It took all the way until the completion of Game 2 this time before everyone decided to start panicking as opposed to after Game 1 of the Ottawa series. I just get the opinion that most folks in this city, judging by the callers on the talk shows and the letter writers, feel that the Penguins not only will win every series in four games but should. Heck, a few of the callers seem to think there should be some way the Penguins can win in three. Everyone needs to just calm down and realize two things.
1. The other team is made up of professional hockey players too, some of whom are quite good.
2. The Penguins have an excellent coaching staff that has proven they have the ability to make adjustments to their team’s style on the fly
When the coaching staff noticed that what worked in Game 1 did not work so well in Game 2, they obviously went to work making the necessary adjustments to “the plan”, and boy, did those adjustments pay off last night. It sure didn’t seem like the Pens had a clue in the first period as Montreal came out like a house of fire and dominated in just about every statistical category. If you remember from Game 2, the Penguins came out flying the same way for the first half of Period one and even had a goal to show for it, but eventually that blazing fire wears down. While everyone seemed to focus on the fact that the Penguins only had 3 shots in the first period, I preferred to look at the fact that they held Montreal to just seven. The game clearly turned in the second period when Pittsburgh out shot Montreal 13 – 3. It wasn’t just the shots that showed how dominant of a period it was, but the Penguins out hit Montreal and had a huge advantage in offensive ice zone time. The Penguins were finally starting to lay some hits not only on Montreal’s smallish forwards but on their defensemen as well. The Penguins started dumping the puck in and if they couldn’t beat the defender to the puck, they were making him pay for getting to it first. The coaching staff knew the Penguins were without two of their offensive stars in Jordan Staal and Billy Guerin so they adjusted the system to just not letting Montreal get any chances at Fleury, and when they did, the team collapsed around him preventing any second chances.
The Penguins began doing a lot of the little things that got away from them in Game 2 namely getting bodies in front of Halak. (With the screen Crosby put on him during Malkin’s shot, I don’t think Halak even knew the puck had been shot until he was fishing it out of the net). They also decided to start fighting for loose pucks in the corners, clogging up the passing lanes and by using the dump in, they weren’t taking those stupid offside penalties that have plagued them this entire playoffs.
What else can you say about Fleury that hasn’t already been said about his Game 3 performance? Sure he only faced 18 shots, but is that his fault? He stopped everything thrown his way and never gave up a dangerous rebound.
I don’t know what it is but the Penguins under Dan Bylsma thrive playing playoff games on the road. They have now clinched their last five series on the road and are 4 – 0 on the road this year. Montreal, on the other hand, is a measly 1 – 3 at home, and people think the Penguins are bad on their home ice.
Seeing the way the Penguins won Game 3 gives me great hope not only for the remainder of this series but for the remainder of the playoffs. Bylsma and his staff have basically said to the league, “We can beat you any way you want to play it. You want to go run and gun? We can beat you 6 – 5 and not care that we gave up 5 goals. You want to play it close to the vest, hey, we can do that too”
Can’t wait to see how Disco Dan and the boys want to play it on Thursday.