TribLIVE
Blogs | Sports | News
Chipped Ice

May 21, 2016
by Bill West


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Penguins-Lightning Game 4 GIF-cap

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A second period of wasted power plays, foolish penalties and misguided physicality doomed the Penguins in their 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday night at Amalie Arena. Here are the highlights/lowlights from the night in GIF form, along with relevant commentary from players and coaches.

Full disclosure: I can’t find any GIFs of Fleury doing anything, so that’s not included.

Down goes Daley: Trevor Daley needed assistance just to get off the ice and did not return to play after he received a hit from Ryan  Callahan into the end boards. He left the arena with crutches under his arms and a heavy wrap or a cast on his left foot. Coach Mike Sullivan did not have an update on Daley’s condition. “He’s a huge player for us,” Kris Letang said. “He plays a lot of minutes. Got a lot of speed. Plays power play, PK. Great leader in our room, obviously. It’s a huge spot to fill, but it’s the playoffs. Somebody has to rise to the occasion if he’s not playing.”

Power play problems: Chris Kunitz delivered the Penguins a power-play goal late in the third period, but the team probably needed to convert one of their chances earlier in the game, before Tampa Bay build its 4-0 lead and seemingly got under the players’ skin. Phil Kessel, in particular, did not appreciate a slash that caused him to lose his stick during a power play early in the second period. The Penguins finished with just five shots on goal in 7:42 of time with the man advantage. “Power play, we weren’t disciplined enough to be able to withstand their pressure,” Kunitz said. “We have to know what they’re trying to execute and how we can stay away from that.”

Letang went a little nuts: Kris Letang lost his cool during the second period, when he tried to fight Brian Boyle, and remained a little distracted in the third period. “The best thing for me is just to skate away,” he said. Boyle, by the way, did not appear to upset about ending up in the penalty box for his role in the confrontation.

Didn’t deserve it:  “I don’t think we deserved (to win),” Sidney Crosby said. “I think we all feel that way. Our start was not good, obviously getting scored on in the first shift. We had chances to kind off get back in the game when it was 1-0 and 2-0. We fought hard in the third and gave ourselves a chance, but we can’t expect to play like that in the first half and get the results that we want. I think they were just a little more desperate, given the situation.” Perhaps the most embarrassing moment came at the end of the first period, though, when Brian Dumoulin trucked Matt Murray by accident.

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 21, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Postgame Tampa Bay Game 4

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A lot went on in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals tonight — Tampa taking a four-goal lead, Trevor Daley getting hurt, Marc-Andre Fleury making his first appearance of the postseason, the Penguins making a comeback that fell one goal short — but I thought the most critical moment in the game was the goal Ryan Callahan scored 27 seconds in.

It’s best to watch the NHL.com highlight because it has more of the build-up to the goal.

The Lightning moved the puck behind the Penguins net, where it was met by a crowd of four sticks and eight skates.

Callahan got tangled up with defenseman Trevor Daley and spilled to the ice. As he fell, Callahan’s stick came up and knocked Chris Kunitz, who had gathered the puck, off kilter. Lightning winger J.T. Brown swooped in, grabbed the puck and quickly moved it to Victor Hedman at the left point.

Callahan, meanwhile, had picked himself up off the ice and moved to the front of the net, where he tipped in Hedman’s shot to make it 1-0.

It’s a huge play for obvious reasons, as Mike Sullivan described.

“Well, it’s hard to chase a four-goal deficit. You know, we certainly — we were not the more determined team for the first half of the game, and so they were the more determined team. And they’re a good team. We knew this was going to be a hard game. We knew they were going to push. But I don’t think we played — we didn’t play the way we’ve been playing that has allowed us the results that we’ve gotten here over the postseason. We responded in the third period, but it’s — you know, there’s just not enough time.”

It’s even more than that, though, because of where the Lighting were coming into this game. Coach Jon Cooper, remember, used the old put-the-skates-on-one-at-a-time bit after his team lost Games 2 and 3. That what teams say when they’re worried that their opponent might not, in fact, put their skates on one at a time.

