The Pittsburgh Penguins scored the first goal in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday night at the St. Pete Times Forum. This meant they were going to win. The team that scored first in the series was undefeated.
They were on the road where the road team was 4-1 going into the game. Head coach Dan Bylsma was 5-0 in road games when the Penguins could close out a series.
Marc-Andre Fleury was 3-0 with a 1.33 GAA in games after he was pulled in the previous contest.
Against what history was telling us, Dwayne Roloson, arguably outplayed Fleury in Game 6. The three consecutive saves Roloson made on Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis ended up being one of the turning points in the game.
The Pens weaknesses have caught up to them. Their power play is 1-for-the-century. When a team gives the Pens as many power play opportunities as the Lightning, and the Pens cannot take advantage, this can be pinpointed as the number one reason why the Pens lose this series if indeed the outcome turns out that way.
Ryan Malone is going out of his way trying help the Pens by taking foolish penalties. In fact, one would think Malone was trying to aid the Pens in a victory with some of the brainless penalties he has taken in this series.
The Pens cannot make Malone or the Lightning pay when the Pens are awarded a power play. Should we really be surprised? The power play was horrid in the regular season. The intensity is turned up a notch in the playoffs. Why would anyone think that the Pens power play would start clicking once the post-season arrived?
The power play is now 1 for 30 in this series. This is a disgusting 3%. Amazingly, they are only ranked 2nd to last in the playoffs in power play percentage. The Pens continue to hold onto the puck without making the Lightning penalty killers spend any energy while successfully killing off the Pens power play.
Bylsma should show tape of the San Jose Sharks power play so his team can see how to run a man-advantage. Bylsma should make it known that any player that stands still on the power play will be immediately removed from the power play unit. The Pens needs to outnumbered the Lightning penalty killers when they are retrieving pucks on the man-advantage. If there are three Lightning penalty killers fighting for a puck in the corner, then the Pens need to have four. If the Pens can’t win a 4-on-3 battle in a corner, then they don’t deserve to win any series. The Pens power play unit needs to outwork the Lightning penalty killers, but instead the Pens like to stand still and watch. The Penguins power play is only 1A of this unsolvable equation.
The other half, 1B, is the penalty killing unit. The Pens have a penalty killing success rate of 68%. This was tied for dead last in the playoffs going into Monday night’s game. With the #1 penalty killing unit in the regular season, many thought the Pens would be able to lean heavily on their penalty kill consistency against a potent Tampa power play.
This has not been the case. The Lightning have eight power play goals in six games. Although the Lightning man advantage was held in check in Game 6 the time may have come in gone already for the Pens to secure their penalty killing woes.
The Lightning had two straight power plays in Game 6. The stat sheet doesn’t show a Lightning power play goal, but Teddy Purcell scored a goal right after Kris Letang left the penalty box for a lazy interference call in the 1st period.
These two power play opportunities ended up transferring the momentum that the Pens had in their grasp into the hands of the Lightning.
Bylsma felt the same way by saying, “Their two power plays in the 1st changed momentum. They got momentum. They got a goal right after the second power play. Their power play was a factor. It didn’t get them a goal, but it got them a goal right after.”
The Lightning have dominated the special teams battle in the first six games of this series. Everyone said that the special teams were going to be the difference, and for once in a blue moon, everyone was right.
Once again, we are at a Game 7 on the home ice of the Penguins. The last time the Pens were in this position they laid an egg against the Montreal Canadiens by losing 5-2 in last year’s post-season.
Anything can happen in Game 7’s, but a few interesting things have developed thus far in the playoffs. The one constant trend is that away playoff teams have a 25-19 record thus far. This is the highest winning percentage that away playoff teams have ever had in the post-season. The away team is 4-2 in the Pens & Lightning series.
The Pens have been outscored 13-3 in their last two home games. They have come out of the gates flying in the last two contests versus the Lightning. In spite of this, in Games 5 & 6, the momentum has turned in the Lightning’s favor late in each opening period. From that point on, Tampa Bay has dominated the remainder of each game.
The Penguins should take a lesson from what Tampa Bay head coach, Guy Boucher, made his team do prior to Game 6. The entire Lightning team stayed together in a hotel the night before the game to give them an “on-the-road” feeling. They wanted to boost their team comradery, and do away with any distractions they may have faced being the home team.
Although the Pens played better in Game 6, they haven’t fared well at all at home in the playoffs. Over the past two post-seasons, the Penguins are 4-6 at home while being 6-3 on the road.
Bylsma better have his team focused. The Pens young head coach has never been able to close out a series on home ice since he took the throne midway through the Penguins Stanley Cup-winning season in 2009. Bylsma is 0-5 in series clinching games on home ice. This is a scary thought for Pens fans.
The Penguins are 8-5 in Game 7’s. If the Pens were ever set to lose a Game 7 this would be the game where a defeat would be most expected. They have been embarrassing at home in their last two games at the CONSOL Energy Center.
The Penguins are 8-1 when they have a 3-1 series lead. This is the year when they should be allowed to give away a series. There is no other year in franchise history when they’ve been missing their top two scorers in the playoffs.
Bylsma stated what he thought about Game 7’s in his post-game interview following Game 6. He said, “It’ll be different. It’s a different emotion. You somewhat plan and expect it to be a battle and to play a certain way. We have to go out and play the game and not just talk about what we’ve learned in the past. It’s a different team and a different year. We’re going to have to be ready and refocused to play to open that game.”
Of course the Pens need to be focused to open the game, but they also need to be focused for the last two periods of Game 7. Since Game 1 of this series, the Lightning have outscored the Pens 14-6 in the 2nd & 3rd periods.
Besides Game 7 being a different emotion, let’s hope the game is a different outcome than what the Pens have come to expect in their last three contests against the Lightning. Anything can happen in a Game 7. We’ll just have to wait and see. It’s time for the Penguins play to do the talking.