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Penguins Playoffs:  Tampa Series is no Gimmie

Relatively speaking, getting the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs isn’t a bad draw.

Let’s face it, other than Buffalo, the Penguins’ would have had a tougher matchup vs. some of the other options in the first round, such as their 1-2-1 record vs. Montreal, 2-3-1 vs. the Rangers.

So sure, in that point of view, the Penguins will take the Lighting matchup in Round #1.

But while it might be a “better” matchup for the Pens, that doesn’t mean this will be an easy series.

At all.

The Lightning, since the duo of Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis came on the scene, have always presented a tough challenge for the Penguins.  Their combination of speed and skill have created headaches for their opponents for several years now.  Adding Steven Stamkos to the mix has made them even more dangerous.  Since the Penguins started their run of five straight playoff appearances in the ‘06-‘07 season, their record during that time vs. Tampa has been an average 10-8-2.  Not bad, certainly, but not dominating either.

As Penguins’ fans have gotten used to by now, scoring goals will be at a premium, especially now in the playoffs.  That makes the performance of the Penguins’ defense and goaltending that much more crucial.  On the surface, I give Marc-Andre Fleury the edge over Dwayne Roloson.  Since stumbling out of the game, Fleury has been nothing short of spectacular.  If MAF continues his strong play, he gives the Pens a very good chance to advance.  Defensively, obviously, a strong performance by Brooks Orpik and Kris Letang against Tampa’s top line will be huge.

In addition, another big key to a series will be the Penguins’ tenacity and physical play.  Easier said than done, I acknowledge, but the Penguins need to take the body against Tampa’s Big Three, and often.  Not so much that they’re constantly heading to the penalty box, mind you.  But the Penguins need to check Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos at every opportunity.  As they’ve done all year, the Pens need to be tenacious on the forecheck, and not allow the easy entry into their defensive zone.

But the biggest key to this series will be special teams.  In particular, Tampa’s 6th rated powerplay vs. the Penguins’ #1 penalty kill.  Let’s also not forget, with the Penguins’ powerplay already lousy, the Lightning also have the #8 rated PK.  But with the Penguins’ offensive troubles, a successful Lightning powerplay will be very bad news for the Penguins.

Will we see Sidney Crosby in this series?  Doubtful.  I don’t believe we’ll see Crosby until he gets at least a few full-contact practices in.  If anything, maybe if he gets those practices in and the series goes to a Game Six and/or Seven.  And even that is a stretch, in my view.

So in summary, IMO, this series could go a variety of ways.  Closely, hard-fought games.  It should come down to who executes the best in those close games who will come out on top.  Who knows, the series could end in five games, won by either team.  Or, just as well, it could go the limit.  Just depends on how the puck bounces.

My prediction?  Geez, if I must.  Gimme the Penguins in 7.

Filed in: , | The Confluence | Permalink
  Tags: nhl-hockey, pittsburgh+penguins, tampa+bay+lightning

Comments

Avatar

I think this series is relatively uncomplicated. Tampa Bay goes into an almost unbreakable, passive shot-blocking shell in their own zone (that 1-3-1 is irrelevant; the shot-blocking shell is what’s hard to crack) if they get a 2 goal lead. If the Penguins score first more often than Tampa, they probably win the series. If not, they don’t.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/11/11 at 11:49 AM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

TBay really needs a primary puck carrier on D. 

Having seen these teams play one another just a few weeks ago that was the biggest difference I saw, TBay struggles getting the puck out of their own end when they are pressured.

I like Pitt’s ability to forecheck w/out Malkin and Crosby, they do a great job of helping out by clogging up the middle of the ice deep in the opposition territory when things are even.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/11/11 at 11:56 AM ET

Evilpens's avatar

I will be SHOCKED, Pleasantly Shocked but shocked none the less if the Pens win this series, They couldn’t score at a nymphomaniac convention! teams really tighten up Defensively in the Playoffs & really focus in on their opponents weaknesses, I can’t think of a way they win the series unless Roloson just lays an egg or Sid comes back (which I don’t think will happen) in the series.

Letestu & Venus De Milo as your top 2 C’s isn’t going to make any coach lose sleep especially with the lack of wingers they have.

By the way How bad do the Pens think Staal is to have a Undratfed FA as the top line C instead of Mr. 4 mill a year C. I think the Pen OrganIzation is being drug kicking & screaming into reality with Sid & Geno out about Staal ( Very Good 3rd Line C but nothing
more)

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 12:05 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

The attrition aspect of the game will be in full effect. A weakened pens team is taking on a healthy lightning team.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 04/11/11 at 12:55 PM ET

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Evilpens - Staal is the number 1 center on the team. His Time On Ice per Game is second on the team among forwards only to Crosby.
Staal plays, on average, over 21 minutes per game. By contrast, Letestu plays only just over 14 minutes. Even just looking at the last few games shows that it isn’t even a close contest.

Kunitz-Staal-Kennedy has been the #1 line the last few games. And then Staal’s frequently been double-shifted on top of that. And that’s just at even strength.

Somehow, I don’t think that shows that the Pens think Staal is bad at all.

Posted by Freeptop on 04/11/11 at 01:01 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

UMMM Yeah Right That is why they Have Neal & KovaFLOAT on Letestu’s Line Understand what you are posting about & then we will have a Discussion, Staal TOI is because he plays PK & PP where Neal KovaFLOAT & Letestu only get PP time & Letestu is on the 2 PP unit

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 01:07 PM ET

Avatar

Tampa Bay goes into an almost unbreakable, passive shot-blocking shell in their own zone

Which sounds a lot like Montreal last year.  If Duane Roloson can do a passable Halak impersonation (might not be hard considering how offensively challenged Pittsburgh is), the Penguins could be in trouble.

Posted by Lex Talionis on 04/11/11 at 01:16 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

Come on, EP.  Staal is playing with Kunitz and Kennedy because they have chemistry.  Kunitz/Staal/Kennedy has been the Pens’ best line for the past couple of months.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 04/11/11 at 01:33 PM ET

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Since there are no shootouts in the playoffs, the Pens may struggle to win!

Posted by davepol from Pittsburgh PA on 04/11/11 at 01:36 PM ET

Russian Rocket's avatar

I have very few complaints with Staal’s game this season.  Credit Wyshynski with the research “With his 11 goals and 30 points through 42 games, Staal would have passed his career high of 49 points over the course of a full season; not to mention he’s tied his career high of four game-winning goals.”

Looking back he may not have been the BEST choice at #2 in the draft, but he’s a good fit on this Penguins team and skilled 2-way center.  You could do worse.

Posted by Russian Rocket on 04/11/11 at 01:39 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

WOW he would have surpassed his career high in points & goals getting a Shitload more time because of Sid & Geno being out ! TK & Kunitz play well with Staal because they are Hame & Eggers like Him, Bylsma had him with Neal & KovaFLOAT for 2 games & put Letestu their

Yeah you could do worse than Kessel, Toews, Backstrom or Giroux ! rolleyes

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 02:12 PM ET

Avatar

TBay really needs a primary puck carrier on D. 

Agreed. The much-vaunted 1-3-1 would be much more of a factor (Bylsma’s breakouts seem to bypass it at will; so did Maurice’s the other day) if Scott Niedermayer was the back-guy instead of Eric ‘Quicksand” Brewer, but that’s not the case. Tampa gets stuck in their own end for very long periods of time against pedestrian opponents and pinning teams in their own end is what Pittsburgh’s best at doing.

If Pittsburgh has a lead, that spells victory. If they don’t, well, I don’t think Kris Letang is able to thread a slapshot through 9 bodies and a goaltender at all, let alone twice per game.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/11/11 at 02:18 PM ET

Avatar

Evilpens, when the Penguins score a goal, do you cheer, or make a sarcastic comment?

