Friday, April 22, 2011

2 Guys x 2 E-Mails = Game 4 Review

Sure it's late, but if you've landed in this spot of the internet looking for timely news, well, sorry.

Justin half-asses 'cause he wrote it when he was still depressed and Jason re-visits Tully's and expounds on his overtime hockey history....

Here we go...


Well. We had our first nerve-wracking multiple OT game of the series. To tell you the truth, after the first period I didn’t think it would make it to OT. The Pens outplayed the Bolts for the entire first half of the game, dominating in both the faceoff circle and shots on the board. More importantly they continue to dominate in the “small things” department – winning the battle for the puck, blocking shots, breaking up passes, etc. James Neal double OT winner proves the cliché that there is no such thing as a bad shot in the playoffs.

While I’m sure you rocked Tully’s with a mighty roar when you realized the goal was in, I was left depressed on my couch with only a mild expletive to utter. To which my napping girlfriend responded with, “that’s too bad now go to bed”. I have a dreadful feeling that the series is over. Tampa Bay might pull out one more game, but I don’t see them having the gumption to pull out three in a row.

One thing that did give me a bit of hope was that from the St Louis goal that brought them back to 2-1 and on, the Bolts pressured the Penguins defense a lot more in the Pittsburgh zone. For the first time since game two they were causing turnovers and keeping the puck in the zone longer than 6 seconds. If they can do that from the drop of the puck on Saturday they might have a chance.

There’s not much more you can say about Martin St Louis. He is the heart and soul of the Tampa franchise and seems to be the one that is keeping them in this series. I was thinking about how there hadn’t been too many “pretty goals” in this series and then he undressed the Pens D and roofed a shot over Fleury from a near impossible angle. Now if only he wouldn’t miss wide open nets.

Three stars for the Bolts:

Roloson – Sure he has to stop that overtime shot from Neal, but without him in net Pens win 6-2 in regulation
Sean Bergenheim – Game tying goal and he was disruptive throughout the second and third period. Good to see him using his speed to frustrate the Pens
Martin St Louis – the smallest player on the ice has the biggest will to win.

Three duds

Dominic Moore – Probably set a record for the number of times getting kicked out of the face-off circle in one game.
Ted Purcell – Nowhere to be found in this series and this game. The Lightning need their secondary scoring to be more effective
Guy Boucher – If you dress Mattias Ritola, play him more than two and a half minutes. Oh and for Jeebus sake, get Stamkos off the point on the power play.

Prediction for Saturday – Penguins come out flat, get behind early and can’t catch up. Lightning win 4-3.


Well my Saturday night was once again spent at Tully's in Williamsvile, NY. I was expecting to be in Lansing, Michigan but a last second call from a customer in Hamilton, Ontario made me do a U-turn on the 401 west of London, Ontario. After a quick stop in Hamilton, it was the 403 to the QEW, crossed the border at the Rainbow Bridge and then off to the Fairfield Inn and Suites at the Buffalo airport. A day in the life of the traveling broker but as a lifelong, die hard Penguins fan, the game was never far from my mind the entire day.

I haven't had my team involved in an overtime since last season when Pascal Dupuis ended the 1st round series with the Senators. When your team is in overtime, it is far from a joyous event. Every time your in the offensive zone you get excited that a goal may be forecoming. A trip to the defensive zone makes you feel like you are going to vomit and every shot by an opponent makes you feel like your heart is going to stop. Last night was no exception. The first overtime was non stop play and a tension filled penalty kill late in the 1st overtime. The 2nd overtime ended so unexpectedly when James Neal scored on a shot that I didn't even consider a scoring chance. Game 4 was an excellent example of the thrill and agony that playoff hockey can bring to the diehard fan.

Chief as much joy as I had seeing the puck hit the twine, I have to admit I do feel for you being on the losing end. It is a good thing your not a Flyers fan. I honestly think I would cheer for a team owned by Satan himself than cheer for Philadelphia.

Here are my top 6 Penguins playoff games since 1980
6) Penguins - Devils (1991, 1st Round, Game 2)...down a game to the Devils, Jagr scored a beauty to beat Chris Terrieri and the Pens were on their way to their first cup. I was there!!

5) Pengins - Red Wings (2008, Cup Finals, Game 5)
Detroit was ready to celebrate a Stanley Cup until Max Talbot tied the game with 30 seconds left. In the first 2 overtimes, Marc Andre Fluery played as well as a goalie could play and Petr Sykora won the game with a power play goal in the thrid OT.

4) Penguins - Capitals (1996, 1st Round, game 4)
Back in 1996 most cable systems did not have ESPN2. My cable did not and my sister and I went to Beef O'Brady's in Brandon, Florida. After regulation and three overtimes, Beef's closed and my sis and I were forced to speed to a sports bar 15 minutes away to catch the 4th overtime. With less than a minute left, Petr Nedved scored on the power play to tie the series at 2 games a piece. If you see this shot, it went thru so many bodies, sticks, and legs that Washington goaltender Olaf Kolzig didn't have a chance.

