There’s a line I like to use, I wish it was mine. Most of the shit I say isn’t mine. Anyway, I took it from something someone said about the first era of Mourinho’s Chelsea. It was, “The way to beat them is the same way you get flattened by them.” It works for this Hawks team.
I don’t think the Penguins had the wrong plan, even though they have maybe half of their strongest roster right now. You can’t beat the Hawks trying to be conservative, or trapping, or toeing carefully in the offensive zone. Give the Hawks too much space, doesn’t press their weak points.
You do beat them by going right at them. Trying to get speed to the outside, which the slower-than-accustomed Hawks defense can’t really deal with. You get your defense involved, ahead of forwards the Hawks might have left too high. You make the same, short passes at your line that the Hawks do at theirs to bypass the third forward and possibly a pinching d-man.
The problem though, is that if you don’t take the chances that creates, or the Hawks are at the absolute top of their game, or your goalie isn’t anywhere near his, or you go just a touch overboard, or some combination thereof, you’re going to turn the neutral zone into a runway for the Hawks. While they may not have the wheels out of the back they used to, they have more than enough d-men who can pass their way out of trouble if you give them the space.