Kukla's Korner

Opposing Viewpoint: FTP’s Metzer on Pens’ Defensive Prowess, Bolts’ Jump and Downie/Kunitz Hits

It’s time, once again, to hear a take from the other side of things, checking in with FromThePoint.com’s Brian Metzer, for his reaction to the Penguins’ 3-2 game two victory to take a 2-1 lead over the Lightning in the series…


JJ: We talked earlier about the Penguins having to do a better job at clearing out the crease area in front of Marc-Andre Fleury and limiting second (and third) chances for the Lightning. You even hinted at the possibility of Deryk Engelland getting his way into a game to help with just that. Engelland took the warm-up last night but did not play. Overall, I thought Pittsburgh did a better job of maintaining position down low, despite both Martin St. Louis goals coming off of rebound chances. It sounds weird to say that, since the Lightning only kept it close in this one on the strength of those two tallies, but I did see improvement in that area from Pittsburgh’s perspective nonetheless. What say you, good sir?

BM: I would agree with you JJ. The Penguins did a much better job of keeping the Lightning to the perimeter. They didn’t allow as much traffic to just camp out in front of Marc-Andre Fleury as they had done on Friday evening. There were still a few occasions in which the Lightning were able to get body position in front of Fleury and it resulted in a couple of good scoring chances for them.

The Penguins clearly were willing to do what it took in that “dirty” area though, as evidenced by Mike Rupp’s penalty on Ryan Malone. In watching that situation play out I looked at it as a play that would have resulted in a goal for the Lightning during Game 2, but it was counteracted with rare “smart” penalty.

I would look for the Penguins to do a lot more of what you saw last night moving forward. Keeping that net front area clean will become just as important as the discipline, physicality and quick puck movement that they have been preaching.

As you said, they were burned by St. Louis a couple of times from that area, but that is what he does to the Penguins! Especially on the PP. They are going to have to manage those rebounds more effectively or continue to pay.

One note on Engelland, don’t read a ton into his taking the skate, as he has done so in each of the games during the series thus far. If you can fine sir, keep an eye on the 3 on 2 drill during the warm-up, if and when Engelland participates in that drill he would be safe bet for the game. He has not skated the drill to this point…

JJ: After the game, it was suggested multiple times in the Lightning room that, perhaps, the team came out a bit too energized in the first period and, therefore, maybe a bit too aggressive as well. On both of Pittsburgh’s early goals, aggressive play on the part of Tampa Bay led directly to the Penguins scoring. The Steve Downie hit on Ben Lovejoy, though at the other end of the ice, seemed to keep everyone’s attention away from the scoring chance (and eventual goal) that came as a result of Lovejoy getting rid of the puck before he was plowed and Victor Hedman’s attempt to step up and hit Mike Rupp at the blueline led directly to the 2-on-1 tally for Arron Asham. Did you see evidence over overaggression on the part of the Lightning? And, in your opinion, if that exists, is that something an experienced team like the Pens can sense and take advantage of, in turn?

BM: I would say that is something that certain players on the Penguins roster would be able to ID and take advantage of. Rupp clearly saw that play coming and squeaked by Hedman and made a very pretty pass under a fallen Kubina to Asham. However, I was a bit surprised to see Lovejoy take advantage of that situation. I think his play was more a product of staying in tune with Bylsma’s quick puck movement and not being afraid to give up his body to do it.

The Lightning did seem a bit amped up for the first home playoff game in quite sometime and that emotion could have worked against them. Guys like Downie clearly wanted to send a message early that said “Hey, you boys are in our house now…” Unfortunately for them a couple of crafty playoff performers like Max Talbot and Mike Rupp burned them. Guys like that make a habit of taking a licking and powering through it… The Lightning will have to be careful with that moving forward.

I fully expect a low scoring, tight checking game on Wednesday night… probably another coin toss finish. The weird thing about this series to this point is that anything could happen… I wouldn’t be shocked to see this come back to Pittsburgh tied, while I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Penguins come back in a position to clinch. Weird but fun thus far… 

JJ: Seems like we always have an elephant in the room in our question and answer series so far and, in today’s case, we have two: The aforementioned Downie/Lovejoy hit and Chris Kunitz’s elbow to the head of Simon Gagne. We haven’t heard about any sort of hearing for the former but, reportedly, Kunitz will have a phone hearing today. If I had to guess, I’d say each player is looking at a game or two, at least. What was your initial reaction to each play and, assuming you’ve had repeated looks after, what do you expect, in terms of supplementary discipline, if anything? (I realize that’s like asking for tomorrow night’s lottery numbers these days but, again, we’d be remiss in not touching on these incidents.)

BM: Well, since I didn’t get these back to you quickly enough, we already know the outcome of the “BIG WHEEL OF NHL DISCIPLINE!” Looking at the two situations independent of the rest of the league it isn’t shocking to see the one game suspensions handed out, however when you put them up against the rest it is a bit of a shock.

The Kunitz elbow could have prompted a bigger suspension, as it was sort of a bonehead play. I am not sure what he was thinking coming across the middle of the slot like that and laying out a guy with a long concussion history. I will say that he doesn’t typically play like that and it probably came into play in the league’s decision. Losing him for a game will certainly help the Lightning and hurt the Penguins…he has been invaluable this year, especially without the big guys.

The Downie hit is a bit of a head scratcher…yes he did leave his feet and sort of launch himself through Benny, but after the long dissertation as to why Raffi Torres wasn’t punished, I thought he would walk. The hit was similar. I am assuming that he got the suspension based on the fact that he left his feet and sort of torpedoed himself at Lovejoy.

***

Thanks again to Metz for his varying insight. We’ll be hitting the airwaves together tonight for a special playoff podcast, focused mostly on the first three games of this hard-fought Penguins/Lightning series and where things are headed from here.

Stay tuned for details on a time and where you can find an archived copy of the show once it’s taped.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

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

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