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Pens/Bolts Game 7:  It Is What It Is

Let’s put this into perspective.

It’s not like Penguins fans

didn’t

know that the Pens’ offense would be sporadic (I’m being nice) without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

It’s not like they

didn’t know that the Pens’ powerplay would be woeful.  Shit, they had a bad powerplay with

Crosby and Malkin.

It’s not like they

didn’t

know that the Penguins’ record vs. playoff teams was not good.

So when you really look at it, are you really

that

surprised this series has now gone to a Game 7?

Sure, it’s frustrating as hell that the Pens have blown that once-glorious 3-1 series lead.  The defense has looked shaky, some pucks have squirted past Marc-Andre Fleury that hasn’t happened very often this season outside of the first 10 games.  Then there’s the aforementioned offense and putrid powerplay.  Without Crosby and Malkin, this team has zero consistent finishers.  The puck bouncing off the stick of Chris Conner on his penalty shot is the perfect microcosm of how things have gone in the past couple of games.

My point is this:  This is how this team was constructed by GMRS.  To his defense, losing two of top 10 players in the world would throw a serious wrench into any GM’s plans.  But when those two incredibly unfortunate injuries occurred, this team was left with four lines of grinders.  Some more offensively talented than others, mind you, but for the most part, GMRS’ plan to get grittier and tougher has bit his team square in the butt-ocks.

So is all hopeless?

Of course not.  But I think it’s pretty apparent that HCDB is going to make some changes, such as:

- I’d be surprised if Eric Tangradi isn’t in the lineup, but the question becomes who do you sit?  Please don’t blame Conner for having the puck bounce over his stick on that shitty ice.  Moreover, Conner has been busting his little ass, and has been one of the best forecheckers in the Pens lineup.  Does HCDB have the huevos to sit Alex Kovalev?  I still think that trading for Kovalev for a 7th-round pick was worth the trade, but it’s painfully apparent that the Kovalev of 2011 simply doesn’t mesh with how this Penguins lineup is constructed.  There are flashes of his past brilliance, sure, but his slow, un-physical play conflicts with the fast, forechecking style that HCDB craves.  That said, I just don’t think HCDB will sit him, even though he probably should.

- Insert Deryk Engelland, sit Matt Niskanen.  Tampa’s crashing of the net has turned out to be one of the bigger advantages that they’ve used in this series.  Get Engelland in there to clear out some bodies.  You also can’t ignore the fact that when Niskanen and Ben Lovejoy jump on the ice, Marty St. Louis starts to salivate.

- The Pens have already made one huge switch.  Jeff Jimerson is back under the mike for the National Anthem.  Yup, that’s right, we’re that desperate.

So we’ll see how it goes.  Like I said in the title, it is what it is.  Game 7’s are always a little unexpected though, let’s just see if someone comes up huge for their respective team.

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  Tags: nhl-hockey, pittsburgh+penguins, tampa+bay+lightning

Comments

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The defense and MAF have been the biggest disappointments for me so far.  Paul Martin has not looked like a 5 million a year player.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/26/11 at 11:21 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

Go Yzerbolts

Posted by Rdwings28 on 04/26/11 at 11:21 AM ET

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Well said, Tony.  Can’t really disagree with your summation. 

Over a long series, usually the best team (i.e., the team with the most talent) wins, and in this matchup that was never the Penguins.  The only feasible way to overcome that talent deficit would be for your goalie to steal a series —a la Halak last year—and that hasn’t happened. 

This isn’t a criticism of Fleury, per se, either—just a statement of fact that he would have had to have been fantastic to give the Penguins a chance.  And since Game 1, he hasn’t been.  Sadly, when you check your goalie’s save percentage and see the first digit is an “8”—well, you’re not going to win too many series that way. 

Again, though, not putting it all on him.  Who from the Penguins’ forwards would even crack Tampa’s top six?  Maybe one guy.  Not enough . . . .