They were facing a potential crisis of confidence, and scoring early squashed that. Cooper said the following before the game, but I think it speaks to the early goal better than anything:

“You’ve just got to play better. When you go for a puck and it’s a 50/50, you’ve got to come out with it. And when you have an opportunity to shoot and the other team is shooting everything at the net and you’re not — well, you’re not giving yourself a chance to win, and you can’t change your style of play just because the other team is pretty darn good. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and how you play, and let the best team win. And I think that’s something we’ve got to grasp definitely here in Game 4.”

They did, and now it’s a new series.

Some other postgame notes:

— Trevor Daley left the arena on crutches after tangling up with Callahan on a hit along the boards in the second period. His left foot appeared to be in a cast or a similar protective device, not a walking boot. If Daley is out, Sullivan will have to decide whether a few games off has done enough to get Olli Maatta back to form or if he’d prefer to go with Derrick Pouliot. Neither is an upgrade on Daley.

— Sullivan said he went to Fleury in the third to give him a chance to knock off some rust and to maybe spark the team. He did not show any displeasure with Murray’s performance.

I actually thought Murray was pretty good. He made some highlight-reel stops in the first period. None of the goals were the result of goaltending errors.

Murray on his night: “I honestly felt it was one of my better games. Their first two goals were good goals. The first one was a good tip. The second one was a good play, finding the late guy. The other two were just kind of just (horse manure) bounces. I’m not too worried about it.”

Fleury on his stint in the third period: “It’s been a while. It was a little getting used to it again. But the guys battled hard in the third to make a comeback. It’s disappointing to come up short.”

Sullivan obviously has a big decision in front of him regarding who he starts for Game 5. After the game, he said he hadn’t begun to think about it yet.

— One of the most interesting things about this series so far: If one team slips up even a little, the other can really step on their throat. The Penguins were kind of scattershot in the early going, the Lightning were on point and it was 4-0. The Lightning sat back too much and it was damn near 4-4. Don’t blink.

Bye for now,

jb

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 20, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Roenick vs. Bourque

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

There was a media dust-up between NBC Sports Network analyst Jeremy Roenick and Penguins radio analyst Phil Bourque this afternoon. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of what this is about.

During Game 1, Roenick said Sidney Crosby should watch Jonathan Drouin for a tutorial on work ethic.

On the Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast, Bourque responded, saying Roenick lacked a filter between his brain and mouth.

On Friday afternoon, Roenick penned a series of Tweets. Here are a couple.

 

 

Bourque was unaware of Roenick’s comments as he arrived at Amalie Arena on Friday evening.

Here’s a report from the scene from Tribune-Review columnist Rob Rossi, who is co-authoring a book with Bourque:

As he arrived at Amalie Arena on Friday afternoon, his freshly waxed BMW gleaming under the shimmering sun, an impeccably attired Old 29’er could be heard to utter, “It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It is far easier to find my name on the Cup (twice)… and what has JR ever won?”

Patrick Roy was also reached for his comment on the dust-up.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 19, 2016
by Bill West


2 comments so far - add yours!

Revisiting Pens-Bolts Game 3 with a few GIFs

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I’m considering a daily day-after-game blog entry recapping the previous night’s action with various GIFs. This routine would start if/when Penguins reach the Cup final, unless the feedback suggests I start sooner. Is there interest in such a thing, or nah?

Anyway, here’s a trial run…..

Hornqvist’s health: Coach Mike Sullivan said after Thursday’s optional practice that he doesn’t expect Patric Hornqvist to miss Friday’s Game 4 with a hand ailment.

Bench banter: Sidney Crosby cracked a smile after the Game 3 win when a reporter asked about the heated conversation between the Penguins captain and Hornqvist on the bench. “That’s pretty common. You know, we’re both pretty intense. I think anyone will tell you that watches a lot of our games, that’s fairly common. We don’t want that to happen too often, but we usually forget about it pretty quickly and move on, but it does happen from time to time.”

In Vasilevskiy they trust: Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper continues to leave open the possibility of goalie Ben Bishop returning to play before the end of the series, but he’s certainly comfortable with Andrei Vasilevskiy if Bishop fails to fully recover from his leg injury in time.

