As most websites are previewing Game Six on Monday night, we here at the Hopeless Chase reflect on a dominant Lightning victory from two days ago. Is Jason still at Tully's? Is Just chasing a new profession? Who knows? You will if you read below.
So I figured I'd take 24 hours to reflect on the epic 8-2 Lightning victory in game 5. There's something relieving about the team you support breaking a game by scoring early (and often). It eliminates a lot of stress that's normally associated with following a play off game, case in point the five years of your life you lost in Game 4.
That being said I wish I'd been able to see more of the game. I was relegated to the dulcet tones of Dave Mishkin and Phil Esposito despite the fact that I was actually in the Tampa Bay Area while the game was being played.
Because I wanted to see what it was like to be a craftsman I volunteered to help out our buddy Saint Leo Mike and his wife with a nice day of house painting. Let's just say I won't be changing jobs anytime soon. My shoulders haven't gotten that great of a workout since, well never.
So I missed seeing what the Lightning did different that allowed them cash in seemingly on every offensive opportunity they had. It wasn't that they shot the puck more (their 26 shots were only slightly higher than their 24 total penalty minutes). They did win more face offs as all of their normal draw takers were over 50% except for young Mr. Stamkos. Nor did it seem they were dominating any aspect of the game other than the scoreboard. As a matter of fact Mishkin pointed out that the Penguins dominated much of the early game despite the Bolts posting a 2 goal game.
They did go 4-7 with the man advantage as they continue to dominate the Penguins on special teams. So that's good. Steven Stamkos finally found the back of the net (twice!) so that's good, too. If he's finally acclimated to the playoff atmosphere he will be the deciding factor in the series.
The Penguins have stayed in this series by grabbing early leads and playing a Devils-style bunker mentality and relying on the stylistic saves of Marc-Andre Fleury. They've been assisted by the inability of Lightning players that aren't named Martin St. Louis to put the biscuit in the basket. So to see names such as Stamkos and Gagne on the score sheet under the goals category is a tremendous relief.
Now can they carry that over to Game Six on Monday? Hopefully. One thing about blowing an opponent in the playoffs is that it is almost easier for the defeated team to bounce back. Ask the Detroit Red Wings how that 5-0 win in Game 5 of the 2009 Finals worked for them against the Penguins. I'll save you the Google search - it didn't. The Penguins won the next two games and the Stanley Cup.
Losing by such a large margin allows the Penguins to brush this game off (something a 3-1 series lead makes easier) and they can focus on getting back to their game plan in Game Six. A game plan that involves them blocking shots, disrupting passes and being general pains in the asses.
As my time draws brief I will only give you the stars of the game:
Stamkos - 2 goals and he's off the schneid. His confidence has to be back and that could spell doom for the Penguins.
Gagne - He got the all important first goal and fourth goal. The Penguins were pressuring the Bolts when it was 3-0 and if they had scored the outcome would have been different. Gagne scored instead, chasing Fleury and the rout was on.
Ted Purcell - he had a couple of assists and some dandy passing with Lecavalier. So yea!
Prediction for Game Six - the Bolts pull out a close one 2-1 setting up a Game Seven in Pittsburgh and the dramatic return of Sidney Crosby.
Wow, what a contrast of emotions between Games 4 and 5. It has been a while since I have seen the Pens get throttled at home in the playoffs (ed note - worst home playoff loss ever). After the second period, while eating a pulled pork sandwich (my pick at the Consol), my dad and I watched countless number of fans exit the building. I have to admit I looked at my dad after the LeCavalier goal and said, "this game is over." Saturday's game went from a scoreless game to 5-0 in what seemed like five minutes. Oh how I miss the days when the Penguins boasted a roster of dangerous scorers. I remember the 1992 power play when had Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens, Rick Tocchett, Ron Francis, and Larry Murphy.
The 2011 team must rely on Arron Asham, Mike Rupp, and roster full of guys who should be playing 8 minutes a game to fill the net. It just isn't going to happen unless the Pens get some bounces. The current group of Penguins remind me of the 1995 New Jersey Devils.
I have said numerous times before on this blog that the Pens lack of talent would catch up to them in the series, and Tampa may have found their offense in Game 5. Tampa won every battle along the boards, won faceoffs, and physically beat up the Pittsburgh defensemen. For the first time in the series, Tampa was the better team playing 5 on 5.
Most importantly for the Bolts, their top two lines were a force every shift they played during the final two periods. It also doesn't help that their power play is ticking around 40% for the series. Guy Boucher's troops are keeping it simple. Get the puck in the zone, shoot, and crash the net. Steven Stamkos and Simon Gagne scored goals by jamming home rebounds. If the Lightning continue to crash the net, their will be more loose pucks available in Game 6.
There is not much else to say about Game 5 so let's look at game 6.
What the Lightning need to do:
1) Don't Change a Thing
To quote Peter Noone from Herman's Hermits singing Henry VIII.."Second verse same as the first".
2) Get the first goal.
The team that has scored the first goal has won every game and the Pens need the first goal. I think the Lightning have enough firepower to overcome an early deficit, but the Penguins have to change their game if they fall behind by more than 1.
3) Crash the Net
Tampa scored their 2nd and 4th goal by jamming home rebounds. Marc Andre Fluery is very good but he does allow rebounds. The Lightning need to take advantage of this aspect of Fluery's game.
What the Penguins must do:
1) Forget about Game 5!
The beauty of the playoffs is you can lose by 6 or 1 and it is only one game. If the Penguins play like they did the first 37 minutes of Game 4, they will have success tonight.
2) Clear the Crease.
The Bolts consistently crashed the net and their 2nd and 4th goals came from 2nd and 3rd chance rebounds. Fluery has been good in the series, but he does give up rebounds.
3) My Daily Power Play Rant
The Penguins should decline their power plays. They are 1-24 in the series. If this were football I would decline any power play. Actually I think some personnel changes should be made. Pittsburgh should use Mike Rupp in front of the net. Jordan Staal and James Neal are not willing to pay the price to get in front of the net. Also, please move Alexei Kovalev to the point! PLEASE!!!
I think talent will overcome will and Tampa sends this series back to Pittsburgh with a 4-1 victory.