Friday, November 18, 2011

GTOPG: Their Games Sure Suck, but Tampa Bay Doesn't; Pens Lose, 4-1

By GTOG Staff

The first period had some decent pace to it. But then the second period looked like a certain 2011 playoff series. And by the third period of the Penguins' 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, we were sticking ourselves with needles to distract from the pain of watching this game.

Tampa is just not a good matchup for the Pens. It's not that their 1-3-1 is impenetrable or that Roloson is a great goalie, because neither of those things are true. But Guy Boucher's system does just enough to make the Pens look discombobulated. In the neutral zone, just watch how often Penguin D-men have to stickhandle the puck all the way up the ice before dumping it in, leaving our usually ferocious forecheckers flatfooted. By the time the "grind bitches down" portion of the proceedings can begin, Tampa is chipping the puck back up to center ice.

Here's what's deceiving about all this, and what actually prevented us from flipping over to the Tebow game: the Pens look like they're dominating because they always have the puck. But just having the puck doesn't mean much. You have to actually be able to do something with the puck, and the Pens were trying really hard to do something with it, but spent most of the night running into each other and playing 1-on-1 hockey. It doesn't matter if they have super talented 1-on-1 guys like Malkin going against Tampa's 6th defenseman -- 1-on-1 hockey is a low percentage game. None of this would be that much of a problem, of course, if Tampa just sucked. But they don't. [Oops]

More GTOPG after the jump...

-  The Lightning are content to let a team like Pittsburgh outshoot them (34-18) and keep the puck most of the game because they are skilled enough at the top and deep enough throughout the lineup to score 4 goals against you without you ever thinking they're that good. So in an unfortunate way, they are that good. And if you don't think so, just remember that they were one bounce away from winning Game 7 of the ECF last year in Boston.

So annoying.
- If the Penguins somehow end up in a division with both Detroit and Tampa Bay - who would suggest such a thing? - just shoot us now.

- We are almost as bored with the Paul Martin debate as we are with watching the Lightning play, but it's worth noting that moving Martin last night to a pairing with Deryk Engelland and reuniting Orpik and Letang was the obvious move. When you're facing a St. Louis-Lecavalier-Stamkos line, you go with your best pairing and try to get that matchup whenever you can. The Lightning announcers made several mentions of Martin's "struggles" and referred to him as "the usually steady Paul Martin," the implication being he's not steady anymore. Guarantee this was the first Penguins game they've watched this season.

- Steve MacIntyre over Richard Park? Unless the Islanders put a bounty on Geno Malkin's head, Steve MacIntyre should not be in the lineup, period.

- Marc-Andre Fleury last night gave up his first power play goal of the season. In his 14th game. That's just remarkable.

- We can't imagine Sidney Crosby comes back for a road game against the Florida Panthers, but then we also never imagined the Penguins would be coached by Napolean III of France. So who knows.

Dan Bylsma

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