Posted by Lex Talionis on 04/26/11 at 11:26 AM ET

Flashtastick56's avatar

On Tangradi-Conner:

You’re right, Conner busts his ass and gets in there on the forecheck just as good, if not better, than anybody on the Pens roster.  His speed is a huge asset, too.  BUT…

I saw him get thrown - literally thrown - off the puck at least twice last night by Kubina.  He’s just so small…he gets pushed around out there more often than not. 

The Pens only PP goal came when Eric Tangradi’s BIG ass was in front of the net.  He hit everything that moved, too.

Kovalev has more skill than everyone on that team full of grinders.  I think just that potential for him to do something trumps everything else.

So, my thinking - sit Conner (not because of his penalty shot flub) and play Tangradi.

The counter point to that, however, is…maybe Conner is pissed about the puck jumping over his stick and scores 2 goals tomorrow night.

I’m definitely not an expert.

Posted by Flashtastick56 from Meriden, CT on 04/26/11 at 11:42 AM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

They’ve gotta get a few saves from Fleury. That’s the big one. Tinkering can only do so much.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 04/26/11 at 11:48 AM ET

Avatar

I would put Comrie in for Letestu.  Letestu has been worse than brutal this entire series, epitomized by his mindless lazy play on the Bergenheim goal.

Posted by Mad City Mike from Madison, WI on 04/26/11 at 12:02 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Good point, Letestu has been invisible….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 04/26/11 at 12:04 PM ET

Avatar

I’d be surprised if Eric Tangradi isn’t in the lineup, but the question becomes who do you sit?

Not Connor. Tangradi is of no value off the top two lines, so it has to be one of the top six.

Kovalev’s the obvious answer, but I’m going to throw Kunitz out there. After game 1 he’s not even hitting on the forecheck. If he had been, maybe Hedman would have been too banged up to be everywhere last night. If Kunitz hadn’t elbowed Gagne for no reason, I wouldn’t know he was playing

Posted by steviesteve on 04/26/11 at 12:09 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Besides the obvious sentiments that you pointed out, I’m really surprised that the Pens defense has broken down at so many critical times in the past two games with the personnel it has on defense.

That was the difference in the series coming in and why I (for one) am surprised that this has lasted as long as it has. 

For the past three months the Pens have been playing the kind of hockey that will be successful in the playoffs.  They do a great job of defending on special teams, possess the puck way more than the opposition during even strength, and have a cup winning goalie in net.

I’ve seen many teams make it through a few rounds following that formula.  This Bolts team is vastly inexperienced and has a less than impressive defensive unit.  And now the past two games have given them the kind of confidence that is needed to win a first round and now I have no inclination as to how this is going to shake out.  I certainly didn’t think this is how we would’ve got to seven games two weeks ago.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/26/11 at 12:34 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

I should’ve added previously, its the top two pairings on defense that have broken down at critical times.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/26/11 at 12:36 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/26/11 at 09:21 AM ET

Totally agree regarding Martin.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/26/11 at 12:37 PM ET

John W.'s avatar

It’s not like they didn’t know that the Pens’ powerplay would be woeful.  Shit, they had a bad powerplay with Crosby and Malkin.

Coming from an outsider, it looks to me on the PP you guys are missing Gogo at least as much as Crosby/Malkin.  There’s no one quarterbacking it and it looks so disorganized.  I think Neal will be a great player for you guys going forward as Crosby’s winger, but I think this year you’d be better off with Gogo.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 04/26/11 at 12:45 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

I would love to see Engelland in the lineup to clear out the crease, although it’ll take a big game from MAF p get this done. I think that is definitely possible, but I’m not holding my breath…

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 04/26/11 at 12:52 PM ET

Avatar

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 04/26/11 at 10:45 AM ET

I’d agree with that. After Sid went down, the powerplay went from `16% to 14% (neither conversion rate are all that good). The Powerplay then went from 14%  to 4% (which is embarassing) after the Gogo trade. Gogo is a natural powerplay QB and Pittsburgh no longer has one that’s healthy.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/26/11 at 12:54 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 04/26/11 at 10:45 AM ET

I actually think that Letang has the talent to be a great QB.  They certainly miss Malkin on the right side down low, he’s brilliant down there.  Seeing that the Pens PP finished 25th in the NHL reg season for the PP (15.9%) this year, does anybody have pre-Malkin/Crosby numbers to share?  I’d be curious to know how much of it is them rather than Gonchar.

