The pause in the NHL season sucks. It should be the playoffs but it isn’t. While we sit around and wait for sports to come back, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
Four years ago the Penguins road to being back-to-back champions begun. I’ll have game recaps ready for each game through the 2016 playoffs.
Crazy how just a few games can completely flip the look and feel of an entire series, but that’s what the Stanley Cup Playoffs are.
After game one it looked like no matter how hard the Penguins might try, they were going to be stymied by a team that had a young goalie looking unbeatable and skaters that would only need 2-3 chances to get a lead.
Now, with a 2-1 series lead and the Penguins throwing nearly 50 shots at the net, the dam appears to finally be cracking and home-ice again is in the Penguins’ favor.
Again, we could be lamenting this series in a week but that’s what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so goddamn lovable. It’s an unmatched rollercoaster of emotion.
HBK continued its dominance of the postseason with Hagelin and Kessel putting up multipoint efforts and Sid has appeared to woken up.
Matt Murray kept this one even throughout the first period and didn’t need to be a showstopper but without his opening period effort, we may be singing a different tune.
Big things. Two wins away from a trip to the Cup Final.
Here we go.
Penguins @ Lightning
Game Three, Eastern Conference Finals
Watch The Full Game
Interesting to see Sheary on the second line. While not a demotion, you go from playing with Sid to playing with Malkin, Sheary saw his ice time in game two cut significantly. Something wasn’t sitting right with HCMS.
Callahan comes back in after being scratched with the flu and Koekkek comes out of the lineup.
This series is a war of attrition. No real reason to make any serious changes.
Pierre McGuire right off the bat showing he hasn’t learned much about hockey since 1994, saying that the reason Sullivan wants to keep Crosby’s line away from Boyle’s line is the size difference.
Because, as we all know, all players bigger than Sidney Crosby are automatically better than him. There’s no documentation of Crosby fighting off defenseman much bigger than him. None whatsoever.
He makes six-figures for that kind of analysis. Think about that!
While Tampa outshot the Pens early, they didn’t truly carry play. Murray made a few saves but none of them were game-changing. The Bolts would get 1-2 good looks, Murray being a positionally sound goaltender and excellent at puck tracking didn’t give them much to work with.
There is one shift I want to highlight from the HBK line about halfway through the period.
What makes the engine turn for this line is their ability to pull the defense in off the cycle and the third man high either sneaks in back door or through the slot unnoticed. If a line can have a signature tactic or play, this is HBK’s.
A fast start for Tampa and the Pens countered in the second half.
All-in-all, not a bad road period.
The second period really seemed to sum up the series so far.
Vasilevskiy saw 20 shots through nearly 20 minutes. The Penguins had the puck the vast majority of the period but they could not solve this guy.
Then, finally, the 21st shot, in the 20th minute, found the back of the net.
When all else fails, put your head down and go to the net. Good, low shot by Phil, great speed by Hagelin and finally the Pens get one.
You’d think this would be enough given the pace of play…
…because in the third period both teams let it rip.
A combined five goals were scored and the Penguins fired the first shot.
Kessel had been threatening all game long up to this point. Tons of chances, no goals.
This goal again shows the strength of the HBK line, the start of a cycle, pulling in the defense and Kessel sneaking in unnoticed. Unreal pass from Bonino but when you’re hot, you’re hot and this line can’t miss.
The goal would prove huge because less than a minute later, Tampa got on the board.
Leaky goal all around. Penguins have to do a better job defending Johnson here, as both Sheary and Letang have a chance to stop or disrupt his path to the net and Murray’s challenge is good but he’s gotta hold on to that.
Halfway through the period, both teams were carving paths to their penalty boxes. This leads to the Penguins having a rare 4-on-3 advantage.
Take it away, captain.
Knocking Ovechkin out of the playoffs not enough for the eternally petty Crosby, he apparently took his signature goal, as well.
“Give me some goddamn help, would you?!”
When it’s your night – the breaks find out.
For the Penguins, the hockey gods, luck, coincidence, or whatever you want to attribute it to, was on their side this game.
Malkin and Kunitz get a great chance on a 2-on-1 and Vasilevskiy, as he has all series, makes an unreal save. The rebound is cleared by Paquette right to….Chris Kunitz. Vasilevskiy has no chance.
Tampa would get one back late but it wouldn’t be enough.
2-1 series lead.
- You can’t really ask for a better road game than this one. They weathered the first ten minutes of the game with Tampa coming out hot with a big crowd behind them and when it was time to settle in they took over.
- Can’t you just feel it? Crosby seems poised to have one of those runs you talk about years later. He is playing like he realizes he’s coming up on 30 and may not have many more chances at the Stanley Cup so he’s going to will this team (not that it needs it) to a Cup Final.
- Vasilevskiy is starting to break. Maybe not in the sense that he’s going to become a sieve but he was visibly mad after two of the Penguins four goals. Has a very Henrik Lundqvist feel to it. Penguins need to keep this up – get to the net, get in his face, and throw everything at him. It’s a strategy we can say has worked thus far.
- Game four will be the hardest game of the entire postseason. Tampa Bay is a really, really good hockey team and if they lose both games at home this one could be over a lot sooner than they want it to be. Given how the past few years have gone for the Lightning, there’s a real chance they’ll be labeled choke artists.
- Some of it was frustration, some it is probably tactic, but the Lightning are trying their hardest to suck the Penguins into postwhistle bullshit. When you’re down, it’s one way to get a team off their game. Would be wise for the Penguins to laugh and skate away.
One day break and back after it.