Tampa Bay Lightning
12:00 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
The Penguins enter the game looking to do something they have yet to do with Dan Bylsma behind the bench. Clinch a playoff series at home. While the Penguins have had success in the post season that most teams would dream of they just can't seem to finish a team off when they have the chance to on home ice. I am sure we will hear about that 100 times tomorrow and about how home teams are marginal at best in this year's playoffs, but I doubt the Penguins are going to let that phase them.
The Penguins got a really fast start in game four and held on and won on a thrilling, and much needed, goal by James Neal in overtime. It is the stuff you dream of doing when you are a kid and it couldn't have come in a better situation for Neal.
This is going to be kind of a "no shit" kind of statement but the Penguins could benefit greatly by closing out this series tomorrow rather than try to win the series on Monday back in Tampa Bay. Sure there is the obvious reasons as to letting Tampa back into the series and failing to close it out at home and so on and so on, but I think a little bigger thing to keep your eye on is the major minutes that the top four defensive pairing have put up. Big Z is averaging like 28 minutes a game and each member of the top four pair have over 100 minutes in the first four game. Those are huge minutes. The shorter the series, the better. They are going to need their legs if they want to work deep into the playoffs and no better way than to close it out for as much rest as possible.
The Pens will have to once again try to find a way to slow down Martin St. Louis. Dude has been unreal good and at a lot of times he has carried this team on his back to keep them in games. In game four the whole Tampa Bay team was mailing it in before St. Louis scored a huge goal and got the team, and the crowd, into it. To nobody's surprise the Niskanen/Lovejoy pair were on the ice for both of the Tampa Bay goals so that will be key being at home. Disco is going to be able to throw one of those top two pairs against St. Louis line and maybe ease some of that burdon.
I know I have said it the past two games, but the Penguins are going to have to match the energy level early against Tampa Bay. The Lightning have no choice but to go all out and do everything it takes to win this game and send it back to Tampa. The Pens have done a nice job on that in the last two games and I don't really expect anything different today. The Penguins players have said that they got a little overconfident after the game one win and I anticipate them brining all they have to try and end this tomorrow.
If there is one thing we have learned in the past couple days of the NHL playoffs it is that no lead is safe. I think we have seen more 3+ goal leads blown in the last two days than we have seen the entire season. Just unreal. If either team gets out to a lead they can't sit on it. It might be a little eaiser for Tampa to do since they like to throw the trap out there, but if you are the Penguins then you need to get a lead of like seven goals before you actually start feeling good. No idea.
Not much else to say about this game. Hopefully we can see that handshake line and sit back and wait to see who we play in the second round. It isn't going to be easy, but it has to be done.
Previous Series Games:
Game 1 - Pittsburgh 3, Tampa Bay 0
Game 2 - Tampa Bay 5, Pittsburgh 1
Game 3 - Pittsburgh 3, Tampa Bay 2
Game 4 - Pittsburgh 3, Tampa Bay 2 (2 OT)
The Penguins probables
James Neal - Mark Letestu - Alexei Kovalev
Chris Kunitz - Jordan Staal- Tyler Kennedy
Pascal Dupuis - Max Talbot - Chris Conner
Mike Rupp - Craig Adams - Aaron Asham
Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik
Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Ben Lovejoy
Marc Andre Fleury
For the Lightning:
Simon Gagne - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Nate Thompson - Steven Stamkos - Martin St Louis
Adam Hall - Dominic Moore - Dana Tyrell
Ryan Malone - Teddy Purcell - Sean Bergenheim
Victor Hedman - Pavel Kubina
Matt Lundin - Eric Brewer
Brett Clark - Mattias Ohlund
The Playoff Stats: