Saturday, April 16, 2011

GTOPG: This is Going to Be a Long, Hard Fought Series of Ryan Malone Taking Minor Penalties; Pens Lose, 5-1

By GTOG Staff

Before last night's Game 2, the Lightning were determined to raise their "compete level" to get back into the series.  It turns out that they found a winning formula.  Here's how it worked:

Lightning play exactly the same +
Pens make unlimited terrible plays
Lightning win

That's great coaching.

We're not trying to take anything away from the Lightning.  They are what they are - a good team with a few great players who can capitalize on the mistakes that the Pens make.  Many a playoff series have been won in exactly that fashion.

But the storyline coming out of Game 2 is something we are tired of writing about because we've said it so many times already.  The Pens generally can't score goals in bunches and, therefore, have almost no margin for error.  Talbot's ball-stabbing penalty, coupled with a beer-league-esque pinch by Kris Letang, is about as far outside the Pens' margin for error as you can get.  We'll say it for the 50th time: The Pens must play at 5-on-5 to win this series.  It's that simple.

Somewhere along I-4, that guy in Tampa who likes the Lightning is wearing his Khabibulin sweater and convincing himself that somehow Martin St. Louis' double root-canal was a rallying cry for the Lightning and that Guy Boucher's 60-minute team meeting had some sort of impact on the outcome of this game.  Maybe it did.  But consider:

- Game 1 shots: Pens 40; Lightning 32
- Game 2 shots: Pens 36; Lightning 21

- Game 1 hits: Lightning 44; Pens 35
- Game 2 hits: Pens 36; Lightning 27

- Game 1 faceoffs: Pens 32-28
- Game 2 faceoffs: Pens 31-28

- Game 1 penalties: Tampa 7
- Game 2 penalties: Tampa 8

So unless Boucher said at his meeting, "Ok boys, let's take 11 less shots this game, hit them 17 less times, continue to lose in the faceoff circle, and take even more penalties," I'm not sure his coaching rises to Herb Brooksian levels.  But whatever.

"Great moments are born from stupid penalties."
In the eyes of GTOG, Game 2 was about all of the things that have haunted the Pens for months happening at exactly the same time:
  • The Purpinishless Power Play.  That's purposelessness combined with a total absence of finishing ability, and it's awesomely terrible to behold.  The Penguins are now 0-13 in the series with the man advantage.  Now, we're not math guys, but we're pretty certain that's hovering around 0%.  We joked about it last night, but it actually may not be a bad idea for Ryan Malone to continue to take 7 penalties a game, you know, in order to kill the Penguins' momentum.  
  • Over-reliance on Kris Letang.  Letang played 27 minutes in Game 1.  On Friday, he was largely responsible for each of Tampa's first two goals.  Letang is always going to get his minutes, but he's got a little too much on his plate these days.  Fellow minutes-eater Paul Martin was also fairly awful on Friday, making the turnover that led directly to the third goal.
  • Untimely Penalties.  We knew Tampa was going to get more than one power play in this game, but they didn't have to get 6.  At least two of them were in the offensive zone, a huge no-no, although it's hard to blame Max Talbot for his non-existent first period slash on Dominic Moore, who is a huge a--hole, by the way.
  • Inability to Win Any Game Where Marc-Andre Fleury Isn't Fairly Spectacular.  He wasn't.
  • James Neal Can't Score.  He didn't.
- If you've been a Pens fan long enough, then you can definitely recognize the "Snowball Goal" -- it's a specific type of goal scored by the opponent that makes it clear that it's just one of those nights when things aren't going to go the Pens' way.  There are three elements to the Snowball Goal: 1) puck shot into a completely wide-open net; 2) a defender sprawled out in vain face-first on the ice; 3) an arena so quiet you can hear the other team celebrating on TV.  Tampa's third goal nailed every element.

- Here's Ron Cook's quick take on the game, in classic Ron Cook poetry style:
That's one reason.
Pretty smart strategy, don't you agree?
And the second reason?
Of course, they don't.
You think I'm kidding?
- The Pens' don't have a ton of options for tinkering with the lineup, but the one obvious option would be scratching Chris Conner and inserting Mike Comrie.  Conner's ice time dropped 5 minutes in Game 2 (13:50 - 8:45), and even though that may be attributable to the increased minutes that were played on special teams, it still raises the question: Why not make the change?  If your answer to that is "because it's Mike Comrie," then you have a point.  But remember, Comrie is on fire.

We hit the road Monday for Game 3.  Are the Penguins' backs up against the wall?  Don't try to box us in with words, like some kind of Larry Brooks.

It's all logistics with you.  So far we've seen nothing we didn't expect.  It's a series of playoffs.  Take the weekend, regroup, and let's meet back here on Monday ready to play.  GTOG.

1 comment:

  1. Those Torts interviews are funny but I would hate to have either one of those guys around my workplace. They could be step-siblings.

    I'm not a fan of penalties in general. The flow of a game is exactly right without penalties. A penalty should be an exception and special. I think there is a culture where it is expected that there will be a certain number of calls each game and that each team will get a similar amount of chances. If that formula doesn't hold up, people start fussing.

    I wonder which offers a better percentage chance to score, the PP or Penalty shot? I would like if the standard penalty resulted in a quick penalty shot and we can get back to the game. Use the power play for more serious offenses and maybe make it a 3-minuter or something like that.

    I am consistent with this. I don't want penalties out of hockey and I don't want fighting out of hockey but I want the game to have as much flow as possible and these types of interruptions should be an exceptional situation. Fewer faceoffs, too. That has improved so much over the past decade that I can't really fuss about it, though.

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