PHILADELPHIA — The success the Pittsburgh Penguins have enjoyed over the past two seasons have seen them booed by opposing fans in every arena they’ve traveled to. Though on Sunday, as their best-of-seven first round series shifted to Philadelphia, those in attendance didn’t need any new reason to jeer.
Yet it’s how the Penguins have been successful that is now the envy of the other 30 NHL clubs, and what teams have tried to copy in an attempt to catch up to and dethrone the Penguins.
When the Penguins defeated the Flyers on Sunday 5-1 at Wells Fargo Center, there was a stretch in the first period where Pittsburgh’s biggest strength pushed through. Goals by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Derick Brassard, the Penguins prized center depth, a hallmark of a team that is attempting to win its third consecutive Stanley Cup.
Crosby’s goal marked a change in the game’s momentum. Brassard doubled Pittsburgh’s lead in the second before Evgeni Malkin and Brian Dumoulin scored within five seconds of each other, matching the NHL playoff record for the fastest two goals by one team.
How do you match up against that kind of skill down the middle? It’s a question the Flyers were probably askign themselves Sunday, and one every team in the NHL has been reaching to achieve with the Penguins being the model.
The Predators made their attempt by signing Pittsburgh’s former third-line center Nick Bonino in free agency last offseason and trading for Kyle Turris before this season’s deadline in three-team deal.
The Jets took their shot when they acquired Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues just before the deadline, adding depth to Winnipeg’s core of Mark Scheifele and Bryan Little.
As beneficial as those moves were for the Predators and the Jets, no team has been able to level with what the Penguins have done. On Sunday, as their top three centers scored, it had to inspire a quiet moment of confidence in general manager Jim Rutherford, whose big deadline acquisition this season was Brassard, shoring up the center position for Pittsburgh to make a run for a three-peat.
“We think it’s a critical element of our overall team identity,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “We want to be a team that’s strong down the middle so Jim Rutherford, our general manager, went out and he made a couple of real key moves this year in order to strengthen our team down the middle.
“He made a subtle move with Riley Sheahan early in the year and then we picked up Derick Brassard right around the trade deadline. Those two moves, I think, really solidified our strength down the middle.”
Sheahan was traded to the Penguins from the Red Wings Oct. 21, while Brassard landed in Pittsburgh after a blockbuster, three-team trade involving Ottawa and Vegas Feb. 23.
Three games into the postseason, it looks like Rutherford got exactly what he envisioned at the trade deadline.
“Both of those guys, Riley and Derick, when you play behind two elite players like Crosby and Malkin, they make our team that much better,” Sullivan said. “They’re different players in how they play but they’re critically important to our ability to play the game we want to play.”
Rutherford called the Brassard acquisition “the most complex trade I’ve made,” but it might be much more than that by the end of the postseason.
“It’s a really important position, you have a lot of responsibility, especially on face-offs,” Brassard said. “It went that way tonight. I think it was a good effort for our team in general. It starts with the face-off but after that we have to find some chemistry between lines.”
Article source: http://www.sportingnews.com/nhl/news/nhl-playoffs-2018-penguins-pittsburgh-philadelphia-flyers-video-stanley-cup-round-one-series-game-3-sidney-crosby-evgeni-malkin-mike-sullivan-watch-b/10zy5sy2bqnu017bo5visubwrd