7:30 p.m., CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
After what happened in game one there is a sense that this is as must win game for the Penguins and if they don’t win this game the series is basically over. While I am not one of those people a loss here would put the Penguins in a huge hole against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Nobody said the playoffs were going to be easy but as a fan when your team blows a 3-0 lead, at home, to kick off a series it just gives you a terrible feeling in your stomach. A game two win would go a long way in making us forget about the game one result and make this series really interesting.
Heading into the series I had a set goal goals I thought the Penguins needed to do in order to win the series and the first of those goals was to split the first two games of the series. I know it gets said that a series doesn’t start until a road teams wins and that puts the Flyers in the proverbial driver’s seat but you almost shouldn’t be shocked at the Flyers getting a win in CONSOL as they have done that more than enough since the building opened. I don’t know what it is but the Penguins just can’t hold the “home ice advantage” against the Flyers like they do against other teams. I n the same respect the Penguins play pretty well in Philadelphia so going there doesn’t concern me as much as going to a place like Montreal might. Getting to go to Philadelphia 1-1 would be key because I think the Penguins can split there and that would bring it back to the CONSOL tied at two which would be a pretty good situation for the Penguins in my eyes.
There are going to have to be adjustments made if you are the Penguins. One thing Dan Bylsma does not really subscribe to is the idea of making a bunch of in game adjustments. He will juggle lines and maybe do something different with the power play but he doesn’t do much more than that. In game one the Flyers did a nice job of taking away the Penguins forecheck by taking away the boards and the Penguins never adjusted and thus didn’t have very many opportunities to add to their lead and really put the game away. The Penguins have to make that adjustment because I don’t get the feeling that the Flyers are going to let the Penguins grab a three goal lead like they did in game one so it makes it very important that the Penguins pay attention to detail and take what the Flyers give them. Beating your head against the wall is only going to give you a headache.
There are a few things a lot of people are talking about heading into game two as must fixes and a lot of people are talking about the Penguins power play. The power play went 0-for-3 in game one and it could have pretty much ended the game with a goal in any of those three but it just didn’t look good. It seems as if the Penguins are going to call on Steve Sullivan to run the point opposite Kris Letang which means that the Penguins are going to have to take a skilled offensive forward off the ice. There has been some talk that Sidney Crosby will be that guy that comes off and they will run a pair of top units and then there was some word that James Neal might come off the first power play in favor of keeping Crosby on. I don’t know what it will be but it will be interesting to watch.
The other thing that needs taken care of is not turning the puck over. The defense hasn’t been good recently but it is much more than that. When you turn the puck over in the neutral zone and give the other team odd man breaks that is going to create a problem for your defense and leave you open for a ton of scoring chances against. Disco likes to have a ratio of 60/40 with puck possession which means he wants the puck in the offensive zone 60% of the time and that was not the case in game one and the results reflect why he likes that. When you possess the puck the other team can’t score so I would imagine that the Penguins are going to focus on that a little more.
It might seem funny and simple to say but the Penguins just need to relax and keep things simple. When the Penguins try to do too much and make the cute pass they get burned. This happens way too often when they play the Flyers and if they haven’t learned by now then they never will. If there is one thing that the Penguins do well it’s that they bounce back from bad performances with good performances. They rarely play two duds in a row so I don’t expect to see them come out and play a terrible game but this is not going to be easy. This is the playoffs, it’s never easy.
Series results (Philadelphia leads 1-0):
April 11, 2012 - Philadelphia 4, Pittsburgh 3 (OT)
The Penguins probables (via Empty Netters):
Chris Kunitz-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal
Steve Sullivan-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy
Arron Asham-Joe Vitale-Craig Adams
Kris Letang - Paul Martin
Zbynek Michalek - Brooks Orpik
Ben Lovejoy - Deryk Engelland
Marc Andre Fleury
The Flyers probables (via Empty Netters):
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Daniel Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot
Jakub Voracek - Eric Wellwood - Matt Read
Kimmo Timonen - Matt Carle
Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossman
Pavel Kubina - Andreas Lilja