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Inside Scoop: Game 5 vs. NYI in Round 1

Thoughts, reflections, and observations from Monday's morning skate ahead of Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena against the New York Islanders.

@PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter Michelle Crechiolo

Thoughts, reflections, and observations from Monday’s morning skate ahead of Game 5 at PPG Paints Arena against the New York Islanders.

WORKFLOW AND ATTENDANCE

Casey DeSmith, the team’s goalkeeper, was the only player who did not attend the session, and head coach Mike Sullivan had no update on his condition. The Penguins used the same lines and D-pairs as in games three and four…

Guentzel-Crosby-Rust (Guentzel-Crosby-Rust)

Zucker-Malkin-Kapanen is an acronym for Zucker-Malkin-Kapanen.

McCann-Carter-Gaudreau is a public relations firm founded by McCann, Carter, and Gaudreau

Aston-Reese-Blueger-Tanev (Aston-Reese-Blueger-Tanev)

Dumoulin-Letang is a town in the Dumoulin-Letang region

Ceci, Matheson

Pettersson-Marino is a character in the film Pettersson-Marino

PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
One of Sullivan’s first jobs as head coach of the Penguins was to divert the players’ focus away from all of the distractions that surrounded the club – or “the noise,” as he calls it. That’s a philosophy he continues to preach to his players, which is especially crucial at this time of year because a seven-game playoff series will be full of ebbs and flows.

So far in Pittsburgh’s Round 1 clash with the Islanders, that’s been the case. The Penguins are dissatisfied with their performance in Game 4, which New York won 4-1 to even the series at two games apiece. Despite what social media and Internet message boards say, they’ve played a lot of solid hockey in this series, which is far from done.

I appreciated Sullivan’s comment about the team just needing to have a tough mindset and a laser focus moving into Game 5 tonight:

“We’re going to win a game, and everyone will be praising us. We’re going to lose a game, and there will be plenty of sceptics. And we’re going to concentrate solely on the issue at hand. We’re going to try to tune out the background noise. Every experience we have will teach us something. That is how we see it. That was the topic of debate with our players… We’re up against a formidable foe. We were well aware of this before to entering the room. We knew it was going to be a tough series going in, and now we’re in the thick of it. So that’s the most important thing for me – just having the right mindset and being thrilled about the chance in front of us.”

The players are looking forward to going back on the ice and playing in front of their 50 percent capacity crowd at PPG Paints Arena, which will undoubtedly be rocking as they welcome the team home after two trip games.

“We’re ecstatic,” stated Jared McCann. “Obviously, we didn’t play our greatest game against them last time, but we’re going to go out there today and show that we’ve improved a lot.”

When it comes to tactical changes the Penguins believe they need to make for Game 5, McCann stated that they want to be tougher on the forecheck. They must apply greater pressure to the Islanders defence and fight for more pucks and bodies in front of the net.

Sullivan stated, “The forecheck is a crucial component of our identity.” “I believe our team is at its finest when we’re on our toes, anticipating and making excellent decisions with the puck between the blue lines. So it comes down to a mindset, but it’s also about making decisions and carrying them through.”

MANAGE THE PROCESS
Some noteworthy stars, such as top-line winger Jake Guentzel and McCann, have yet to score in this series. Given how productive they were during the regular season, their absences are more noticeable.

“There’s no mistake about it,” Sullivan added, “that they want these men to find the back of the goal.” But all they can do is maintain control over the process, play the game correctly, and ensure that they are performing their duties shift after shift. Then, perhaps, the odds will begin to shrink.

“Right now, I think I’ve simply been ordinary,” McCann remarked. “I know I’ve improved significantly. Obviously, you can’t always control things like that; that’s just the way hockey is. It goes in sometimes, and it doesn’t always. You have to give their goalkeeper credit; he did an excellent job, but I’m going to keep pushing here. I’m not going to linger on it; you have to remain positive in the face of adversity, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Guentzel, in particular, has had a number of wonderful opportunities, scoring seven goals in Game 2 and six in Game 4. Sullivan is certain that he’ll be OK because he tends to play his best hockey at this time of year, with 25 career playoff goals in 49 career postseason appearances.

“The ball hasn’t gone in the net for him up to this point,” Sullivan said, “but he’s got a lot of chances to finish.” “So, if he just sticks with it, we believe he’ll find the back of the net. He’s a far better player than I am.”

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