This is playoff hockey. The rules of the regular season no longer apply.
For the past two weeks, the Penguins have fallen into this strange routine where they play the first period and stick to their game and the rest of the game…meh. The usual dump-and-chase/grind it out dissipates some time in the second period and by the third, we are watching the Pens try and dazzle us with failed attempts at pretty passes and fancy puck handling.
Save it. This isn’t the Skills Competition at the All Star Game.
The power play isn’t working. Head Coach Dan Bylsma was bent on changing it and what did that accomplish?
Reset the lines and power play to the way they were March 19th. They worked. That was where the chemistry was. The Pens have overcompensated for the return of Sid and over-adjusted. This isn’t the same team from last season, so the whole notion that we can just throw Staalsy, Cookie and TK back on line together and it’ll work out just fine doesn’t equal success.
Tonight, you know who actually gave optimal effort? Tyler Kennedy. Tyler Kennedy showed up tonight to play 60 minutes of hockey, as much as it kills me to admit that. Marc-Andre Fleury played 60 minutes of game tonight. He played a balls to the wall spectacular game the way we needed him to.
Forget the offside goal by Danny Briere. Bylsma stated himself after the game that it was “not why we lost the game.” He is right. The Pens blew a 3-0 lead. The third goal was on Sid. Goal was perfectly screened. The overtime goal? Staal stood there and let it go in. You are a defensive offenseman. Throw your body on the puck. Do whatever you have to do. Even if you don’t have defensive prowess, do whatever you have to do to help your goalie.
I wrote a week or two ago that the Pens need to get back to basics. Tonight is the perfect example of why.
The Flyers are a legitimate force. I do believe that they can win the Cup this year. They want it. They’re hungry and you can see it and taste it. This is not going to be an easy series, regardless of Flyers injuries, regardless of Bryzgalov being a headcase from night to night. Their power play is underrated and the Flyers know how to get goals. In 6 regular season contests, they scored 22 goals against the Pens. Six were on the power play.
I’m not going to get all long winded. We know what happened tonight. The Pens played a hell of a first period, felt entitled to the win and let the rest of the game slide. It’s not going to work. You play every minute. They earned that loss. If you’re not going to play the whole game then you don’t deserve to win.
Get your heads right. Come back Friday ready to play 60 minutes of hockey.
Let’s Go Pens.