Breaking the 1-2-2

How does Pittsburgh break Boston’s 1-2-2 without taking the high risk of multiple turnovers?

  1. The stretch change

It is a simple breakdown of play that allows a team in the defensive zone to get a player behind the defense without them ever breaking through the defense. This play results with defensemen not leaving their point positions in reaction to a forward cheating up ice.

For instance; if the draw is in the defensive zone, say on the side of the players bench, once the draw is taken and the puck finds its way into the corner or behind the net, the near side winger will head to the bench.

Using the short side to change into, the team will send a forward onto the ice from the far side of the bench. With this change a player can stretch the ice fifty feet without actually skating past the defense. Once the player is successfully behind the defense the possession of the puck only requires a quick clearing attempt.

If the puck is successfully cleared then there is a significant amount of space for the free forward to gather the puck in an attempted breakaway. This play only needs to be executed once properly to influence the game. If the breakdown can result in a breakaway, possibly yielding a goal, then the defense of the Boston Bruins will have to respect the fast break, removing the great shot presence of the Bruins defense from the blue line.

If the Bruins cannot generate their offense from the blue line, then the forwards will have to execute proper cycles and not turn the puck over. This is not saying that Boston’s forwards cannot get the job done, this is saying that the entire Boston cycle is predicated on all five skaters being as involved as possible.

 If Pittsburgh is able to execute just one of these breakouts, they can jar the Boston cycle into a more defensive state. This defense state plays much more into the hands of the Penguins than it does the Bruins.

  1. Carry the puck

What good is having some of the best skating defensemen in the league if you do not utilize them to attack the neutral zone and open up passing lanes? The stretch pass in not going to work well in this series unless Pittsburgh forces Boston into a defensively prone position and until then the defense must skate the puck up ice.

Seen in just one great example, Penguin defenseman Brooks Orpik carried the puck from the defensive zone up until the opposing blue line before he dumped the puck into the offensive zone. In this play the Penguins broke the 1-2-2 and started a cycle in the offensive zone, cleanly.

In game number two the same play must happen time and time again. The Pittsburgh Penguin defensemen must carry the puck past the blue line before their initial pass can be made. This play will keep the 1 forward at the back end of the play and force the neutral zone 2 forwards to attack/defend the puck carrying defensemen.

At worst in this situation the play then becomes a three on three with three Penguin forwards breaking into the offensive zone against one Boston forward and two defense. The initial three on three gives Pittsburgh the even advantage in entry that was not seen much in game one.

If Pittsburgh can once again establish just a few of these types of entries, the Bruins will have to respond in a much more defensive posture.

In a defensive posture Pittsburgh will have the attacking advantage. The key to all of these entries though is to execute them early and often with top notch precision. If Pittsburgh can do this they can change the game plan of the Bruins, which was clearly a failed attempt in game number one.