by Jon Jordan on 04/24/11 at 09:30 PM ET
Some final thoughts tonight on yesterday’s game five blowout win for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who pulled within a single win of evening things up with the Pittsburgh Penguins and sending this back-and-forth, wildly unpredictable series (that happens to be going about as I had, um, predicted thus far, oddly enough) to what would no doubt be an epic game seven.
Before that can happen, the Pens and Bolts will square off once again in my neck of the woods tomorrow night for game six at the St. Pete Times Forum.
And before that can happen, of course, I had to check in with my main man, Brian Metzer once again, for this particular Pittsburgh insider’s take on the 8-2 drubbing on Saturday and where things MIGHT be headed from here…
JJ: So, we’re one Pittsburgh win away from my series prediction being dead-on. After getting pasted 8-2, however, how confident do you think this Pens bunch is? I mean, they’re still in the driver’s seat and all, needing just one win in the two remaining games to move one, but that was some beat-down (and on home ice, no less). This group is so full of professionals, they’ll know to put it behind them but, one would have to think, there have to be some bruised egos in that room…
BM: It is worth noting that we both look like hockey prognosticating gods! Six games was the direction we each went and it looks like we could see that go down.
Though this Penguins team was a bit shell shocked by what happened on Saturday afternoon, I am not sure the egos are bruised as much at the attitudes have gone surely. They realize that they allowed the Lightning a big time reprieve and aren’t happy about it.
Of course in the room following the game there were a lot of clichés flying – “A loss is a loss,” “3-2 is just as bad as 8-2” etc. I fully expect this group to come out with a chip on their collective shoulders on Monday night and take care of business.
They didn’t play their game after the 17-minute mark of period one. I am not sure why things changed so drastically, but a case can be made that Dwayne Roloson really changed the momentum. He really stymied the Penguins attack during the opening period when it looked like they were going for the kill early. He made huge five huge stops on an early power play, got a bit of help from his left post on a Brooks Orpik blast and then in the blink of an eye it was 2-0 Lightning.
To make a long story short, no one likes to get their noses smeared in it on home ice, so that will add to the Penguins woes of not being able to close a series there under Bylsma. However I don’t think Paul Martin or Jordan Staal will have the lackluster games that they did on Saturday again in this series. That should be enough to get it done.
Funny side note, Dan Bylsma mentioned that his son Brian has been giving him grief about not closing out series at home during his tenure as the Penguins’ coach: “I wish I had an answer for you because my son has told me I’m 0 for closing at home. [in the playoffs]” – also worth noting that it hasn’t mattered all that much considering that Dan Bylsma has become the all-time playoff wins leader in franchise history with the win in Game 3.
JJ: Personally, I thought the Lightning would prevail in game five. I’ve seen this team all year overcome adversity and I just assumed there was too much pride in that room to let their season slip away with just a single win in the playoffs. But, I gotta tell you… I never expected an ass-kicker like that. How about you? How did you see this one going? And, am I correct in assuming that, no matter how you answered the prediction portion of this question, it wasn’t going to be anywhere near, “Well, I think they’re going to get pasted at home…”???
BM: Actually I fully expected the Penguins to get their asses handed to them! Lol Not really…
I will say that I figured there was a high likelihood of a Lightning victory. The Penguins tend to come out a bit lethargic in afternoon games, especially ones that start before 1:00pm. I am not sure the reasons behind that, but in my mind that tilted the ice a bit in the Lightning’s favor. Another bugaboo was the fact that the Penguins have struggled to close out series on home ice under Dan Bylsma. Plus, the home team just hasn’t gotten it done. But…
THERE WAS NO WAY 8-2 ENTERED INTO MY THINKING!
I say there in my press box perch in disbelief as I watched the Lightning pop in goal-after-goal. The more impressive thing about it was that they did it in roughly two periods!
I am not sure if winning by a touchdown is a good or bad thing for the boys in the other room. As I mentioned in the Qs I sent you, sometimes a huge outpouring of offense like that is akin to “shooting the wad” all at once. As Boucher pointed out, the next game may be a 0-0 double OT outing with each side struggling to find offense.
The one fear is that the showing game many of the Lightning players confidence that might not have been there earlier. Getting Stamkos going will be huge… heck, we had bashed the heck out of the lack of secondary and five-on-five scoring that the ‘Ning had gotten to this point and that all changed in a hurry. It could be a huge difference maker.
JJ: Okay… This question, in some fashion or another, has been asked of you and of others many times already but we’ve agreed that, if the Pens feel pressured, they might reach for the ol’ trump card of theirs in one Mr. Sidney Crosby… We probably wouldn’t know for sure until as late as possible but, in your honest opinion, is there any chance at we see #87 in game six? What if the Penguins lose that one as well? Game seven at home, when your team once had a virtual stranglehold on the series, would that then be the ideal situation for a heroic return for the captain?
BM: Hey… almost two full days without a Sidney question…I will mark it down as a win! Lol
Seriously though, I don’t think that you could write a better script… team gets back pressed firmly against the wall, superstar captain makes long awaited return and pushes said team forward to victory. However, I just don’t think we are going to see it. Crosby has still not been cleared for contact, at least publicly and he has been on and off the ice all week.
One interesting note to consider is that some folks in town have heard some speculation that they might be trying some off-ice contact to see how he reacts. Mix in the fact that folks saw him walking around the Forum with a basketball and you get a little smoke for that fire.
Personally, as a fan of hockey and a fan of Crosby, I would love to see it happen. Though I just don’t think we are going to see him during this series. I will say that I have seen Sid around the arena a number of times and he looks good… laughing, joking, living his life as you would expect a 23-year-old injured player to do so. Doesn’t seem to be having any lingering effects.
Another (teetering on the edge of absurd) rumor that was floating at the arena yesterday: “Some think that Evgeni Malkin will make his return before Sidney Crosby.” Geno skated for the first time in ages yesterday morning and has been telling people that he feels great and wants to play! Maybe we have a Rod Woodson situation on our hands and he can make an appearance if the team makes a long run. Bylsma admitted that Geno is 9-weeks into a four-six month recovery from reconstructive knee surgery.
Though it would be an amazing story, I think it is a whole lot of wishful thinking on the case of Evgeni Malkin and those who were sharing the tale yesterday afternoon. (Though, why skate him so soon otherwise?)
I’ll be checking back in before tomorrow night’s tilt for the latest pregame thoughts and developments, perhaps including my outsider’s take on the crazy (?) Crosby/Malkin whispers…
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