Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Let's Review Game Sechs (That's enough, Audrey!)

So I plan on watching Game 7 in my bedroom, on a laptop with headphones on. Exciting, eh? My stomach is a wreck already and I have no focus at work. So let's go back to Monday night and re-live some Game 6 action.

Game Six is in the books and now everyone in our two towns is focused on Game 7. But how did we get to this place? Simply put the “real” Lightning finally showed up. And by that I mean Monday night’s game was the first time in the series that the Bolts actually outworked their opponent. Sure they’ve outscored them in other games, but in Game Six they did all of the little things that win playoff hockey games and they did them better than the Penguins. They blocked shots, broke up passes, won battles along the boards and out-skated the Penguins.

Even though the ice tilted towards Pittsburgh’s advantage with all of the power plays the Lightning were the more energetic team. At one point I sent you a text saying that Kris Letang looked exhausted, that could be said for most of the Pittsburgh skaters at that point. To me it looks like their style of play since January has finally caught up with them. Whereas on the flip side the Lightning looked fresher and seem to be getting the hang of this playoff intensity thing.

You are correct when you say offense is the Achilles’ heel of your squad. Once Tampa went up by 2 in the third it was hard to believe that your flightless birds could muster up the scoring to bring it even. That being said there were three moments that I thought turned the game and decided it in favor of Tampa Bay.

1. Chris Conner’s penalty shot. – I thought he had the right approach. Come in with speed, quick deke and hope it beats Rolosson. Unfortunately, due to the ice or the hockey gods the puck didn’t cooperate. If he scores there the Pens keep the momentum they had built up prior to that call. Instead it seemed to take the wind out of their sails for a bit.
2. The two pad save by Rolosson – Right before Steve Downie put the Bolts ahead for good, Roli made two unbelievable saves on Max Talbot and Pascal Dupuis. The one on Dupuis featured an old-fashioned stack of the pads that you don’t see very often in the age of butterfly goalies.
3. Kris Letang rattles one off the post – Down by two in the waning moments of the game, Letang fired a shot through a screen and past Rolosson. Luckily for the Lightning it hit the post square and bounced to safety. If that puck goes in it is Katy bar the doors time for the rest of the game.

An honorable mention goes to the deflected puck by Victor Hedman on young Mr. Conner’s two-on-one opportunity. The puck nicked Vic’s stick just enough to go wide. All-in-all a rough night for the diminutive Penguin forward.

Instead of players lets go with my three top highlights of the night

1. Dominic Moore’s no-look pass to Bergenheim. It was a thing of beauty because the only two people on the ice that knew it was coming were Moore and Bergenheim. The fact that Fleury almost got a pad on it was a miracle.
2. The aforementioned save by Roli. It was a huge momentum shifter and it led to…
3. Steve Downie’s goal – The enigma that is Tampa’s Little Ball of Fury, Downie showed his good side in Monday night’s game by scoring a goal and helping on two others. And he managed to go a whole game without picking up a misconduct penalty despite being hit in the face with a puck.

It brings us to Game 7. It will be the Lightning’s first Game 7 since they hoisted the cup in 2004 against Calgary. All bets are off. Whatever team forces the most turnovers and creates the most bounces their way will win this game. It will probably be a mucky affair with a lot of neutral zone play and dump-ins. Normally I would say that favors the Pens, but I think they’re out of gas. Bolts win 3-1 with goals from Stamkos (PP), Nate Thompson and St Louis (EN).

I watched Game 6 at my house. It was the first playoff game i had watched in Plum, PA since Game 6 Montreal. That was the game where my wife thought Jesus Christ's last name was Goligoski. I try not to freighten her with playoff hockey. She was doing some reading for work and I almost put her into cardiac arrest when I yelled when Staal tied the game.

I don't know if Kris Letang is exhausted but i know he sure is frustrated. the blueliner hasn't had a goal in over 30 games and 2 since Crosby went out with his concussion. Chief, I read your thoughts on Letang, I just think the Pens miss Sergei Gonchar more than they relaize.

My thoughts on Game 6. The Lightning were the better team from the drop of the puck. Someone who would just read the box scores would tell me, "Jay, the Pens have outshot the Bolts all 6 games.". My answer to that is simple. they are taking shots from center ice and anywhere they can within 90 feet. The Penguins lead the series in shots, but Tampa leads the series in quality shots and Game 6 was a prime example. The Pens made the most notible chances (Connor 2 on 1 and penalty shot, and the 3 stops on Talbot and Dupuis) but Tampa consistenly created quality chances while creating traffic in front of Fluery every game. The mood in the Burgh is that Fluery is playing poorly, but I would strongly disagree. Since the start of Game 5, Lightning forward are constantly in front of Fluery and the majority of the goals scored are on rebounds. That says more about the Pens not clearing the front of the net than Fluery playing poorly.

I have to give credit to Guy Boucher. The Tampa coach had his team alter their game plan after Game 4 and it has worked. Tampa started getting more traffic in front of Fluery and made it a point tohit the Pittsburgh defenseman. Since Game 4, the Pens defenseman look uncomfortable. Also, you have to give him credit for inserting Marc Andre Bergeron in the lineup. The offensive defenseman can run the 2nd power play unit and his play on defense has been better than expected.

Dan Bylsma on the other hand has not made any lineup changes or adjustments (not even on the power play). In fairness to Disco Dan, i am not sure what else he can do. His two options at forward are Mike Comie and Eric Tangradi. There is a strong sentiment in Pittsburgh that Alexei Kovalev should be stratched. I am a huge Kovalev supporter but have to admit he has been invisible, except for taking 6 penalties in the series. The reason I play Kovalev is that he has the skill to break out and he is better than anyone else you have to replace him.

Here are some Game 7 tidbits from the Pens side of the ledger
* They have never won a Game 7 at home after losing Game 6 (0-5 in franchise history)
* Pittsburgh has a losing record at home in the last two playoffs (4-6)
* The power play is 1-31 in the series and 3-72 against playoff teams
* Since 2007, this group has played in 3 game 7's. In 2009 beat Washington and Detroit, and in 2010 lost at home to Montreal

i thinkwe will see talent beat will tonight at the Consol. The Penguins don't have finishers while Tampa does. 2 early first period goals propell the Lightning to a 6-2 victory.My wife will get her husband back until college football starts.

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