Saturday, April 30, 2011

Recap: Pens-Ning Games 6 and 7 (See Yinz Next Season)

Game 6: L 4-2, Game 7: L 1-0 (Ning win series 4-3)

Notable Highlights:

-When you blow a 3-1 series lead and lose in game 7 at home, there isn't much positive. The guys fought hard. That's about all I can say good about it. Since I'm not feeling the positive vibes, I'm going to toot my own horn by recapping my keys to victory as typed here a few weeks back:

-To win against the 'Ning, the Pens must:

-Activate the forwards: Get the puck in deep. Punish the Lighnting defenseman to cause turnovers or hesitance.Without the puck, get 2 in on the forecheck and force their guys to move the puck efficiently. The Pens had trouble gaining the line all series. When they dumped the puck in, they were sporadic in their ability to gain it back.

-Follow Coach Bylsma's philosophy: Coach believes that each series is going to 7 games. You can lose 3 times. In fact, you can play like complete trash 3 times if you win 4 games. They followed this theory, maybe a bit too losely since they lost 3 straight to close the series out.

-Sidney who?: Don't get caught up in the distractions of whether Sid is going to play, what the plan is with him, what type of cereal he likes, etc. As Coach says, "it's not about who's not here, it's about who is in this room." If the team did not get caught up in this, it's a good thing they didn't. In the goodbye interviews at Consol, Sid dropped a bomb in his confirmation that he had experienced symptoms again after his hardest workouts. This forced him to shut it back down. He is not "worried" about difficulty returning next season, but if you're a Penguin fan reading his comments are certainly chilling in the potential for additional missed time due to symptoms. 

-Convert on the Power Play. This could be the difference. 1 for 35. That's certainly a difference. Just not the kind we wanted.

-Capitalize on mistakes: The Lightning have less experience. Make them think instead of play. Despite the outcome, I feel like the Pens did a great job of this. To their credit, the Lightning minimized their mistakes. They paid for the ones the made, especially goalie Dwayne Roloson's puckhandling gaffes.

-Watch Martin St. Louis At All Times: A lot of focus will be on other players, but St. Louis fits the mold of a "Penguin killer". He's slippery and knows how to score talented and garbage goals. See, sometimes I really do know what I'm talking about...

-To win against the Pens, the Lighnting must:

-Be disciplined: Stay in their assigned spots in the 1-3-1 system. The Penguins believe in taking the attack to the other team. They are going to do that. Being overly aggressive won't help matters. Be where you're supposed to be. The 1-3-1 worked to near perfection. The Penguins had trouble navigating the neutral zone, gaining the line, and recovering the puck.

-Keep it simple in the defensive zone: As mentioned, the Pens will look to be in the offensive zone a lot. When you get control of the puck, don't be fancy. Looking for the rush could put you in a bad situation. Make the simple pass or play off the wall to make sure the puck clears the zone. The Ning Dmen did their best to keep the puck out of the zone, and also kept bodies away from Rollie the goalie.

-Avoid Turnovers: Turning the puck over can lead to extra chances in the defensive end or odd man rushes coming back. Execution with the puck is crucial against a team as aggressive as the Penguins. Except for Roloson, there aren't many turnovers that stand out to me as being costly, so another win for team Tampa.

-Bring Spucoli Back: Steven Stamkos only had 4 goals down the stretch. To move forward (and avoid extreme criticism) he will need to get back on the score sheet. He is a very talented player. Stamkos didn't have a big series, but he showed up in the game 5 rout. That game certainly turned the series looking back on it.

-Avoid Stirring Things Up: Take a page from the Detroit Red Wings. Don't go out of your way for scrums. The Penguins team is mid-level in terms of forward skill, but aggressive. Frustrate them by skating away after whistles early and often and you may find yourself on a few Power Plays. This wasn't a scrummy series by any means, but Ryan Malone sure stirred his share of shit up. I do believe the Pens forward group would have fared better in a chippier series, as opposed to a series about technical play and positioning.

-Be Cautious on the PP, Hack The Pens: The Pens had the #1 PK Unit and scored 13 shorthanded goals. Special teams can really swing a series. Until the Penguins prove otherwise, don't be afraid to take penalties when a good scoring chance presents itself. If they can't convert, it isn't penalizing you. Tampa won the special teams battles. Their power play was dominant. They also showed a disregard for the Penguins power play, which is great coaching. "If they can't convert, it isn't penalizing you".

-Remember That This Is A 7 Game Series: Even down 3-1, they kept this in mind. Now the play Washington in the 2nd round. Congratulations to them on a well played series.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-Not interested it beating the guys up. The power play stunk. So did the penality killing. The offense was not there, and I wasn't really thrilled with Fleury or the defense if I"m being honest...but what did you expect this group to do? They gave it their all. It wasn't good enough.

-I would have liked some lineup changes, so I do think Coach Bylsma got a little bit stubborn towards the end of the series. Would it have made the difference needed to squeak out 1 win in 3 games? Possibly. Possibly not. But even if we won...we'd likely be getting killed by Washington right now...and I sure as hell don't ever want that. Go 'Ning!

-Free agency is just around the corner (starting July 1) so that means a list of Penguins will not return. It's been real Max Talbot! Thank you for Game 7 in Detroit. You'll likely get paid somewhere else next season, as could guys like Pascal Dupuis, Mike Rupp, Arron Asham, Chris Conner, and Craig Adams. We've seen the last of the ghost of Alexei Kovalev and Eric Goddard will take his fists elsewhere. It always sucks to see guys go after you develop an affinity for them, but thems the breaks in sports. Head over to for more information on the Penguins situation or more information on league wide free agency.

-This update itself is a lowlight. I know when I've not done my best work. I'm not gonna bullshit you. It's not really my favorite thing to sit here and eulogize the guys season, so I went light on it. I am proud of this blog though. There's a small segment of you out there that actually enjoy it, to you I raise my stick. I vowed that no matter what I would make it one full season and see where things stand. At this point in time, I see no reason to stop. This isn't exactly the most viewed website on the internet, but that was never what this is about to me. I live for this sport, and specifically the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the next few weeks, I hope to the get up some short recaps for every guy that played in at least one game. After that we'll prep for free agency, and I also will be trying my hand at some broad topics in the sport (not to step on co-bloggers toes, just to keep at it). Again, no matter what team you root for or what country you're from, thank you and keep coming back. It's been a great innaugural season at Shootin' the Puck!

Tampa Bay:

-Coach Guy Boucher's system worked perfectly and he never let his guys get rattled. GM Steve Yzerman made a hell of a pick. Tampa has defiinitely turned a corner in their rebuild and may be a force in the East before we know it.

-G Dwayne Roloson stopped 243 out of 256 shots for a .949 save percentage. Many said that Martin St. Louis was the player of the series. I'm not taking away his performance, but most people that favored the Penguins believe that a 41 year old goalie would falter sooner or later. didn't happen. Even in the losses, he didn't play terrible. I must admit, I am starting to wonder the true value of high priced goalies.

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