“Ben Bishop is probably — I’d consider him in that doubtful range, but that’s better than being out,” Cooper said. “Vasilevskiy has been outstanding for us. Unfortunately, we’re the ones that kind of let him down. But I don’t think — first of all, it’s not a question for right now anyway because there is no — Bish isn’t available to really come back right now. That’s what makes it kind of a moot point, but I guess in the end, when you’ve got two outstanding goaltenders, whatever decision you do go with is probably not going to matter.”

Oh Phil: “My feeling is I think Phil is a guy that’s probably misunderstood,” Sullivan said of Kessel after Thursday’s practice. Tampa Bay’s Cooper said Kessel “probably doesn’t get near the respect he deserves” the night before. And Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford took a shot at the Toronto media for blaming Kessel for the team’s disappointments. It’s safe to say that Kessel’s quirks are largely viewed as charming rather than character flaws these days.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 19, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


2 comments so far - add yours!

Kessel and Rutherford

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

While the Penguins were gathering at Amalie Arena for an optional practice and press availability at Amalie Arena on Thursday, they apparently were having a good laugh over this:

 

“First of all, it was funny,” Sidney Crosby said. “It was awesome. Being asked that question, I think we all thought to ourself, how would we answer that, right? It’s kind of a tough one to answer and he handled it great. It was pretty funny. It’s probably perfect that it was Phil, because he’d be the one to handle it as good as that.”

How Kessel is handling things on the ice was also a hot topic today. As in, he’s first on the team and third in the league in scoring with 16 points in 14 playoff games.

“My feeling is I think Phil is a guy that’s probably misunderstood,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve really grown to appreciate what he brings to our team and helping us win. I think Phil’s a guy that he obviously is very gifted, loves to score, and I think he’s competitive in his own way.

“And you can define competitiveness in different ways, and what I’ve grown to appreciate about Phil is his competitiveness, especially down the stretch here in the playoffs when the stakes are high. He’s played extremely well for us. I think he’s been receptive to our coaching message. We all have areas of our game where we have strengths and weaknesses. With all of our players, we try to improve our overall games in whatever areas that we can. Phil is no different. We try to challenge him to improve his overall game, and I think he’s been receptive to that.

“I think he’s really made a concerted effort to make a commitment away from the puck and being better defensively, and I think his offense speaks for itself. So I think the biggest thing that I’ve grown to appreciate about Phil is how competitive he is, especially when the stakes are high.”

General manager Jim Rutherford met with the media to discuss being named a finalist for the GM of the Year award yesterday. He talked about how he didn’t think acquiring Kessel in July was as big a risk as some in Toronto suggested.

“For some reason, lots of people don’t like Phil Kessel. For some reason,” Rutherford said. “He’s only the best player Toronto had for eight years, year in and year out. He got the blame for everything, which is very unfair. But he’s very talented player. He all know he can score, but he’s a playmaker also. He can pass the puck as good as just about anybody in this league. I’m really happy for him because he’s stuck with it and it paid off.”

Some other highlights from Rutherford’s chat:

— When Rutherford was hired in 2014, he said he planned to hold the post only a few years. Has this season’s success changed his timetable?

“I’ve made it two years, so at this point, we’ll just leave it at that. We’ve got other things to think about right now.”

— Was Rutherford worried that if Mike Sullivan didn’t work out as Mike Johnston’s replacement, he might be the next to go?

“I’m not worried about myself. I’ve been around a long time. If you want me to leave today, I’ll leave.”

— Is Rutherford taking a victory lap at this point, considering the significant criticism he received at times, especially late last season?

“I don’t follow that stuff. I’m not so sure last year was as bad as whoever thought it was because we had 92 points with about 10 games left in the season. We already had Maatta out, then Letang went down and that kind of closed the door on where that season was ending. I don’t take any personal satisfaction right now. This is a team thing. We have a good group of players. We  have a good coaching staff. We have great ownership. Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux and David Morehouse, they provide really good leadership and their unwavering support is really important to the success of this franchise. I don’t take any satisfaction because we haven’t got to where we want to at this point.”

— Rutherford talked about the way Marc-Andre fleury has been relegated to back-up status behind Matt Murray in these playoffs.

“I feel for Fleury. He’s such a great team guy and we’re fortunate he is because he’s handling this situation just like a pro. First class. And he’s ready to go when he’s going to be called on.”

He was asked if the current goalie situation changed the team’s goaltending plans moving forward.

“Absolutely not.”