Posted by NathanBC on 04/11/11 at 02:26 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

It’s amazing the Blinders the Pens & retard Media put on certain pens Fam\ns !

I have said REPEATEDLY Staal is a Very good 3rd Line C Not saying he sucks, Just saying he is not now nor Ever will be atop 2 Line C, Doesn’t have the Hands, Passing ability or Offensive creativity to be a top 2 line C

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 02:26 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Evilpens, when the Penguins score a goal, do you cheer, or make a sarcastic comment?

Perfect example of the Moronic Pens fans, If you look at things without the Black & Vegas Gold Sunglasses & intoxicated on the Kool-Aid you ARE NOT a Real Fan

Again Reading Comprehension is very key in life! I said he is a very good 3rd Line C! how is that being mean to Poor little Jordan ?

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 02:41 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Thank you, EP, for once again hijacking my article with your Staal rants….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 04/11/11 at 02:43 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

No Hijacking the other Blind Pens FFans can’t seem to grasp the Fact that saying Staal is a very good 3rd Line C is somehow ripping Staal?

I see you have been caught up in it too, Fact Staal started with Neal & then when they traded for KovaFLOAT they put those 3 together for 2 or 3 Games Then Bylsma! Not Me Took Staal off that line when Letestu was Healthy & Staal was put back with TK & Cooke where he is at his best & then Cooke got suspended for his Moronic Elbow & they Put Kunitz on with him & TK


Again this is the 1st Post by me in this article.Discussion I will be SHOCKED, Pleasantly Shocked but shocked none the less if the Pens win this series, They couldn’t score at a nymphomaniac convention! teams really tighten up Defensively in the Playoffs & really focus in on their opponents weaknesses, I can’t think of a way they win the series unless Roloson just lays an egg or Sid comes back (which I don’t think will happen) in the series.

Letestu & Venus De Milo as your top 2 C’s isn’t going to make any coach lose sleep especially with the lack of wingers they have.

By the way How bad do the Pens think Staal is to have a Undratfed FA as the top line C instead of Mr. 4 mill a year C. I think the Pen OrganIzation is being drug kicking & screaming into reality with Sid & Geno out about Staal ( Very Good 3rd Line C but nothing
more)

Where is there anything that a rational Pens Fan can disagree with let alone rip me for ??

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 02:52 PM ET

Tony's avatar

It’s fine that you have your Staal opinion, all I’m asking for is that you don’t need to spew it:

EVERY

SINGLE

ARTICLE

See what I mean ?

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 04/11/11 at 02:56 PM ET

Avatar

Evilpens, when the Penguins score a goal, do you cheer, or make a sarcastic comment?
Posted by NathanBC on 04/11/11 at 01:26 PM ET


Perfect example of the Moronic Pens fans, If you look at things without the Black & Vegas Gold Sunglasses & intoxicated on the Kool-Aid you ARE NOT a Real Fan
Again Reading Comprehension is very key in life! I said he is a very good 3rd Line C! how is that being mean to Poor little Jordan ?
Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 01:41 PM ET

Wow.

Posted by NathanBC on 04/11/11 at 03:12 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Well Geez call me a radical but I think when you pay a guy 4 Mill a year & whisper sweet nothings in the ears of the clueless media about how great Staal really is, That when Sid & Geno are out you would think he would step up on a consistent basis

Again you like most Pens fans have bought the Pap hook, line & sinker about how good Staal was going to be & he hasn’t done it, He is still mediocre at faceoffs, Puck Handling is still abysmal & that is what you’re pissed at me about, Because you & others can’t refute it other than by saying he is ONLY 22 & didn’t have any off season workouts, Training Camp because of the problem with his foot surgery & then missed over half the season do to that & then a broken bone in his hand

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 03:13 PM ET

Avatar

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

You are literally having half an arguement with yourself.

Posted by NathanBC on 04/11/11 at 03:15 PM ET

cainer4wingsglory's avatar

Tampa in 6…..

