 series lead. Bruins head coach Claude Julien is quick to remind anyone listening that 0-2 or 2-0 situation is approached in the same way.
“It doesn’t matter what situation it is. I think our guys are mature enough to understand that whatever we’ve been through, whatever the situation is right now, we have to be a good team in order to win at this stage of the season, and we can’t afford to let our guard down, whether it’s the respect for a team you’re playing and the ability of that team to take advantage of you if you’re not ready, or whether it’s just from within our group, to want to be a good team every night,” Julien said today. “That’s what’s important right now, is that we stay focused on the present and don’t live in the past and don’t look in the future. I’ve said that before. We’ve been good when we’ve kept our eye on what’s going on right now, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Julien also spoke to the issue of puck management being important in the Bruins’ game plan.
“To win a hockey game you need everything, and puck management is one of those things we talked about. Defense. We talk about scoring goals, we talk about being strong in the puck, everything else, and puck management, at one point was part of our game that we were struggling with a little bit with New York and gave us some issues, and then when we had to be better against Pittsburgh because if you didn’t have good puck management and if you don’t get continued good puck management, you’re going to run into trouble with that team,” Julien said this morning.
The defensive scheme drafted up for this series has been variously described as easy or difficult depending on which Bruins player is asked the question. The scheme so far can be best described as leaning on the Penguins players and making them carry the opposition on their back for several strides. It must be wearing to have some of the Boston skaters adding their weight to the skates.
After the morning skate, Dan Paille and Adam McQuaid seemed to indicate the scheme was difficult. Julien had an opportunity for levity in his press conference.
“It’s not complicated, so I’m going to have to have a talk with Dan there with that. It really isn’t. What we try and do is eliminate the gray areas, make it black and white, and it really is easy, and he probably said complicated because he doesn’t want to tell you what it is,” Julien said describing the defensive scheme.
“But it isn’t, and this game shouldn’t be a complicated one. Guys have skills, you try and put some structure together, but the one thing you don’t take away is their ability to use their imagination and their skill and their hockey sense to make plays. Defensively is where you’re extremely structured, and then you want to make sure, like you said, that you have layers and guys come back the way they should be positioned. But when it comes to offense, a couple of rules, but the rest is about letting them do their job and let them use their creativity.”
Complicated or not, the Bruins will their system to the test again tonight. Game 3 gets underway at 8 PM eastern at TD Gardens.