— On why the team is having so much success right now:

“We had good leadership under Sid. He’s a really good captain. He does things that lots of people don’t see and don’t hear about, but we needed to add more character in that room and more leadership. That was part of what we looked at when we started adding players last summer and we were fortunate to add some of those guys that brought some good team chemistry to the room. As time went along, when you have that many guys in there and the leadership provided by Sid, eventually the team’s going to come together and that’s what they’ve done. They play hard for each other. They play hurt. They do whatever it takes.”

— Finally, on being nominated for the GM of the year award:

“That’s nice. I appreciate that. I appreciate my GM friends that voted for me. But that’s to me just a side thing right now. We have other work to do. We have another goal, and that’s the most important thing.”

Bye for now,

jb

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 19, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


6 comments so far - add yours!

Game 3 Tampa Bay postgame

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I often like to take a look back at games through the comments of coach Mike Sullivan, but tonight, it strikes me that doing so through the comments of Lightning coach Jon Cooper makes more sense.

Sullivan’s Penguins are doing what they do. Possessing the puck, using their quickness, piling up scoring chances, playing defense by not spending time in the defensive zone and winning games. They’re 24-6 in their last 30 games, don’t you know?

The Lightning are the team that needs to make the adjustments.

Here’s Cooper on that:

“I’ve said it before. You don’t fluke your way to the final four. They’ve got a heck of a team over there. They put their skates on one at a time just like we do. We’ve been here before, and, again, we’ve been in these situations before. Now it just puts a little pressure on us to win Game 4.”

When you go to the “they put their pants on one leg at a time” bit, you’re probably the team that needs to make the adjustments.

But you can see where he’s coming from. When you look at some of the numbers through three games in this series, you wonder how the Penguins do put on their pants. From war-on-ice.com:

Shots: Penguins 117-65
Corsi: Penguins 203-128
Scoring chances: Penguins 111-68
High-danger scoring chances: Penguins 50-20

That’s not close.

More Cooper: “Well, yeah, you don’t have a good chance of winning if you don’t have the puck. It’s something that we’ve been pretty good at in the last couple years, and when they’ve got the puck more than us, now you’re chasing a little bit. As I said, that one time for 10 minutes, it was a long stretch, and we got kind of stuck in our zone.

“But the volume of shots we’re giving up and some of the chances we’re giving up are just way too many. We’ve gone through multiple playoff games, and we don’t give this up in, gosh, two or three games combined. And so that’s a five-guys-on-the-ice issue, and that’s what we just — we’ve got to tighten up. Now we’ve played them a couple times, and we’ll make some adjustments and go from there.”

There was a “gosh” in there. That’s serious.

One other thing the Lightning have to do to turn things around. Figure out what to do with the HBK line. Tampa is hardly the first team to have this problem. Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel have combined for 31 goals in 29 games since they were put together March 13.

But it’s a problem.

Through the first 39 minutes and 50 seconds of tonight’s game, it looked a whole lot like talented young goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was going to steal one for the Lightning.

Then HBK scored on an amazing 200-foot effort by Kessel and subsequent Hagelin rebound with 10 seconds left in the second period and on a Kessel shot from in front after a feed from Bonino behind the net early in the third.

There were twists and turns the rest of the way, but really, that was your ballgame.

Cooper on HBK:

“I think, like when you look at their team, Phil Kessel probably doesn’t get near the respect he deserves. I mean, he’s scored a ton of goals in this league. Bonino’s kind of one of those underrated players that he’s always playing with Getzlaf and Perry. You look at the teams he’s playing (on), and there’s always been name stars ahead of him. He’s a heck of a player. Hagelin’s won everywhere he’s gone, the teams he’s played on. But they get overshadowed by the big name guys.

“But they’re a deep team, and those guys have found some chemistry together, and as Corey was saying, you just can’t depend — if you’re going to make a run in the playoffs, you just can’t — you can depend on a few games from some guys, but you’ve got to start getting scoring from your entire lineup, and they found a way to get some. You know, Cullen’s got one, and that’s where we’ve got to be a little bit better.”

Some other notes from tonight’s game:

— Patric Hornqvist left the game with about seven minutes left in the third period after blocking a shot with his left hand. Sullivan said he didn’t have an update on Hornqvist’s condition after the game. Hornqvist walked out of the arena without any kind of cast or splint on the hand.