Posted by cainer4wingsglory on 04/11/11 at 03:48 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

You are literally having half an arguement with yourself.


yeah Beavis whatever you say, The Same argument was also made about Talbot, well how has he done this season ?

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 03:56 PM ET

Avatar

“Staal TOI is because he plays PK & PP where Neal KovaFLOAT & Letestu only get PP time & Letestu is on the 2 PP unit”

Evilpens - if Staal only leads the forwards in TOI/G due to the penalty kill and power play, then how come he also has the second-highest even strength time-on-ice per game among all forwards on the Pens, with only Crosby having more?

Staal plays 15:41 per game at even strength. That’s over a full minute more time than Letestu plays in total: (14:15).

Before you assert yourself as being correct, you might want to check your assumptions first. Regardless of what you may think of him, Bylsma is using Staal as his first line center right now.

I’m not trying to argue about your opinion of Staal - that’s an opinion, and you’re entitled to it. But I am challenging your assertion that the Pens have an “Undratfed[sic] FA as the top line C” over Staal, when that is demonstrably not true.

Posted by Freeptop on 04/11/11 at 04:14 PM ET

Avatar

Thank you, EP, for once again hijacking my article with your Staal rants….

Hmm, yeah. I thought this was supposed to be about the matchup with the Lightning not Staal vs. Jonathan Toews.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/11/11 at 04:36 PM ET

Avatar

It will be interesting to see how the Pens PK, which has not been as good without Cooke, does against the Tampa PP.  Combine that with the fact the Pens PP has been beyond bad this year, if this is a special teams series, Tampa probably wins.  I expect the Pens to grind down the Tampa D and hopefully they will get and convert enough chances to win games.  Pens in 6.

Posted by pens fan in baltimore on 04/11/11 at 08:51 PM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

First of all, so Tony doesn’t hate me…

Tampa is in no way going to be easy.  Roloson worries me.  He carried an 8th seeded Oilers team to the Finals the year after the lockout.  If he gets on some unreal tear - *COUGH*HALAK*COUGH* - then the Pens are in trouble.  Because…let’s face it, they haven’t been lighting the lamp with a whole lot of consistency the past, ohhhhhh, 41 games or so.  So that’s a worry. 

They HAVE scored PP goals in three straight games, though - so maybe they can build on that to even out the special teams battle.  We’ll see.  Not sold on it…but crazier things have happened, right?

Grind ‘em down, let the chips fall as they may.  If they get out of the first round - which I think/hope/pray they will - they might get a huge piece of the puzzle back.  If THAT happens…oh boy.

Pens in 6.

Now…

Yeah you could do worse than Kessel, Toews, Backstrom or Giroux !

Posted by Evilpens on 04/11/11 at 01:12 PM ET

You do know that three of those guys are centers, too, right? 

And Toews ($6.3 million), Backstrom ($6.7 million) and Kessel ($5.4 million) are all making a lot more than Staal…and Giroux ($3.75 million) isn’t far behind. 

So if they would’ve drafted one of those guys, they’d either be paying a third line center wayyyyyyyy more than Staal (or just less in Giroux’s case) or too much for a winger that doesn’t play nearly a physical enough style to be successful within the organization (maybe - just a guess because I don’t have a crystal ball).

They might have been able to draft better, talent-wise (though, not MUCH better) but they’d still have the same sort of problems…maybe worse.  So we’d still be reading your borderline incoherent ramblings calling anyone that doesn’t agree with you “morons,” “Koolaid drinkers,” or…everyone’s personal favorite…“twat waffles” (which to your credit, you haven’t used nearly as often the past month or so…thank Christ for that) and accusing them/us of not being “real fans”...whatever that means.

Only it’d be about how Toews/Backstrom/Giroux is getting paid too much (you can’t pay your 3rd line center $6 million!!!!) or calling Kessel “PHLOAT Kessel” (though…that IS pretty funny).

Posted by Freeptop on 04/11/11 at 03:14 PM ET

Boom.  You beat me too it.  Nice work.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 04/11/11 at 09:41 PM ET

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Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

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