Saturday, May 14, 2016

Knowing what went wrong key to Penguins fixing it in Game 2

By Brian Metzer
May 14, 2016

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) stops the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins' Tom Kuhnhackl (34) and Lightning's Andrej Sustr ...
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) stops the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins' Tom Kuhnhackl (34) and Lightning's Andrej Sustr (62) tangle in front of the net during the second period of Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference finals Friday, May 13, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

There is an old saying that goes, "knowing is half the battle."

If you’re not cognizant of something you can’t change or fix it. You can’t learn from it and you certainly can’t help repeating it.

The Penguins know they weren’t good on Friday night during their 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final. They are fully aware of what they did wrong and that they have to be better if they want to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2009.

“We weren’t as smart with the puck as we needed to be and whatever the reason for that is I don’t know but we made it easy on them,” forward Matt Cullen said. “We didn’t hang onto pucks. We didn’t execute in their end and we weren’t very patient with the puck.”

Cullen was involved in a play that is a prime example of everything that he said.

The 39 year old was whistled for a second period tripping penalty that his teammates were able to kill off. They were able to get a pass to him as he broke out of the penalty box, but he ran into a defender. He managed to spin off and make a pass to Nick Bonino, who inexplicably tried to pass the puck back to Cullen rather than shoot the puck.

The defense easily cut it off, chipped the puck up ice and transitioned into offense.

“I thought we threw a lot of pucks and they sit on those and then they go,” Cullen said. “They’re very opportunistic they have some very dynamic forwards that will make you pay.”

The Lightning made them pay on three occasions, all of which came off of Penguins’ mistakes.

Alex Killorn’s first period goal was one that will probably haunt defenseman Olli Maatta. Lightning rearguard Victor Hedman made a long stretch pass that seemed to catch Maatta off guard and Killorn picked it up behind him at the Penguins blue line.

Maatta fell to the ice as the forward raced towards Matt Murray and slipped a backhand shot between his pads.

Patric Hornqvist, who was on the ice for that play, could only shake his head postgame.

“They get a breakaway off of a set breakout,” he said. “It’s the conference final, that can’t really happen. They got some jump from that and we didn’t capitalize on our chances. We need to find another level.”

The Lightning’s second goal, scored on the power play by Ondrej Palat, came on a rare mistake from Murray. He stopped Valtteri Filppula’s shot through traffic but kicked a rebound right into open space to his left and Palat had a yawning net to dump it into.

Brian Dumoulin, who had a bad turnover during Game 5 against the Washington Capitals that turned into a goal, was on the wrong end of another on Friday. The puck came to him at the Lightning’s blue line and he was caught off guard.

The puck skipped away from him and directly to Filppula, who made a quick pass to Palat as he cruised down the left wing. The latter made a quick pass to a streaking Jonathan Drouin, who scored his second goal and 10th point of the playoffs.

Hornqvist was blunt in his assessment of that one too.

“They’re a really smart team,” he said. “They like to play tight defense when they get the puck they strike really well. We saw that on the third goal. It looks like we’re going to get a chance and we bobble the puck and they get a three-on-one and four seconds later it’s in our net. We have to make sure we’re always on the right side of people and don’t turn it over in those critical areas around the blue line. If we do that we can be fine.”

That is the good thing about a seven game series, especially Game 1. Knowing really can be half the battle.

This is a team that has been more resilient than most since Mike Sullivan got to town. They have weathered storm after storm and have come out the other end better and stronger for having done so. They have the opportunity to do that again and will be better prepared for the Lightning.

They were barely 72 hours removed from a tough series against the Capitals, while the Lightning players were kicking back and recharging their batteries since last Sunday, the effects of which were felt during Game 1.

That’s gone now and there will be lingering effects of this one.

Ben Bishop, the Lightning’s Vezina Trophy nominated goaltender who has been outstanding in these playoffs, was lost to what looked like a knee injury. He was stretchered off of the ice and gave way to youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The second-year player has just 46 NHL appearances under his belt and didn’t seem to appreciate traffic when they Penguins got in and around him. It showed on their lone goal scored by Hornqvist late in the second period.

They’ll be better in Game 2. They have shown throughout the playoffs and dating back to January that they’re capable of bouncing back quickly, which is why they haven’t lost two games in a row since Jan. 12-15.

There are two days of practice and two days of video study ahead. There are also two days to ensure that players like Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin are healthy or that their replacements are prepared.

Every game is a new opportunity to succeed or fail. A new opportunity to rise again and a new opportunity to show that even after a loss you know what went wrong and how to fix it.

Sullivan will work them hard. Leaders like Sidney Crosby will put in the work and set the example and veterans like Cullen, who has been around long enough to know that tomorrow is a new day, will help them all know what is needed to win the battle.

“That’s playoffs,” ‘Cullen said. “Every game is a little different. There’s all kinds of things that are thrown at you. We just need to respond a little better.”

No comments: