Monday, April 18, 2011

Recap: Pens-Ning Games 1 and 2

Notable Highlights:

-After 2 games, the series is tied at 1. Unfortunately many fans don't read this blog or realize that the playoffs are all about peaks and valleys. There were too many fans (and press) crowing about how great the team looks after game 1. Conversely, the dejection after game 2 is not necessarily the reality of this team. Somewhere in between the performances of these games, the true story of both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning sits. While games 3 and 4 increase in importantance, remember that it will still only be a part of the story.

-The 2nd period of game 2 contained a segment of about 10-15 minutes where the Penguins completely dictated play, but could onlly manage 1 goal on the board. Had a 2nd been tallied, the result could have been different. Give credit to the 'Ning and especially G Dwayne Roloson for weathering the storm.

-D Brooks Orpik continues to be a true vocal leader. His comments after game 2 are refreshing, but also frighteningly similar to the types of things he was saying during the Canadiens series last season. Even though nobody's asking me, I continue to believe that Brooksie is worthy of a "C" on any NHL team, including this one.

-Arron Asham has points in both of the first 2 games.

-The Pens are generating a lot of shots, but they now need to focus on the quality of shots. Shots from the sides will be relatively easy for G Dwayne Roloson and should also not provided the rebound oppurtunites that the Penguins grinding forwards can capitalize on. A better effort needs to be made to get the puck back to the middle and have guys near the crease.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-It's really not fair to blame individuals soley for losses, but let's hypothetically say I had to pick the 3 Anti-Stars for Game 2. At the top of my blame list would be D Paul Martin, D Kris Letang, and G Marc-Andre Fleury.

Letang will always get a pass from women because he's a dreamboat, but as I've pointed out many times, his game is very Goligoski-like, only with higher ups/lower lows. Based on Coach Bylsma's comments 4/16 (around the 2:00 mark), I don't think the coaching staff is looking for him to pinch in some of the situations where he is getting caught out of position, nor are they happy with his performance in terms of consistency.

From the beginning, I have not been sold on Paul Martin. He is a $5 million cap hit. Purely as a fan, I hope this is his "Gonchar year" where he struggles and then it clicks next season. When it rains it pours they say, and his game 2 performance was a downpour of flood level proportion.

Marc-Andre Fleury. Pardon the pun, but he is "lightning rod" when it comes to discussion of the Penguins. Some would say that he doesn't deserve to be on this list based on his performance in game 1 and the odd man rushes. I'd slightly concede that point. The reason I include him is again because whenever media and fans crow about his performance (MVP...really??), there will be a stinker sooner rather than later. Yes, 2-on-1s suck as a goalie. MVP's find a way to stop them. MVP's also find a way to not let the first shot, or some of the first handful of shots go in when the team is falling apart.

-Pens Power Play was 0 for 13 in the first 2 games of the series. I'll explain that in case it is escaping any of you...the Penguins have had an extra person on the ice due to Tampa penalty 13 times in 2 games. They have scored 0 times. If I'm the Lightning coaching staff, I encourage my guys to continue to hack and whack any legitimate scoring chance until the Pens show it's worth thinking otherwise.

-By losing a home game, the Penguins have temporarily lost "home ice advantage". If Tampa were to win only home games from here on out, they would clinch the series. That is why the Pens have "lost" this advatage. A win in Tampa, would shift it back to the Penguins advantage.

-Root's Bob Errey made perhaps the stupidest comment ever recorded regarding Alexei Kovalev's role on the power play when he indicated that Kovalev needed to be one of the guys chasing and gaining the puck on dump-ins. While I understand this is something that is needed, to suggest that Kovalev has the desire, ability, or effectiveness to do so is silly. Kovalev is what he is. He scored a big goal in game 1 due to turnover and nice play by James Neal. I don't think Kovy is gonna outwork anybody for the puck, power play or otherwise. If that's the ingredient that the PP is missing, it's time get Arron Asham or Mike Rupp out there.

Tampa Bay:
-Coach Guy Boucher has to be thrilled with both of the first 2 games of the series. Yes they lost game 1, but they were not run out of the building. The next day, Boucher gathered the team for about an hour and discussed philosophy. The game 1 loss helped him quietly regain the attention of the team. They knew they could have won game 1, Boucher reminded them of where they went wrong. Game 2 showed the Lightning are a worthy foe when they listen to their Coach.

-The 1-3-1 system is working well. The Penguins are having trouble gaining the blue line and when they are in the zone effectively, the majority of the shots are coming from the sides. This limits the severity of the scoring changes and is exactly what the 'Ning want. The would rather face 70 shots from the sides than 25-30 in or near the slot.

-G Dwayne Roloson stopped 72 of the 75 shots he has faced. He is hoping to continue to face the shots from the side and follow the Montreal Canadiens/Jaroslav Halak blueprint for success from last spring.

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