— Sidney Crosby scored on the old knee-drop one-timer for the second straight game. A quote from Crosby:

“I was ready. Four on three, we’ve got a one-timer on either side. Geno’s in a good spot to shoot too in the middle of the ice. I think you just get ready. I don’t think I called for it. I might have. He’s at the top there. He’s really smart making those plays. He made a perfect pass there that I could shoot. I thought we were pretty patient. We just worked it around, waited for things to open up.”

— The line combination business we talked about this afternoon boiled down to this: Crosby played with Kunitz and Hornqvist. HBK and KFC (Kuhnhackl, Fehr and Cullen) remained intact. Malkin started with Sheary and Rust but played with about a hundred different wingers before the game was over. Bill West wrote about that phenomenon here.

— Sullivan on the play that Kessel made on the Penguins’ first goal:

“I think Phil’s game has come a long way away from the puck as far as his commitment to playing defense. The goal we get right at the end of the second period, he makes a great defensive play in the high ice before the burst of speed down the wall that makes the play.”

Bye for now,

jb

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 18, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

More on line combinations

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

With the Eastern Conference finals tied at a game apiece, neither the Penguins nor Lightning are in a dire situation this afternoon.

The Penguins know that if they handle Tampa’s wall across the blue line appropriately, they can have success like they did in Game 2.

The Lightning know that if they can avoid having their passing lanes messed up by the Penguins’ speed, they can have success like they did in Game 1.

At this point, it really comes down to a matter of execution.

And in situations like this one, the media tends to focus its attention on less important things. In this case, we talked a lot at morning skate about line combinations — whether Mike Sullivan wants to settle in on four set combos, whether he’d rather mix and match like he did in the latter stages of Game 2, whether he’ll go back to the nuclear option of a Crosby-Malkin combo at some point.

It got me looking for some stats to share on line combinations.

For example, here’s a little chart detailing all line combinations the Penguins have used for more than 20 minutes of even-strength ice time in the playoffs.

MIN CF% G
KUNITZ-MALKIN-RUST 25 67.4 1
SHEARY-CROSBY-HORNQVIST 115 53.7 7
KUNITZ-MALKIN-FEHR 59 53.7 2
KUNITZ-CROSBY-HORNQVIST 28 53.6 0
HAGELIN-BONINO-KESSEL 120 51.6 8
KUHNHACKL-CULLEN-RUST 66 41.9 3
KUHNHACKL-CULLEN-FEHR 39 38.6 2

These numbers make me believe that as long as Conor Sheary isn’t a liability (like he was at times in Game 2), the best top six the Penguins can put together is Sheary-Crosby-Hornqvist and Kunitz-Malkin-Rust. They also show me that HBK has been very effective despite not having possession numbers as strong as some of the other combinations. They’re opportunistic.

And while we’re at it, how about the NHL leaders in even-strength by line combination in the playoffs. (Stats from corsica.hockey.)

G
BENN-EAKIN-SHARP 9
KILLORN-JOHNSON-KUCHEROV 9
HAGELIN-BONINO-KESSEL 8
CROSBY-HORNQVIST-SHEARY 7
WILSON-FISHER-NEAL 7
THORNTON-PAVELSKI-HERTL 6
OVECHKIN-BACKSTROM-OSHIE 6

Two Penguins units prominent on that list.

More after the game. Bye for now,

jb

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 17, 2016
by Bill West


2 comments so far - add yours!

They said it…quotes and notes, post-Game 2

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Sometimes I wish Sidney Crosby embraced the opportunity to shove things back in the media’s face. Alas, after scoring in overtime of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final on Monday, he remained true to his straightforward, no-sass style of answering questions.

“Just happy,” he said. “Whether I scored in the last seven games or hadn’t scored in the last whatever, it feels good to get rewarded. I think we deserved that win tonight.

“To be in the playoffs here, it’s a great opportunity, and to score and contribute, it feels good. But it’s one game, and whether you win 5-1 or 3-2 in overtime, it’s one win. So you’ve got to keep that in mind. But it’s definitely exciting. Like I said, when you know how hard we worked, especially that push there in the third, to get it, it feels nice to get rewarded for it.”

