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,