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Penguins focused on cleaner breakouts

Olli Maatta

Olli Maatta


So far, much of what’s been written and said about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ coaching change has focused on the contrasting personalities of the old guy, Mike Johnston, and the new guy, Mike Sullivan.

Johnston has been painted as the soft-spoken, analytical type, with Sullivan as the forceful, no-excuses, I-worked-under-John-Tortorella-for-years-and-it-shows type.

And while it’s true that Sullivan has been preaching much the same message that Tortorella preached when he took over the Blue Jackets -- i.e. “mindset” over “strategies and schemes” -- Sullivan does have some tactical thoughts on what’s needed for the Penguins to make full use of their considerable talents.

It starts with the breakout.

“I think it’s important that you have to try to come out of your end zone as clean as you can, and as efficient as you can,” Sullivan told “Preferably, you’d like to come out with the puck and so, we’re going to try to implement some schemes to help us try to do that. We’re going to work on that a lot, and that’s going to be a point of emphasis.”

That’s going to be interesting to watch, because even GM Jim Rutherford conceded there was a personnel issue with this team.

“Part of this falls on me because I didn’t get the defensemen that were necessary to have more movement from the back-end and I think more puck movement from the back-end generates more scoring opportunities,” Rutherford said, per Yahoo Sports.

And don’t forget Kris Letang, arguably Pittsburgh’s best puck-mover, could be out two weeks with an injury. Young Olli Maatta is maybe their best now.

Anyway, just something to keep in mind when you watch the Pens host the Caps tonight.

“The more we can execute under pressure and come out of our end, we’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays,” said captain Sidney Crosby, per “That’s something we worked on [in practice] and something that can definitely help in that area.”