At another point, he said: “I thought we just had the right mindset going into the third. We played on our toes. We were aggressive. It’s a 2-2 game, and I think we just had the right mindset, and I think everyone just kind of helped each other create momentum and making it easier on the next line that went out there to hopefully get out there against a tired group or get them on their heels a bit, and we were able to finally get one there in overtime.”

Why re-watch the captain’s game-winner in English when there are so many more exciting ways to experience it?

“It’s a great play by Dumoulin,” Crosby said. “He keeps the puck alive along the wall and then makes the pass to Rusty. I think he was changing, so coming along the blue line there. I didn’t think Rusty saw me, so I just tried to let him know I was there. I didn’t know exactly what he was going to do. He was pretty low. He had a good chance to maybe shoot it too, but he made a perfect pass and put it in an area that I could get a quick shot away.”

Coach Mike Sullivan, meanwhile, changed up his terminology a bit and used “stick-to-it-ness” rather than resiliency when he discussed what pleased him most about the win.

“They just kept playing,” Sullivan continued. “I thought we had a real strong first period. It’s 2-2 at the end of the first period. But we just stayed with it. We just kept trying to play the game the right way. That’s what I like most about the group. I thought, as the game wore on, we got better and better. I give the guys a lot of credit for just staying with it.”

Pens Bolts Gm 2 final Anyone who began to fear the worst for the Penguins after Game 1 needed to revisit the shot totals and scoring chances.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (and Ben Bishop) are both excellent goalies. But if Tampa Bay continually finishes with fewer offensive opportunities, it’ll be hard-pressed to win the series.

A piece of advice to Penguins fans: Trust the possession stats. Sullivan does. He never fails to mention puck possession as a concept these days, particularly if he’s discussing the importance of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. He recognizes that the Penguins are driving the play. So do his players. Possession isn’t a fool-proof approach to winning, but it’s one that tends to work out more often than not.

Speaking of possession, here’s how each of the Penguins fared tonight. Data is from www.hockeystats.ca.

Pens poss Gm 2

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 16, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Game 2 Tampa Bay pregame

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Let’s look at Game 2 between the Penguins and Lightning tonight from the perspective of coach Mike Sullivan’s pregame comments:

– “They have long reaches and good sticks. I think we’ve got to try to play behind them, force them to go back for pucks. If we play in front of them, maybe we play into their hands and allow them to use their reach and their stick to their advantage. Certainly that’s one aspect of our game that we have to continue to try to do in order to create that competitive advantage with our speed.”

Couple Tampa’s size on defense with their dedication to always having at least one forward back, and the Lightning often put up a wall on the blue line that is tough to crack. I think how the Penguins deal with that wall is the key factor going into tonight’s game.

– “The message was I think we have to make sure we elevate our intensity and we make sure we don’t beat ourself. Some of the chances we gave up, they were high quality and they started with our own lack of detail or some of the decisions that we made with the puck that put us in vulnerable circumstances. When our team’s been at its best for most of these playoffs, we have a much more diligent approach and we don’t give our opponents any freebies. We’ve got to make sure we force them to work for their chances and I think we’ve got to limit the quality of the chances. We didn’t give up much, but the quality of the chances we gave up was very high quality.”

This is what Sullivan said was the chief theme of his remarks to the team this morning. I thought the Penguins’ inability to create chances was more detrimental to their cause in Game 1 than the chances they gave up, but I guess they’re intertwined. Puck management, you know.

– “They have a lot of speed. Rusty can really chase down pucks. He’s very good defensively. He’s got good awareness. He’s good on the wall. But for me, he’s a guy that brings a lot of speed to any line that he plays on. He can chase down pucks. He can force turnovers. Through that, he creates opportunities.”

This is about the proposed Sheary-Crosby-Rust line. I’m not sure taking a finisher away from Crosby is the best way to get him kick-started, so I have some reservations about this combo. On the other hand, getting Victor Hedman to chase around three sub-6-footers who can skate all night might be a good idea.

