Penguins following other playoff series more for amusement than analysis — for now
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan might scribble a few notes on the dry-erase board that doubles at a coffee table in his house when he watches Washington try to close out its first-round series against Toronto on Sunday night at Air Canada Centre.
There’s a reason such a unique item exists in Sullivan’s abode, though: No matter the time of year, the coach rarely watches hockey without a critical eye on the details.
While there’s eagerness among the Penguins to learn which opponent, Washington or Toronto, waits for them in the second round of the playoffs, neither Sullivan nor his players consider these few days of between-series idleness a particularly vital time to get ahead on video study. The series between the Capitals and Maple Leafs, which has included four overtime games and one that went down to the wire in regulation, mostly has given the Penguins a chance to savor high-scoring action from a semi-fan perspective.
“Obviously, once we know who we’re going to play, we’ll go through the routine that we do normally,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “But right now, everyone is just watching the games. It’s been such good hockey to watch.”
Sullivan challenges his players to get a little better every day, and that process frequently involves video analysis of the Penguins’ play and opponents’ tendencies. But he opted to let everyone decompress for a few days following Thursday’s series-clinching 5-2 win over Columbus. The Penguins did not practice Friday, and they held only off-ice workouts Saturday.
Practices will start Sunday, and tempo will be a point of emphasis.
“It’s (about) recovery, but it’s also getting these guys and continuing to keep these guys in a competitive environment where we push the pace in practice,” Sullivan said. “We get them in some competitive battle drills that are game-like so that they continue to experience that workload that’s necessary in a game scenario.”
Once the Penguins know for whom they should prepare, they’ll start pushing themselves mentally, too.
“These guys are used to or accustomed to video meetings almost daily,” Sullivan said. “At this point, sometimes it’s nice to give them a little bit of a mental break and let them re-energize.
“We also believe as a coaching staff that if we do show them video, there’s always going to be a purpose behind it and trying to get better in certain areas of the game. Part of it is we don’t know who our opponent is going to be, so there’s no opportunity there to show them anything.”
Trust that the clips involved in those meetings will include more than what happened in the last few games between Washington and Toronto or even just games involving the Penguins. The amount of tracking and replay technology, Sullivan explained, eliminates almost any chance for teams to hide details about their schemes and strategies.
“They’re going to have the same video on their side,” Sullivan added. “So there’s really not a lot of secrets out there. That’s just the nature of today’s game. But certainly we watch the games, and we take notice.”
Evgeni Malkin described the Washington-Toronto series as “tough” and the teams as “pretty even” but emphasized he mostly cared about how the Penguins used their days of preparation for either opponent.
Then the center let a little bit of a preference for the Penguins’ next opponent slip.
“We remember 2009, 2016,” Malkin said in reference to the team’s last two Stanley Cup runs. “If we play against Washington in second round, (history shows) it’s a little bit lucky for us.”