The Pens PK doesn’t rely on either missing superstar and the Bolts are now operating at a 32% clip and most of that uptick has come in the last three games.  That’s insane for a Pens team that came in with the #1 PK in the NHL regular season.  That also tells me that x’s and o’s are being addressed well by the Bolts staff, in particular when the second unit guys are on the rink for the PP.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/26/11 at 12:57 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Posted by steviesteve on 04/26/11 at 10:54 AM ET

Wow, ask and ye shall receive.  Some fascinating numbers there, thanks.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/26/11 at 12:58 PM ET

John W.'s avatar

I actually think that Letang has the talent to be a great QB.

Yeah, Letang’s a good one, but he’s really the only 1.  Martin should be good, but like you guys said, he’s not earning his salary.  I saw Michalek out there, and he’s just not an offensive D-man.  Like I said, Letang is good, but it helps to have another guy back there as an option.  If I’m a PK guy and see Letang and Michalek back there, I’m keying on Letang and pressuring him.  Plus it makes it so Letang essentially has to be out there the full 2 minutes, and then he can’t be out there the next shift when the opposing teams puts there top line out.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 04/26/11 at 01:02 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Good point, Letestu has been invisible…  Letestu is what he is a3rd/4th line C

I’d agree with that. After Sid went down, the powerplay went from `16% to 14% (neither conversion rate are all that good). The Powerplay then went from 14%  to 4% (which is embarassing) after the Gogo trade. Gogo is a natural powerplay QB and Pittsburgh no longer has one that’s healthy.
the Problem was Dallas wanted Gogo For Neal &  the Pens Desperately need a Competent top 2 line winger Because they had NONE

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 01:12 PM ET

Avatar

All the Pens need is a PP coach. That’s the only reason to prevent them from being a candidate for the Conference title.

That’s the situation for two years now. Since the addition of a PP coach is pretty easy (contrary to a scoring winger for example) it is beyond me why this organisation wasn’t willing to get to employ somebody who proved to be a able to teach players what to do on the PP elsewhere.

Posted by JJ on 04/26/11 at 01:20 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 11:12 AM ET

Very true regarding the Dallas trade. 

My understanding was that Gogo’s RFA status after next year was also a concern for Shero given the long term commitments (through 2014) they made to Orpik, Martin, Michalek, and Letang.  The more I look at those four (and seeing where things are right now with the team’s defensive and special teams play) the more I feel like Martin or Michalek may have been redundant.

When the Martin move was getting so much cred last summer many were touting his passing and shooting skills (which always perplexed me given the numbers produced and the limited games I saw him in), he simply doesn’t have them.  That’s not to take anything away from the other aspects of his game, he’s a solid defender.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/26/11 at 01:30 PM ET

Avatar

That’s insane for a Pens team that came in with the #1 PK in the NHL regular season.

Although hated by many outside of Pittsburgh, Cooke’s absence has a lot to do with that.  The penalty kill started declining the last 10 games of the year without Cooke, and has continued to go from bad to worst in playoffs.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/26/11 at 01:36 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/26/11 at 11:36 AM ET

Ah yes, remember you (or somebody else) pointing that out last week.  Very interesting.