– “Our six defensemen will be a game-time decision tonight. Justin Schultz is a good player. I’ve said this all along. What’s he’s brought to our team is his mobility, his ability to make a first pass, he sees the ice pretty well, he has good offensive insicntcs, he can help us on the power play, he joins the rush exptremely well. Those are all of his strengths. Those are the main reasons why our people thought he could help our team when we acquired him and he’s done that for us when he’s played. That’s the type of player that he is. That’s how he helps our team when he’s in the lineup.”

Looks like Schultz will be in for Olli Maatta. It’s counter to traditional thinking to add more skill and speed and less defensive-zone awareness to your lineup this late in the playoffs, but that’s how the Penguins have operated for a while now. This is no time to get out of character.

More after the game. Bye for now,

jb

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

May 15, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie


No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Which Loss Is It Like?

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Here’s the big question, the way I see it, coming into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals tomorrow night: For the Penguins, was Game 1 a bad result or was it bad news?

To elaborate, was Game 1 a below-average performance by the Penguins that they will likely bounce back from like they have pretty much all their losses since March 1 or is there something about Tampa Bay’s personnel or style of play that is going to make life miserable for the Penguins all series long until it ends in inevitable defeat?

To try to answer that question, I decided to compare Friday night’s loss to all the Penguins’ losses since March 1. Here’s a little chart.

5/13 TB 5/7 wsh 4/28 wsh
goals 1-3 1-3 3-4
shots 35-20 31-19 45-35
corsi 43-35 50-44 66-63
sc 17-19 23-24 29-24
hdsc 7-6 6-13 10-9
4/16 nyr 4/9 phl 3/24 nj
goals 2-4 1-3 0-3
shots 31-28 19-36 39-24
corsi 37-43 36-57 58-27
sc 16-22 17-17 35-11
hdsc 8-10 8-10 13-5
3/8 nyi 3/5 cgy 3/1 wsh
goals 1-2 2-4 2-3
shots 35-27 31-30 30-37
corsi 55-42 52-36 54-44
sc 26-22 28-16 23-17
hdsc 6-5 11-7 10-11

Which of those eight losses was most similar to Game 1?

Two caught my eye: the 2-1 loss at the Islanders on March 8 and the 4-2 loss to the Rangers in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs.

The Islanders game stood out because the shots were very similar and neither team had many high-danger scoring chances. But the Rangers game really stuck out because the stats were similar and a couple of gaffes by defensemen derailed what was otherwise an OK-but-not-great performance by the Penguins.

And after reflecting on Game 1, that’s what I think we saw from the Penguins on this occasion too. A decent-but-not-outstanding performance turned into a loss by an Olli Maatta boner on the Killorn goal, a bad offensive-zone penalty by Evgeni Malkin that became a Palat PPG and a bad pinch that led to a Drouin goal on a three-on-one.

I’m not 100 percent sure the Lightning don’t have a style that is going to give the Penguins fits in perpetuity. I’m not savvy enough with Xs and Os to know whether it’s because of hustle or because of system, but the Lightning’s third forward seems to get back doggedly on D, giving the Penguins little chance to use the middle of the ice to create offense. That could be a problem throughout the series.

But if the Lightning were going to steamroll right past the Penguins, I think Game 1 would have looked like the losses to Jaroslav Halak and the Canadiens in 2010 or the conference finals losses to Boston in 2013 or the string of 2-1 losses to the Rangers last spring. It didn’t.

There was news today at practice about Olli Maatta probably being out of the lineup on defense and potentially new line combinations up front. There has been chatter from the punditry about stars scoring like stars and young goalies coming back to earth.

None of that is insignificant. Replacing Maatta seems like a good idea right about now. The road would be a lot easier for the Penguins if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored a few goals and Matt Murray’s save percentage was over .900, which it hasn’t been for the last three games.

But to me, a series is decided by which team imposes its game on the other. The Penguins didn’t do that in Game 1. I don’t know if they’ll be able to do so four times out of the next six games either. But after thinking about it, I don’t think it’s likely Tampa controls things from wire to wire and never lets the Penguins in it.

In other words, I think it’s going to be a series. There’s more intrigue to come.

Bye for now,

jb

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
 
Other blogs
Sports:Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: Backstory | Doug Oster on Gardening | Off-Road Politics | Flowback | ICycle  


» Top TribLIVE.com Sports
» Top TribLIVE.com News
» Top TribLIVE.com Breaking News