Kukla's Korner

Opposing Viewpoint: On Pens’ Poor Start, Beating Fleury, Stagnant Stamkos and More

Giant bounce-back game for the Bolts last night, no doubt. My overdue take on the 5-1 victory will come later tonight (long overdue, I admit, but I had to dedicate myself to a very worthwhile cause this morning – the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event here in Tampa – and I’m quite proud to have raised a solid chunk of cash for a great cause and to have participated in an event of that magnitude… Anyway…)

Continuing our ongoing meeting of the minds for this series, I checked back in with FromThePoint.com’s Brian Metzer for his take, from the Pittsburgh side of things, on the Lightning evening things up in decisive fashion last night.

JJ: In the first period, I thought the Pens just came out too fired up, perhaps… Max Talbot took a silly penalty and then, after that, I thought maybe they overadjusted, as in, took the physical play back a notch and, lo and behold, next thing we know, Tampa’s up 2-0. Did you see that and, if not, what else went wrong for your Penguins?

BM: That’s a good point, though it almost seemed as if they weren’t too fired up so much as a bit jumpy. It sort of seemed as if there was a bit of a role reversal from Wednesday evening…where the Pens became the more nervous/inexperienced group. Not to say that the Lightning looked very nervous on Wednesday, but the Pens had them on their heels for big chunks of the second and third periods during Game 1.

The Penguins took far too many penalties, though I thought the officiating was a bit too tight for both sides. Some eyebrow raisers for both teams… sometimes I would prefer that they just let them play a bit more… that said, the Penguins defense as a unit played one of their worst games of the season.

Kris Letang looked worn out and lost getting best for the first two Lightning goals. Paul Martin made a number of bad decisions with the puck and most of them turned into scoring opportunities the other way. None of the Penguins blue liners could get a handle on the puck at the blue line and it caused a ton of momentum to be lost in the offensive zone. The best way to describe it – they had a case of the yips.

I am not sure if it was fatigue, nerves, or just a bad night, but I fully expect the couple days off to help the group make the needed adjustments and get back to doing what they did during Game 1.

JJ: The Flower was as much a wall as one goaltender can be in game one. Eric Brewer’s goal, while on a 2-on-1, wasn’t the greatest goal ever scored, I’ll go so far as to say… Think that got into Fleury’s head in any way, shape or form? Even if it didn’t, don’t you agree that that was the EXACT kind of goal the Lightning needed to bolster the collective confidence?

BM: The Brewer goal was definitely a huge one for the Lightning – it proved that they could beat Fleury. Not that they didn’t think that they could, but it always helps to get one early after a goaltender frustrates you the way that Fleury did during Game 1.

Did the goal get in his head? I don’t think so. However it was a pretty soft goal to allow. Sure, it came on a 2-on-1, but Fleury had a very clear look at it and seemingly watched Brewer the entire way. It was a matter of the Flower going down a bit early and giving up the angle on the short side. He has long been a bit susceptible high glove side and that is where he was beaten. Had he kept his feet there, he might have had the save…

I wasn’t really worried about Fleury following that goal, but once Lecavalier was able to score so soon afterward you got the feeling that it just wasn’t going to be Marc’s night. He has those games from time-to-time where he just isn’t on his game and last night was one of them. Unfortunately his defense couldn’t bail him out much and left him hanging in the breeze on more than one occasion. We were a bit surprised to see him come out to start the second, as Bylsma has often made a change in that situation throughout the year. Fleury rewarded him with some big stops in the period, but allowed another softie to St. Louis as the period wound down and the rest is history…

JJ: Bolts win, sure, but Steven Stamkos, once again, wasn’t much of a factor. Tonight, it appeared as though he was essentially relegated to third line duty. From an opposing perspective, what are you seeing in Stamkos that just isn’t working for he and his club? I ask this because we all know that if the Lightning are to win this series, at some point, he’s going to have to be an offensive contributor.

BM: I agree completely about the fact that he is going to have to be an offensive contributor at some point during this series for the Lightning to win it. The good thing for the team is that they have gotten some big time secondary scoring from guys like Brewer and Nate Thompson. I will say that it seemed as if Stamkos was a more confident player last night. I realize that he didn’t make a contribution on the score sheet, but he was skating through the neutral zone with speed and looking a bit more like the guy I saw dominate some games this season.

The Penguins have done a nice job of keeping him to the walls and not giving him the center of the ice, which has been a factor in keeping him subdued. It was a bit odd to see him used on the point during their power play last night; he has seemingly been way more effective down low playing the short wall where he can one time pucks etc. The Lightning, as a team, have a knack for working that wall-to-wall play that always seems to set up a one timer and it could be a good way to get him on track.

Ultimately, he may still be a bit blinded by the “bright lights, big city” that is the NHL playoffs, but I think he will be fine as the series rolls on. One thing that is of concern is that he only attempted 3-shots in the game. A guy like Stammer needs to get the puck to the net a ton more…


As I said, more from me later… But glad to check in with Metz again, who has as keen an eye on this series so far, after two tilts in the ‘Burgh, as anyone else out there…

JJ on Twitter

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


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