The only thing that makes me pause a little is that the Pens PK was pretty good through the first four games of the series.  Regardless, you are definitely right.  Cooke’s absence is making a dent in their success rate.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/26/11 at 01:39 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Although hated by many outside of Pittsburgh, Cooke’s absence has a lot to do with that.  The penalty kill started declining the last 10 games of the year without Cooke, and has continued to go from bad to worst in playoffs.  


NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Can’t be true Because the Media has been telling us through the Pens that Venus De Staaled is the Bestest Greatest PK’er ever

BS !! For all the Idiotic hits Cooke makes he is a Great PK’er & is greatly missed

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 01:39 PM ET

Avatar

BS !! For all the Idiotic hits Cooke makes he is a Great PK’er & is greatly missed

I am Jordan’s biggest supporter, but he has been awful this series.  In no way should you misinterpret that to mean i want him traded.  He is very valuable to the team, but is for sure having a horrible series.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/26/11 at 01:43 PM ET

Avatar

Quarterbacking the powerplay is sort of a niche skill that doesn’t always go hand in hand with talent, though. Marc Andre Bergeron and Joe Corvo are two guys who can do that decently, but can’t do a single other thing right. I really don’t see Letang ever becoming a good QB. Trigger-man, definitely (if he starts hitting the net more, like he was earlier in the season). QB, no.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/26/11 at 01:44 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

they were 1st in the League without Staal !! so I guess he isn’t that great a PKer & also I have no problem with him as a 3rd Line C but when you have a salary Cap & are paying Sid & Geno 8.7 mill a year You CANNOT afford to pay Staal 4 Mill a year

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 01:47 PM ET

Avatar

My understanding was that Gogo’s RFA status after next year was also a concern for Shero given the long term commitments

Can’t be paying a #5 (Gogo’s overall game, while underrated, isn’t as strong as Pittsburgh’s top 4) the amount of money a 45-50 point D would get in arbitration.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/26/11 at 01:48 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Heh, we all know EP’s view of Staal, but what say the rest of you Pens fans? He obvious got into Osgood’s head in the ‘09 SCF final along with the Talbot monster, but is he really worth $4 million?

Frankly, I’m surprised the Pens didn’t collapse after Malkin and Crosby went out. Major kudos to Bylsma, Shero, the coaching staff, and the players themselves. All that said, as someone mentioned earlier in the comments; the Pens have been playing a grinding playoff style of game now for 3+ months. I almost wonder if they’re just out of gas…

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 04/26/11 at 01:50 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

mrfluffy That is it ! The Bolts shifted to another Gear & the Pens Don’t have anymore Gears they are playing as hard as they can & I give the Team credit for Not folding when Sid & Geno & all they other guys went out.

The season ended the days that Sid & Geno went out !

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 01:53 PM ET

Avatar

I think Staal at 4 million is decent.  However; I think next time around, both Malkin and Staal are in line for a small pay cut.  For me the main sticking point is if you are going to spend the kind of money on defense that they have with Orpik, Letang, Martin, and Z then that had better be a lot better than it has in this series.  Otherwise, take a chance with lesser knowns, and add some better scoring muscle up front.

I would like to see Gagne in a pens uniform next season.

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 04/26/11 at 02:03 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Umm Salary Cap says you’re Wrong

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 02:07 PM ET

Tony's avatar

You’re doing it again EP….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 04/26/11 at 02:23 PM ET

Avatar

Regardless of how tomorrow night’s game goes, I can’t really complain about how Bylsma and the players have worked their asses off the entire second half of the year. Or how—despite the all-grinder, all-the time feel of the current /healthy/ roster—Shero has kept the team in position to contend over the long run.

I expected the Pens to take this series in five or six, because I expected the core defenders and MAF to play a little better than they have. I still think they’ll win on Wednesday (even though, as a Red Wings fan, I’ll be cheering my ass off for Stevie Y’s team).

But still, if I wore a hat, it would be off for the Pens. No all-stars up front, but everybody contributes. Letang should have gotten a Norris nomination. Bylsma probably should win the Adams.

Question (and I apologize beforehand, because you probably get this one a lot): This offseason, if another team put together a decent offer (maybe a top-six winger or center + solid all-around Dman) for Malkin, to you take the bait? I think this year’s Penguins team has proven to be a decent playoff squad even without Sid and Geno, so maybe it would be to their advantage (not to mention provide a little more insurance) by converting Malkin’s $8.7 million into two or three useful players instead?

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/26/11 at 02:59 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Staal YES !! Geno No way in Hell !! Staal is a Very good 3rd Line C but he doesn’t have the Hands or the Offensive creativity to be a Top 2 line C Or W !

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 03:05 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

You’re doing it again EP…. UMMM No I’m Not! pointing out facts that maybe you don’t want to read But FACTS none the Less

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 03:07 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

UMMM 8 PM for game 7 ?  tongue laugh

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 03:21 PM ET

Avatar

Question (and I apologize beforehand, because you probably get this one a lot): This offseason, if another team put together a decent offer (maybe a top-six winger or center + solid all-around Dman) for Malkin, to you take the bait?

If you asked me last summer I would have been open to it, but now I say no, for a few reasons.

-Malkin’s value is probably at a career low. He’s coming off knee surgery and had the worst numbers of his career this year. Not so long ago he had an Art Ross and Conn Smythe, plus finished second in Hart voting twice in a row.

-Uncertainty with Crosby’s injury. Shero would look like an ass if he traded Malkin and Sid had another serious case of PCS two months into next season. Because of Crosby’s injury, Malkin is very likely a Penguin for life.

-Salary Cap inflating faster than expected. 8.7 million won’t hurt next year as much as it did in 09/10

-organizational depth.

Assuming Neal clicks with a true #1 center (based on the way he plays, it looks like he should; I’d bet a pile of money he’s in need of wrist surgery at the moment), when healthy, the Penguins have relatively few organizational ‘needs.’

Niskanen has been horrible as a #6, but take a look at Wilkes-barre’s defensive stats: they have about 4 guys who could conceivably take Niskanen’s job right now if we were willing to give them a trial by fire in the playoffs (not including the QMJHL’s best defenseman, who is also Pittsburgh property).

At goal, Johnson’s an excellent backup, but even if he weren’t, Thiessen’s going to win the AHL equivalent of the Vezina by a landslide.

Pittsburgh has 5 centers that are too good to be fourth-liners and don’t play wing (Letestu, Jeffrey, Crosby, Malkin and Staal) and a 4th line center who has all-but proven he’s ready to step in next year (Vitale). And this is assuming they let Talbot and Adams go, which is far from guaranteed. Hate to say it, but if anyone from this group is expendable, it’s Staal.

Short of a first-line right-wing and someone to QB the powerplay, there’s nothing Pittsburgh really needs, other than to get healthy. But, unlike Letang, Malkin CAN QB a powerplay. As for the other need; there’s not really any available forward who is Malkin’s equal, even at Malkin’s worst. Parise would be the closest thing out there, but he’s older, coming off the same injury and isn’t quite as good when both are at their best.

Posted by steviesteve on 04/26/11 at 03:55 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

steviesteve Great Post ! he did the Long Hand version of my response as I am busy trying to get all the grass cut before SHOCKINGLY it storms/Rains again !

But they don’t have a Guy who can be anywhere near as good as Geno & they have a few guys who can be 3rd Line C’s 1 Not as Good as Staal but can be better than than they 2nd Line fill ins

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 04:17 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Jeff Jimerson is back under the mike for the National Anthem

There is no way that is someone’s real name.

I’d like to use it as my alias when I start in porn, however.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 04/26/11 at 06:40 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

There is no way that is someone’s real name.

I’d like to use it as my alias when I start in porn, however.

That is his real name & he has been in 3 bands that I know of T Dice, Airborne & also B.E. Taylor’s band

Posted by Evilpens on 04/26/11 at 07:35 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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