Head Coach Mike Sullivan Breakout Strategy Part 1
This is a follow-up on Mike Sullivan’s coaching strategy for the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins. Head Coach Mike Sullivan Breakout Strategy Part 1
I wrote earlier this week on how Mike Sullivan was preaching that morning practices are overrated, and all scoring chances start in the defensive end of the ice. Outside of morning practices, all head coaches preach defensive zone breakouts. However it takes a slick coach to write-up slick breakouts.
I watched the Penguins vs Bruins on 12/16/15 the first time Sullivan stood behind the Penguins bench. The Penguins lost 3-0 however the effort was there as they executed on several breakouts. Sullivan wanted the puck out of the defensive zone onto the offensive players’ blades. Pittsburgh got their chances and played a full 60 minutes. Despite the loss, Pittsburgh impressed me coming out of their own zone.
Looking at the picture above you can see how Sullivan wrote up this breakout from the defensive end. It was executed perfectly coming out of the zone, with the help of a slight Bruins breakdown the Penguins took full advantage. Let’s look at the rush through the neutral zone now.
The defensemen spoons the puck up to the center who has all day through the neutral zone. I can’t recall but this may have been at the end of a Bruins penalty. However I don’t believe it was. Centerman takes the puck skating straight through the neutral zone. All other players are in perfect position, now let’s see how it works out.
This is when the successful breakout pays off, or at least it’s supposed to. The center see’s daylight entering the zone, cuts left and has all day to shoot on the netminder. The left winger recognizes this and skates to the middle of the ice crashing the slot/net. The right-winger appears to be headed into the right direction as well. Now let’s see how this all falls apart.
The puck carrier shoots the puck low in hope of a rebound, it happens, the center is there for the rebound unfouranetly it redirects to the right side….where is the right-winger? Standing in the high slot on the right side admiring the play. To make matters worse the puck wraps around the boards leaving the zone then the Bruins take over.
This is not science, this is basic hockey that’s taught when you’re a kid. I understand the winger has to stay back to protect the puck from leaving the zone but when your coach preaches breakouts, you better make sure all three forwards crash the net in hopes of a trash goal. From there its the coaches job to tweak the breakout a bit. Possibly having a defenseman on the right side pinching in, keeping the puck alive?
In my opinion Sullivan will turn this Penguins team around but the front office needs to rebuild down the left and right side of the ice. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz and Kessel can’t do it all on their own. Sullivan is in a tight spot. Either he stacks one line or he spreads the top 4 forwards out, which he has done so far. With either plan in place that leaves a weak winger not capable of executing. Hence why the following breakout did not execute as planned.
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