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1.) Game 2 was an absolutely dominating 60 minutes by the Bruins. If Games 3 & 4 go remotely like that it will be a short series.
Turning points? None. Down 1-0 28 seconds in after a terrible Sydney Crosby giveaway, Pittsburgh never found it’s way offensively. The Bruins did a fantastic job of limiting the time and space of the Penguins forwards who were sloppy with the puck and failed to create traffic in front of Tukka Rask. Defensively the Penguins were even worse. Credit to Boston.
It’s rare, but there have been times this season when the Penguins effort has appeared sub-standard. It’s always a fine line between giving full credit to one time versus condemning the play of the other. In this case both seem warranted. The Penguins got outworked all over the ice.
2.) The Penguins goaltending situation is officially a concern.
As mentioned after Game 1 Tomas Vokoun deserves a ton of credit for getting the Pens through round 1, but he was the Penguins #2 this season for a reason. He is a steady, not spectacular netminder. It’s not that he has played poorly, although he was not good last night, but he hasn’t come up with many big saves since round one and none in this series.
I’ve said a million times the goaltender in hockey is the most influential position in all of sports. Pittsburgh fans always worry about the other goalie being able to steal a game or a series. The shoe is now on the other foot. Marc-Andre Fleury has been there. He has the pedigree. He did nothing to engender any confidence with his play last night, but it’s time for Dan Bylsma to turn back to The Flower.
3.) Dan Bylsma isn’t in a danger...yet.
I have been squarely in Dan Bylsma’s corner through the Penguins first round exits the past three years. Coaching changes are far too routine in the NHL. Building a stable organization is much more important to long-term success than NHL owners seem to realize. Dan has done a great job in the regular season during his tenure with Pittsburgh, but playoff success is what matters.
Through two rounds Bylsma has pushed all the right buttons, shuffling players in and out of the lineup at just the right time. Now he faces a much bigger challenge. After Game 1 there didn’t seem to be much need to worry about style or tactics. Now there does. The Penguins braintrust wasn’t able to construct a gameplan to counter the Flyers last year. In this series it’s going to take more than just “getting to our game.” Dan needs to find an answer. His lineup decisions for Game 3 will be telling. Jarome Iginla has been invisible. Would he consider benching him for rookie Beau Bennett? Will Simon Despres get another opportunity? Or, will Dan decide there is no need to push the panic button and stick with the vets?
4.) Big players need to be their best on the big stage. The Penguins’ stars have been terrible.
The spotlight shines the brightest in the playoffs. It where reputations are made. Sidney Crosby, always one to rise to the occasion, was a non-factor in Game 1 and was worse in Game 2. Maybe the worst performance I’ve ever seen from him. Kris Letang? Ditto. Evengi Malkin? Nothing since he decided he should throwdown with Patrice Bergeron 40 minutes into the series.
Suggesting the series is over at this point suggests the Penguins lack heart and professionalism. That’s a bridge too far. But they certainly lack discipline and composure, and often at the biggest moments. Last night nothing went right and that needs to change in a hurry. The Penguins need their stars to be stars. Or they’re done.
5.) It only takes one win.
The Boston players and coaches are not only doing all the right things, they are saying all the right things. They are a tremendously difficult team to play against from behind. Tukka Rask has been good and his team has been excellent in front of him. Boston fully understands it is first to four and will be prepared for everything the Penguins throw at them in Game 3.
Having said that, one win by Pittsburgh would totally change the outlook of the series. It would provide a gameplan going forward and give the Penguins confidence and momentum. The question is will they get that by the end of the week. If not, it’s going to be a long summer.
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