Kukla's Korner

He Asked, I Answered, Round 4: On Stamkos, Tampa’s Physical Game and the Special Teams Battle

Hookin’ it up with Metz once again, for the latest installment of his questions for me and, of course, my answers!

Here’s a peek at the latest round before a link to FTP for the rest:

BM: I realize that you asked me a question about the fact that the Lightning might have been a little too amped up to start the game, but I am a bit curious, have they been instructed to out-physical the Pens? The birds have made it an edict to lay the body and to be physical as often as possible, it is all part of the Disco Dan system, but the Lightning have done a great job of staying neck and neck in the hit department. Heck, in all actuality, they have outhit the Penguins. What is your take?

JJ: I think a key for the Bolts is to stay even-keeled in terms of playing an aggressive, physical game and – CATCH PHRASE ALERT – staying within their system. They can hit like crazy, as can the Pens, as we’ve seen but, on at least three occasions last night, that proved costly:

One, Ryan Malone and James Neal collide hard in the corner early on in the game and Malone leaves the worse for wear. Granted, that could happen to any player on any play but it isn’t as though these guys can just go all out with reckless abandon. As you well know, Bugsy’s as huge a piece for the Lightning as he once was for the Penguins, if not more. (We will all have to keep a close eye on how he fares the rest of the way.)

Two, Steve Downie’s railroading of Ben Lovejoy not only led to a Pens goal (well, sort of… Coach Boucher seemed to think guys were standing around admiring the aftermath as Max Talbot and Co. headed up ice, eventually opening the scoring) but we know now that it costs the Lightning Downie’s services in game four. (That the suspension to Chris Kunitz evens the score, so to speak, is immaterial, to make this point.)

Finally, Victor Hedman’s attempt to wipe out Mike Rupp at the Lightning blue line failed miserably when Rupp side-stepped the hit, entered the zone freely and was able to connect on a pass to Arron Asham for the goal that made it 2-0. Heddy knows he overplayed that there, saying after the game that he should have, “Take the rush instead of trying to make the big hit.” Of course, if he connects there, that’s a potential momentum-swinger too. Alas, he didn’t. And we saw what happened.

So, are they being guided to “out-physical the Pens”? Given the structure that I know Boucher wants them to stay within and his general disappointment in some of the mistakes that were made (specifically, last night), in a word, no.

***

Head on over to From the Point for the rest of our latest sit-down.

And don’t forget to check out tonight’s “One Night Only” (?) Birds & Bolts: Playoff Showdown podcast for live discussion and some interactive shenanigans from me, Metz (and who knows who else!)

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

Filed in: Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

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