3) Penguins - Flyers (2000, 2nd Round, Game 4)
The Penguins were up 2-1 in the series and the game went 5 overtimes until Keith Primeau scored midway thru the 5th overtime. I got to the game at 6:30 and left at 2:40 in the morning. The most painful game I had ever seen but the 3rd longest game in NHL history.

2) Penguins - Sabers (2001, 2nd Round, Game 7)
This was probably one of the tighest series in Penguins history. The Pens rallied from a 3-2 series deficit and won Game 7 at the HSBC Arena when defenseman Darius Kasparaitis beat Dominck Hasek over the glove and sent Pittsburgh to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1996.

1) Penguins- Rangers (1992, 2nd Round, Game 4)
The Penguins had beat the Capitals in 7 games and took on the President's Trophy winning New York Rangers. The Pens had a 1-0 series lead when Adam Graves slash broke Mario Lemieux's hand. Joey Mullen tore his ACL when Jeff Buekeboom kneed him and Bob Errey hurt his shoulder on a crosscheck. This was one of the only times I can remember pure hatred in this city for another team. People hated the Rangers and death threats were made against Adam Graves. In Game 4, (down 2 games to 1) the shorthanded Pens were down 3-1 with 10 minutes left and had to kill a major penalty. The Penguins killed the penalty and Ron Francis beat Mike Richter with a slapshot from 70 feet away. Seconds later Troy Loney stuffed home a Jagr pass to tie the game and Francis capped off an exhilirating win with a goal early in the 1st overtime. As I was leaving the game, I turned to my sister and said "We're winning the Cup!".

Now on to Game 4. The Penguins owned the first 37 minutes of the game. The Pens got to every loose puck, blocked shots, won faceoffs and controlled the tempo of the game. As good as the Pittsburgh defense played, their overall defensive play is because their forwards backchecked better than I have seen in a long time. Guys like Max Talbot, Craig Adams, Chris Conner, Mark Letestu, among others consistently hustled back into the Lightning zone and prevented Tampa from using their speed to gain the blue line.

As a playoff series unfolds, you see teams alter their attack. The Penguins are shooting the puck on Tampa goaltender Dwayne Rolsson from the red line in. It is evident that puckhandling is not a strong suit of the 41 year old netminder and the Penguins are exploiting this. The power play (FINALLY got a goal) is starting to use some speed in gaining the offensive zone and found a way to get quality shots on goal.

The game changed on the St. Louis goal late in the 2nd.. The man may be only 65 inches tall, but he is carrying the team on his shoulders. He scored an amazing goal late in the 2nd and was everywhere on the ice in the 3rd. In the third the Bolts finally pressured the Penguins and created turnovers. For the first time in the past two games, Tampa was able to create offense at center red and not being their own cage. Once they got in the offensive zone, they got shots from the point, and got traffic to the net which led to the Sean Gergemheim goal with 3 minutes left. This is the Lightning team I expected to see all series.

After the Bergemheim goal late in the 3rd, the Penguins immediately went back on the attack. Pittsburgh did what they had done early in the game. The flightless birds controlled overtime and ended the evening with the Neal goal.

If you are Don Bylsma you wouldn't change a thing. Pittsburgh doesn't have the offensive skill to open the game up and they need to stick with the formula that got them 3 goals in 4 games. If were Guy Boucher I would try to open up the game. Tampa has superior skill to the Penguins and they need to use it. The Bolts haven't been able to solve the Pens backchecking. My gameplan would be to open up the game and activate my defense and have them look to create offense. This would back off the Penguins backchecking and give the forwards more space enetering the offensive zone. The only offensive play a Lightning defenseman has made all series is the Eric Brewer goal in Game 2, and that was a fluke pinch by Kris Letang on a 4 on 4.

3 Penguins stars of the Game
* Tyler Kennedy - another solid game for the right winger. He is continuing this stellar play after his 1st 20 goal season.
* Craig Adams - he is a human shotblocking machine. He plays over 75 games a year, is a smart defensive player and wins faceoffs. Adams is an unsung hero on the Pens.
* Brooks Orpik - most people look at his hitting, but his skating is slowing the Tampa offense down.

Penguins missing in action
* Alexei Kovalev - the man has hands of gold but legs of a 38 year old who has lost a step
* Mark Letestu - his quietest game of the series...he didn't play poorly, but wasn't noticeable. Maybe part of this is he played on the same line as Kovalev.

The Penguins have had a hard time closing teams out at home. Last year they lost to Ottawa in 3 overtimes on a Matt Carkner goal and lost to Montreal in Game 7 at the final game at the Mellon Arena. I think the trend continues as the Ligthning win 2-1 game in overtime.

No comments: