Thursday, April 21, 2011
The Real Deal. Penguins 3, Lightning 2 (2 OT)
What an unreal time to be a Penguins fan. What an unreal time to be James Neal. If playoff hockey is what it is all about then playoff overtime hockey is all that and a bag of chips. The edge of your seat, never knowing when it going to end, heart in your throat every shot type of emotions can go on for five overtimes or for two minutes and everything in between. I don’t know about you but this team just has what it takes to win. They won because they are a deep team and didn’t have to double shift their top line for almost an entire period. You work all season for times like this and cashing this in puts the team a win away from moving on to the second round. Hockey is a beautiful thing.
How bad did James Neal need something like this. Dude is more snake bitten than any hockey player I have ever seen. He gets good looks and just couldn’t get them to fall. Tonight it fell. I talked about it the past couple of recaps but I was going to start worrying about James Neal when he wasn’t getting chances. This wasn’t so much of a chance as it was luck. He got the puck with a horrible angle and just threw it at the net. It went it. Ballgame. Maybe this opens the flood gates for James Neal, maybe it doesn’t, who cares, game winner.
Might be the best goal call of the year. Listen to what Errey says right before the goal. Also check out all the Pens fans. Unreal
The Penguins now hold a 3-1 series lead on the Lightning and they took both games in Tampa Bay where the Lightning never held a lead on the Penguins. Pretty impressive. This was going to be a tooth and nail type of series and for the most part it has been. I do not think that the Lightning will be able to reel off three straight wins over the Penguins with two of those coming in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have been the better team in this series for three of the four games, and I don’t mean that because they won three of the games. They have been downright dominant in 5-on-5 action and I don’t see them going into the tank for three straight games.
General thoughts on the game:
-For the most the Penguins did a pretty nice job of staying disciplined through the entire game. The Lightning only got four power play opportunities and they didn’t manage any great scoring chances on a handful of shots. Coming in they had only scored one goal in a 5-on-5 situation so it was a nice job by the penalty kill unit and a good job of staying out of the box. If the Penguins can stay out of the box the rest of the series it is going to bode well for the team with how good the power play unit is for Tampa Bay.
-I have no idea what a penalty is anymore. Early in the game both teams got banged with goaltenders interference calls that were pretty soft. Later in the game MAF gets literally ran over and laid on and there is no call. On the Tampa Bay second goal MAF gets run over again before the puck goes into the net. No call. Look these non-calls had nothing to do with the outcome of the game but how are players supposed to know what a penalty is? Calling a soft call early and not calling a legit one late? Get it together.
-Arron Asham is just a gutty player. He scored another goal for the Penguins and almost knocked in a second one. He just is one of those guys that steps up his game when he gets to the playoffs. He’s a grinder and knows his role and comes to play every single night. Coupled with Rupp and Adams and you are looking at the Penguins best line in the playoffs. Those three guys have done a hell of a job to push the issue. One of the big reasons the Penguins were able to win tonight was the ability of Disco to play four lines the entire game. You could tell Tampa was gassed and the Penguins still had some jump.
-Thank God the Penguins don’t play until Saturday because that defensive unit has to be gassed. Brooks Orpik (40 min), Kris Letang (38 min), Zbynek Michalek (36 min) all played unreal minutes and they might not wake up all day tomorrow, or be able to walk. What a gutty performance by the Penguins defense tonight. Ben Lovejoy and Matt Niskanen were having tough nights and barely saw ice time and the big four made up for it in a big way.
-Although MAF didn’t see a ton of shots he was still very solid in net and held the fort so the boys could grind down the Lighting up top. He only faced 31 shots and stopped 29 of them, not a whole lot of work during the first two period, but he was able to make the big saves when he needed to. Usually MAF is best when he is seeing a lot of rubber, but that wasn’t the case tonight. He was solid and I didn’t see him out of position too many times. If you hold teams to two goals or less you are going to win most games. He has done that all series (sans game 2) and you have to be feeling good. Throw that defense in front of him and you are pretty strong.
-The power play scored a goal. Had to type it out just to make sure I still could. TK was basically left wide open like he was invisible and walked it into the high slot and sniped it past Roloson.
-Gotta give props when they are due. Roloson played a pretty nice hockey game. He ended up making 50 (!) saves on the night and again made big saves to keep the Lightning in it when they were only down by one goal. He has been pretty strong all series but he gave up a few bad, bad, goals tonight. He will probably not sleep for three weeks after the Asham goal and might not sleep for the rest of his life after the Neal goal. Still strong performance. Too bad him team waited 30 minutes to start getting interested in the game.
-As much as I hate looking at him and all his bitching and moaning Martin St. Louis put the team on his back, again, to give them a chance to win. No idea how he scored the first Tampa Bay goal but he was all business. He woke up the crowd and gave them some much needed energy.
-Is Steve Stamkos still alive?
-Like I said I don’t see this series being won by Tampa Bay, but it will be interesting to see how they come out on Saturday afternoon. They know it is going to be an uphill battle but they will come to play and the Penguins will have to deal with it. It will also be interesting to see how the Penguins come out. Luckily there are two days off for them to get their legs under them but that was a pretty emotional win. I think Disco knows what is going on and will hopefully start James Neal. CONSOL is ready to give that kid a standing o.
-Close out opportunity on Saturday. Bring shovels to bury the Lightning.
Leave your thoughts in the comments.