May 19, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie
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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,