I’ve decided to do something a little different for the playoffs. Instead of a recap with stats and major turning points of the game I decided to break it down with my buddy and hockey mentor Jason. He’s a true Penguins fan from birth and perhaps the biggest influence on my hockey career.
So here is a quick point, counter-point in response to Thursday night’s action. Just so you know he was actually at the Consol center while I was reduced to listening to the game on radio.
OK let me kick this off by congratulating the Penguins for winning their first playoff game in their new building. No Igloo curse here, apparently. That being said, if it’s possible for a goaltender to steal a victory in a home game, then MAF did that last night. His play in the first period altered the outcome of that game, most notably the stop on Malone that Mishkin mistakenly called a goal and made me look like a crazy person on the train because I gave a fist pump and a mild “yessss”. The Lightning better score early in game 2 or it might be over quick.
That being said, I liked the way the Lightning played for the first half of the game. Unfortunately spending nine and a half minutes on the penalty kill tends to kill any momentum that a team builds up. Friday they better limit the ticky-tack penalties and keep the pressure on. Stamkos (who might be feeling the effects of getting rocked on the first shift of the game) only had one shot on net. That’s not going to fly. St Louis only had two….rumor is he lost as many teeth when he ate a stick blade in the second period.
Roloson was serviceable, but overplayed Asham’s goal. The bolts caught a couple of rnlucky bounces, but can’t get discouraged going into game two.
I liked what Tampa did in the first period. They kept it simple. They got the puck to the point and crashed the net. This allowed them to do two things, get traffic in front of Fleury but it also did not allow the Penguins defense to start their breakout. That being said, I totally agree that Fleury stole the show the first 25 minutes of the game. The save on St. Louis and Malone were huge, but after a scoreless first period the stop on Lecavalier was a game changer. If Tampa scores early in the 2nd, it would have been a different game.
The game changed when the Penguins got the puck behind the Lightning defense and started to fore-check. The glaring weakness on the Lightning is their lack of depth on the blue line and in the last 35 minutes of the game the Penguins exploited this. Every line Pittsburgh threw on the ice did the same thing, they hit the Tampa defenseman and hit Stamkos every time he touched the puck.
What did surprise me is Tampa's lack of success in the faceoff circle. The Penguins have been one of the worst faceoff teams in the league after Crosby's injury, but to consistently lose draws to Max Talbot and Jordan Staal in inexcusable. Nate Thompson and Adam Hall have to do a much better job or Tampa will put itself behind the eight ball. I was also a little surprised that the Lightning looked slow. As the game went along, the Penguins looked like the faster team. I didn't expect that coming into the series and I don't expect this in Game 2.
The Penguins power play continues to be a problem. With the exception of their first power play in the 2nd period, the Lightning penalty killers dominated the Penguins on the man advantage. The Bolts pressured Kris Letang and when they did he turned the puck over. In my opinion I think the Penguins might be better served using Kovalev on the point. He is the best passer on the team and can take some pressure off of Letang.
Chief (ed.note - college nickname), I do disagree with Roloson. I thought he played very well. He stood on his head in the 2nd period and the right pad stop on Letestu in the 3rd period was brilliant. He did look shaky at times in the first 10 minutes as he mishandled two weak wrist shots from about 45 feet away, but that could be playoff nerves. Roloson couldn't do anything on the Kovalev goal but he did misplay the Asham goal. Overall, one hiccup when you see 38 shots (a lot of quality chances) is a very good performance.
If I am Guy Boucher I tell my guys to play the way they did in the first period. Get the puck and get to the net. Tampa will have success in this series if they get in Fleury's face.
If I am Dan Bylsma I tell my troops to fore-check like crazy, hit Stamkos and Hedman whenever possible, and converting on the power play once a month would be beneficial.
I guess it’s the difference between seeing the game and listening to it on radio. Mishkin made it sound like Roloson was giving up a lot of rebounds, which is something that has plagued the bolts in the past. They need to block more shots in front of him, something the Penguins excel at, because if they’re giving up 40 shots a game they will not win this series.
The game last night was a carbon copy of the second half of the season. If they don’t score early, they get out of their game plan and stop pressing the puck which leads to more time spent in their own zone. You’re correct on the Pens needing to fore-check more, if there is a major weakness in Tampa’s game it’s getting the puck out of their zone. There were a couple of moments last night where they were 5 feet from the blue line and still couldn’t clear it.
I think it’s a bit of a unspoken about fact that if your physical with Stamkos early you can knock him off his game. He’s made great strides over the last couple of seasons, but he is still learning this game and finding that will to bounce back might be the next evolution of his game.
Lot of lightning fans were moaning about the officiating, but from what I could tell most of the Lightning penalties were earned. The questionable non call on St Louis will be debated over the next 24 hours (especially since he underwent a double root canal today), but it’s a tough call. He was falling to the ice and just happened to connect his face with the Penguin player’s stick.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see St Louis back on Stamkos’ line in game two as Boucher looks to spark them a bit. He’s been able to push the right buttons all season long, so let’s see what they have in the tank.
For what it’s worth here were the faceoff numbers according to NHL.com
Lecavalier – 38%
Hall – 63%
Moore – 67%
Thompson – 20%
Stamkos – 46%
Letestu – 46%
Stall – 50%
Talbot – 53%
I saw St. Louis get hit in the face....I think I was the only one because it didn't get any kind of reaction. The biggest issue the Bolts has with their early penalties was retaliating. Sean Bergenheim tripped Orpik after a small altercation and took a stupid penalty. Hey, I understand that tempers can get the best of you, but in the playoffs you can't afford to take retaliation penalties.
I am shocked to see Talbot at 53%. As someone who watches every Penguins game, I wonder who is keeping those stats. The Pens best line was Max Talbot, Pascal Dupuis, and Chris Conner. I don't expect the Pens to make any line changes. If the Pens would struggle to get the puck in the net, it wouldn't shock me if Mike Comrie saw some action late in the series or possible Eric Tangradi.
If the Lightning want to win their series, they can't start their offense every shift from 200 feet behind their own net. The Penguins created tons of turnovers in the neutral zone and that led to their fore-check being so successful. It will be interesting to see what happens if the Lightning fall behind 2-0 in Game 2. Does Boucher change lines or stay the course?
I thought the Pens played pretty much the perfect game to win the series so no need to shake things up. Game two Boucher starts with the same lines, but if they struggle to score early he shifts St Louis to Stamkos’ line.
I see the Lightning bounce back for a 3-2 OT win in game two. Your prediction?
I agree I think you will see a different Lightning team. My prediction is they get a few power plays goals early (always seems to happen when a team hardly gets a PP chance the game before) and roll to a 3-1 win. These teams are too close to see a short series.
I will say this, if the Pens jump out early, I wonder how the Bolts will react.
Well folks, what did you think? Should we keep this going or did it bore you to tears? What did you think of game one?