Kukla's Korner

Opposing Viewpoint: On Game-Planning, Michalek/St. Louis, Sid’s Eye in the Sky and More from Game 1

There wasn’t a whole lot in the way of controversy in last night’s series opener between the Lightning and Penguins. (Well, there was Zbynek Michalek using his stick as a toothpick on Marty St. Louis, which we’ll get to…) I imagine

if

when there is, this ongoing exchange between FromThePoint.com’s Brian Metzer and I will take on some added spice.

For now, we’re just teaming up to bring you opposing viewpoints of the series, as it plays out. With chapter one in the books, here’s my latest exchange with Metz, looking back on last night’s 3-0 Pittsburgh win:

JJ: We’ll keep this one simple: Was that NOT exactly what the Penguins wanted to do - play a tight defensive game, rely on Marc-Andre Fleury to make a couple (or a slew) of key saves and break through offensively at the right time? Sure seemed like the gameplan to me.

BM: You nailed it, JJ. That was the plan and they executed it to perfection. Sure, they would like to get more offense early, but when it doesn’t come they just find a way to settle into a tight defensive scheme, allow MAF to do his job and roll on from there. It has been their modus operandi throughout the season, but even more so since losing Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

It was very interesting to watch the Penguins make an adjustment in how they handled their offense in the second and third period. It seems as if Dan Bylsma convinced them to just get pucks on the net from everywhere on the ice. Where they might have been trying to get a fancy in the first period, they were shuffling pucks toward Dwayne Roloson from everywhere. Heck, Jordan Staal even tried to put a shot off of his back from below the goal line. That flurry of shots allowed them to open the game up a bit and generated the scoring chances that they needed to eventually break through.

I would say that you will see a cookie cutter of what happened last night moving forward…defense, defense, defense, great goaltending and timely scoring.

JJ: A major point of contention, from the fan perspective, was the non-call when Martin St. Louis was sticked in the teeth by Zbynek Michalek in the second period. Personally, I thought it should have been called but that wasn’t as easy a call to make as some made it out to be afterwards. Big turning point? Maybe. The reason Tampa Bay lost? Hardly. What say you?

BM: The fans weren’t the only ones who were upset about that non-call. In reading the papers this morning, it seems that more than a couple media members were peeved about it as well. However, it was one of those weird situations that could have gone either way. It easily could have been a 4-minute power play for the Lightning, but I am assuming that the referee let it slide based on the fact that Marty was down and out when the stick came across his face. Whether that is right or wrong, I assume that was the rationale.

I will say that in looking at the replay – I needed to do that today since it was tough to catch it live last night – Michalek had no intent to injure on the play. It was a simple matter of a guy losing control of his stick, which seems to happen far too often in the league these days and it caught St. Louis in the mouth. Judging by St. Louis’ reaction on the bench he seemed to think “Z” swung that stick with some intent, though there was no way he could have known that he was going to catch him as he did. He wasn’t even looking that direction. As I said, simple carelessness.

Was it a turning point? I guess taking away what could have been a 4-minute power play for the Lightning could have made a difference, but I don’t think it was as big a factor in the game as some are thinking.

Speaking of this event, best line of the day from the great Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy:

“Double. Root. Canal. Mama, don’t let yer babies grow up to be diminutive hockey players.”

JJ: Finally (obligatory Crosby inquiry here), Sid didn’t play but was involved, wearing a headset from the coach’s box. Any idea what exactly was going on there? The captain just listening in or actually interacting, strategy-wise? And, with the team up 1-0, can we just about close the book on seeing him in this series if they happen to win game two as well?

BM: Let’s go with part two first… will Sid play in this series? I still feel that there is a chance of it, but the team has been adamant in denying it. Management and coaches are still claiming that he still has two steps in the progression before he is cleared. It is hard to get my head around the fact that he has seemingly been practicing for a month now, but has not taken those steps forward. Game two could be a determining factor, if the Penguins win it, then the chances go down. However, the longer that this series goes on, the better chance of seeing him in action. In fact, a long series here could make a second round appearance more probable based on a longer recovery time.

As for his interaction last night… we didn’t get any indication about what he was up too, though it is worth noting that he has spent time strategizing with coaches and teammates in the past while sitting out with injuries. He doesn’t often get a chance to get that bird’s eye view and usually likes to be able to talk through things that he is seeing. Crosby is such a student of the game and thinks it on another level most of the time. The coaches are probably utilizing his input to break down on the fly situations. I am sure that he isn’t involved in game planning etc, but it wouldn’t shock me to hear that they are taking his input in the way I just mentioned.

On a side note, some in the press box joked that Sid has jumped on the Pirates band wagon due to their better than expected start and was listening to their 6-0 loss to the Brewers while taking in the game at the CEC.

***

Once again, I’ve answered some questions in return for Metz and will link to those once he’s posted over at FTP.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

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

Comments

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Good job again guys.


The Dreger Report today:
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma sees the value in keeping Crosby mentally invested even though physically, he is not ready to play.

Crosby is wired to the Pens’ bench and communicates with assistant coach Tony Granato - who handles Pittsburgh’s forwards and penalty kill units.

Penguins management says Crosby has good insight and is paying close attention to tendencies, system changes, Pittsburgh’s forecheck and any important adjustments that may need to be made. Also, the added off-ice responsibility helps the Penguins captain stay involved and feel an active part of the postseason.

Crosby, somewhat of an extension of the support staff, tested this role a few times near the end of the regular season, including Pittsburgh’s final game against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Posted by NathanBC on 04/14/11 at 02:13 PM ET

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I’m really liking this new exchange between you and BM. Keep ‘em coming. Fleury definitely did his part, but I’d like to see him be less active next game. He played incredibly, but the bounces/luck were on his side this game.

Biggest surprise to me was that the Lightning actually had more hits than the Pens last night. I’m pretty sure the Pens hits (Orpik in particular) were harder.

Side note: It’s been great watching Z add elements to his game. Shot blocker, sure, but his powerplay influence lately has been great too. I hope he can keep it up.

Posted by penguinsfan on 04/14/11 at 02:44 PM ET

Bosephus's avatar

I’m enjoying these as well, thanks guys.

Posted by Bosephus from Behind enemy lines, Denver, CO on 04/14/11 at 03:05 PM ET

Jon Jordan's avatar

We’re having a lot of fun with this too, folks. Thanks.

Brian and I have always wanted to work on a project together but never really had the chance until now, for a variety of reasons (one including the fact that the primary team I cover has sucked out loud for a few years!)

As the series progresses, we have a few other things planned as well.

Thanks for the support!

JJ

Posted by Jon Jordan from Tampa, FL on 04/14/11 at 03:21 PM ET

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