Sunday, April 17, 2011

Two Guys, Game Two, One Column

Game two is in the books and the series is tied at two. It looks like the playoff beard will grow a little bit longer as the Lightning win guarantees a game five. The Bolts offense broke out for five goals, including an empty netter by Mattias Ohlund (his first in two seasons as a member of the Lightning).

I brought Jason back for his insights. As I expected he didn’t like what he saw.

Justin G:

So, you're probably feeling a little different about game two then you were about game one, but from what I saw both games were kind of similar. The main difference being the power play chances. Mainly, the Lightning got more and it led to them cashing in a couple of times.

I'd mentioned a couple of times that it was important for the Lightning to beat Fleury early and they did. The two best players for the Lightning for me were Eric Brewer and Nate Thompson. Brewer was all over the ice early in the game and Thompson played textbook Guy Boucher hockey.

I'm still worried about the Lightning's inability to get the puck out of the zone when the Pens can set up their fore-check. Hedman looks like a rookie out there on the ice. I thought Stamkos played better than he did in game one. Hopefully, he gets off the schneid in game three.

As an attendee if the game what differences did you see?

Jason L:

What I saw from the Lightning in Game 2 was what I thought I would see in Game 1. Tampa looked quicker, their power play was effective against the league’s best penalty killing unit, and they won a lot of battles for loose pucks.

Friday night the big guys returned for the Lightning. Martin St. Louis was able to use his speed and back off the Penguins defense and like the veteran he is, Vinny was constantly going to the front of the net and other than the final 10 minutes of the 2nd period, they controlled the pace of the game. In the playoffs, you don't score pretty goals, you score goals in front of the net. That is why the Bolts tallied 2 with the extra man.

As impressive as the first two periods were, I was extremely impressed with their third period. They played a patient game, stood the Penguins up at the blue line, and made the safe, simple play to get the puck out of the zone. They didn't give the Penguins any chances as they tried to erase a 3 goal deficit. Tampa was impressive down the line...what else can you say?

On the Penguins side of the ledger, they came out flying. Tyler Kennedy had an early 2-on-1 that as stopped by Dwayne Roloson, they fore-checked, and then Kris Letang made an awful pinch in the offensive zone which led the first Lightning goal by Eric Brewer. After that play, the Penguins were not the same. A few players on the Pens had awful games. Jordan Staal was ineffective and was easy to knock off of the puck. Pittsburgh's big 3 defenseman, Paul Martin, Zbenyk Michalek, and Leang were awful. Letang makes me wish they had Sergei Gonchar back to run the point, Michalek cannot play the point on the power play, and Martin looked slow and panicked under pressure.

The biggest issue in the Penguins is the power play. They are 0-13 for the series and are clicking at 5% over their last 100 chances. They are not scoring, but worse is that they can't establish an attack when on the man advantage. You can't win a playoff series without a power play that cannot convert.

If the Lightning outplay the Pens in the first period again, the Pens may be in a hole they can't climb out of. This is a team that cannot come from behind


Wholeheartedly agree with you on the Lightning winning the battles for the puck. I'm still concerned about their "jailbreak" defensive zone coverage from time to time, Roloson can only bail them out so many times.

The Pens were definitely deflated a bit after the Bolts scored twice on their first three shots. Tampa was also much better on the faceoffs, which helped them control the puck a bit more in the third.

One interesting thing I noticed was that Boucher put the "Big Three" together for a lot of shifts in the second period. I wouldn't be surprised if he did that more now that he has the last change with the series in Tampa.

The Lightning did go 2/6 on the power play, but I don't like Stamkos at the point. At this stage in his career he's not the best passer of the puck. I understand Boucher wanting to give him some space away from the Pens D, but it's not his strength.

Despite having zero fear of the Pens' power play, they have to stop taking so many penalties. 13 penalty kills in two games is unacceptable, if you keep giving them chances they will eventually cash in, which gives them confidence, which is bad.

I see the Lightning pulling out game three 3-2. Your prediction?

If the Penguins were better at scoring I would be more concerned about the breakout passes. The biggest difference between these two teams is the Lightning are talented enough to score 5 goals on 20 shots while Pittsburgh needs bounces to score more than 3 in a game. A big question in this series is where are Steven Stamkos, James Neal, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz. These 4 players are expected to produce and aren't noticeable in the series.

Here are my Penguins keys to Game 3
1) The power play has to look like a power play. After watching hockey for the better part of 30 years you can't win in the playoffs without a power play. I think the Penguins need to work the puck behind the net and hope to create traffic that way. The current strategy of passing around the perimeter is failing. I mentioned it before game 2, they need to try Kovalev at the point.
2) Play a better first period. In games 1 & 2 the Lightning were the far better team in the first stanza and for a team that can't score goals, falling behind could be fatal.
3) Stay out of the penalty box. The Lightning have too much talent on the PP and if you give them 5 chances a game, my guess is they will find the net at least once.

Keys for the Lightning
1) Pressure the Pittsburgh defenseman. Last game when Letang, Michalek, and Martin were pressured, they turned the puck over. I believe the speed of the Tampa forwards overwhelmed the Pens and they need to use their speed to their advantage.
2) Quit taking dumb penalties. Chief, I agree with you on this point. You can't take 13 penalties in 2 games and expect a team o be completely inept on the power play. The Bolts should feel lucky that they are playing a team with an awful PP.
3) Avoid the 2nd period lapse. In the first two games the Bolts were dominated in the 2nd period. The Penguins were able to pressure Tampa shift after shift and if it wasn't for Roloson the Pens could have erased the 3 goal deficit in Game 2.

My prediction is a 3-1 Lightning win. The Penguins will need to survive the first 10 minutes and I don't think that will happen. Tampa is offensively the more talented team and against a team that struggles for goals this will be enough to carry the Bolts to a 2-1 series lead.

All photos lifted from the website.

No comments: