Posts Tagged ‘Lightning’

Lightning 1, Penguins 0: I’m Starting To Think Maybe This Isn’t The Penguins’ Year

April 28, 2011

I’m not right about a lot of things in life, whether it be sports predicting, relationships, or my constant screaming that all doctors are just failed shamans who lack the necessary magic powers, but here’s one paragraph I wrote two weeks ago explaining why I thought the Penguins would lose the Pittsburgh/Tampa series:

Right now, the Pens’ offense isn’t producing 5-on-5, their defense has been decent but certainly not playoff-tight shut-down style, they have no forward depth, their power play is terrible, and their penalty killing has been suspiciously leaky over the past month and will be without Matt Cooke for the Tampa series. The Lightning, by contrast, are completely healthy, boast tremendous depth up front, are in many ways just as playoff-tested as this Penguins group, they’re extremely well-coached (as are the Pens), and their power play likely poses a larger threat against the Pens’ penalty killing than the Penguins’ PP does against the Lightning killers. The Pens have home-ice advantage, and will likely pack the stands in Tampa, but as we saw last season and pretty much every season, home ice is meaningless.

Oh, of course THAT prediction comes true, but my prediction that Rico Fata would turn out to be the next Alfred Hitchcock just HAPPENED to be wrong. GO FIGURE. I can’t catch a break in this stupid universe.

Seriously though, I’ve spent the last three months annoyingly “ehhhhh….”-ing at every column about how resilient this Penguin team has been, pointing out that even during their impressive post-Crosby-and-Malkin run, the Pens were mostly beating bad teams, and Fleury’s career performance was masking some very serious talent issues that would quickly become unignorable against playoff competition. Tonight, bathed in the cold comfort of actually having been right about something, I ironically just keep coming back to one overwhelming sentiment: “Man, this Penguins team sure was resilient.”

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Tampa Bay Forces Game Seven And The Pens’ Power Play Is Already 0-For-2 In It

April 26, 2011

Sometimes I have the tendency to be particularly verbose in my postgame recaps, mostly because right after Penguin games, I’m scrambling to crystallize my own thoughts on the game while simultaneously also conveying those half-thoughts and using my spare hand to respond to angry dad-texts. As an example of this verboseness (verbosity? Virtubosity with Denzel Washington?), I’m already rambling in this intro paragraph that I started with the intention to convey that for once, in my Recap of Pens/Lightning Game 6, I actually wouldn’t have to ramble on forever, because it was an exceedingly simple loss to analyze.

Now that I’ve wasted all this time describing how little time I’d have to waste before summarizing this game, let’s summarize this game in two easily digestible Dairy Queen Mini-sized fail desserts:

- Penguins Power Play goes 0-for-5, plus a (very) missed Penalty Shot.

- Fleury gives up 4 goals on 21 shots (Dwayne Roloson stops 27 of 29).

There ya go. Pretty much a perfect storyboard for a movie about this Penguin team losing a game, which would be a really boring idea for a movie for a number of reasons (though they could bill it as a Miracle reboot and call it Plausible?)

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Pens Win In Double Overtime, Take 3-1 Series Lead, And Tampa Should Be Embarrassed

April 21, 2011

While trying to wrap my head around the first four-game chunk of this hopefully nearly-over first round playoff series, my thought process has gone something like this:

Well, the Pens are dominating 5-on-5, they just need to limit Tampa’s power play chances and hopefully grab a power play goal of their own, and they shou–

Wait.

The gravity of the first half of that sentence shouldn’t get minimized by the details of the second half. It is EMBARRASSING how badly the Penguins have outplayed Tampa 5-on-5 in this series, with the exception of the first periods in Game One and Game Two. But whether we split hairs and argue that the Pens have dominated about 70% of the 5-on-5 play in this series or if it’s closer to 55-60%, the fact that we’re talking about this Penguins team dominating this Tampa team 5-on-5 for the majority of this series, and readily accepting that fact as though it’s a given, is, I will say again, embarrassing.

Tampa is completely healthy. Ryan Malone is obviously dragging, and Steven Stamkos is very likely dealing with a nagging injury that’ll come out after the playoffs, but they’re still both in the lineup. This is the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference that’s clearly loaded with a Top-5 team in the NHL in terms of top-end offensive talent, and they’re getting noticeably and routinely outplayed by a Penguins squad that’s only one seed higher, missing two of the top players in the NHL, and essentially dressing two #2 lines and two #4 lines.

All the borderline “damning with faint praise” compliments we’ve been showering on the Pens over these past few Crosbyless months — “Tyler Kennedy has really elevated his game!”, “This team is really resilient and showing a lot of character,” “Dan Bylsma is doing his best coaching job yet, keeping these guys playing hard every night” — usually sounded like one big “attaboy” thumbs-up as we justified our own surprise that this team didn’t completely collapse. Honestly though, and perhaps I’m only speaking for myself, I didn’t believe that any of those positives in the Pens’ recent play would truly matter against a more talented, healthier playoff opponent that’s also well coached, strong in goal, and experienced in the playoffs. If the most dangerous thing you can say about a Playoff team is “Tyler Kennedy’s been playing pretty well,” you’re basically saying “Ah well, it’s been a good run.”

The one possible tipping point, as I said in my series prediction, was Fleury. I thought if Fleury played out of his mind for 4 of 7 games, then the Pens had a shot, but I didn’t foresee that happening — not for lack of faith in Fleury, just for the general unlikelihood of any one player maintaining such routine dominance in a long playoff series. Fleury did indeed play out of his mind in Game One, and the Pens had no business escaping the opening period of that game tied 0-0; however, while Fleury also played excellently in Games 3 and 4, he didn’t have to steal Games 3 or 4, and that’s just not at all how I saw this series playing out. Perhaps my attempt at dispassionate, rational analysis of this series actually just meant that I deliberately underestimated the team I root for and equated that with even analysis, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case.

The Penguins outshot Tampa on their home ice in Game 3, 30-27, and didn’t allow an even-strength goal. They then outshot Tampa on their home ice two nights later, 53-31, in a game that Tampa absolutely needed. The Penguins don’t have Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin — a fact that’s so significant, it’s incredible that we now mention as if it’s a footnote — and they are badly outplaying a super-talented team that’s one seed below them. I’m certainly not complaining, but I certainly didn’t see it happening.

Other Random Thoughts On The Series:

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NHL PLAYOFFS 2011: I Think The Pens Are Gonna Lose To Tampa

April 13, 2011

I haven’t been as convinced with the Penguins’ recent play as the majority of the Pittsburgh media has — granted, much of my skepticism likely stems from any fan’s inability to not be nervous about their team at all times (or unwillingness to do so for fear of jinxing their team), but right now, I’m really just not really sold on this current Penguins group’s chances against the Lightning.

Right now, the Pens’ offense isn’t producing 5-on-5, their defense has been decent but certainly not playoff-tight shut-down style, they have no forward depth, their power play is terrible, and their penalty killing has been suspiciously leaky over the past month and will be without Matt Cooke for the Tampa series. The Lightning, by contrast, are completely healthy, boast tremendous depth up front, are in many ways just as playoff-tested as this Penguins group, they’re extremely well-coached (as are the Pens), and their power play likely poses a larger threat against the Pens’ penalty killing than the Penguins’ PP does against the Lightning killers. The Pens have home-ice advantage, and will likely pack the stands in Tampa, but as we saw last season and pretty much every season, home ice is meaningless.

The only possible way I see the Pens winning this series is if Marc-Andre Fleury absolutely stands on his head (not literally, because if he does it literally they’ll almost assuredly lose), and I don’t foresee that happening for enough of the 7-game-series for the Pens to emerge victorious. I also don’t think Fleury is particularly more or less likely to steal games than Dwayne Roloson; to everyone who continues to point to the Pens’ marquee goalie as a huge advantage in this series, I refer them to the case of Niemi v. Leighton in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals — any goalie can get hot at any time, and any hot team can overcome an “elite” goaltender. Fleury posted by far the best regular season of his career this year, so it’s hardly misguided to hope that he can continue to dominate in the playoffs, but lest we forget, Fleury was a massive liability in last year’s playoffs, looking nothing like an above-average goaltender let alone a series-stealer. I mention this not for the sake of dispassionate skepticism or to disregard Fleury’s role in getting the Pens to where they are, I’m saying it to remind us all about the extreme volatility of the goaltending position; there’s just no way to confidently know how well Fleury or Roloson will play in this series, and while I’d certainly rather take my chances with Fleury, the difference doesn’t appear dramatic enough to tip the playoff scales back towards the objectively-outgunned Penguins.

Hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully I’m subconsciously confident and my intellectual pessimism is just a gut reaction against getting burned by my overconfidence against the Canadiens last season. But right now, being objective as I can, I foresee the Pens’ special teams issues stalling and Fleury playing decently but not living up to our impossible expectations and the Pens entering an early summer accompanied by glowing Ron Cook columns about how resilient they were this season anyway.

Lightning in 6.

The rest of my 2011 NHL Playoff Predictions are after the jump:

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Lightning 2, Penguins 0: Ahhh, The Cool Breeze That Is DVR

April 1, 2010

The Pens’ power play recorded its magnum opus last night by completely failing to score or even come close to scoring during a 5-minute power play three minutes into the game — did this surprise anyone in the least bit? Aliens could’ve landed on earth two seconds before the Pens went on that man advantage, looked at a tv, and even though they have no concept of hockey, the Penguins, or human interactions, they still would’ve been like “The Pens are definitely gonna blow this xerfplorfff.” (“Xerfplorfff” is alien language for “big time”)

So the Pens didn’t score against the 7’3″ Mike Smith, then surrendered a power play goal of their own on a Marty St. Louis to Steven Stamkos one-timer that they apparently weren’t expecting (oh crap, Stockton passed to Malone?? We weren’t ready for that!)

The Lightning scored to take a 2-0 lead early in the second. What happened after that? I don’t know, because I fast-forwarded the rest of the game on my DVR to see if the Pens could even make it 2-1, and was rewarded by not wasting two hours of my life. I’m now passing that savings on to you by not analyzing the second two periods. Paying it forward! Remember that Oscar failure from like 10 years ago? No? I care about its existence exactly as much as I care about the second two periods of last night’s game.

Atlanta Saturday. Plans to blow the #2 seed and ending up against Philly in the first round so Pronger can high-stick the crap out of Crosby appear to be right on schedge.

Lightning Players Hold Strip Shootout In Attempt To Also Get Called Gay By Flyer Fans

October 23, 2009

ESPN:

Lightning lighten up with strip shootout

The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t face an opponent Tuesday night, but they almost saw too much of one another.

In an effort to inspire more team unity, Lightning players competed in a post-practice game of strip shootout, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Players faced off in a series of shootouts, forced to lose a piece of equipment every time their attempt was thwarted. The final player to find the back of the net?

Martin St. Louis, who (in order) lost his helmet, elbow pads, gloves, jersey, both leg pads, both skates, his leggings and socks before finally finishing one off. He had to attempt one shot with just one skate on, then took his final shots while wearing sandals from the locker room.

Sounds innocent enough, and clearly, NOT doing post-practice strip shootouts hasn’t really been working for Tampa, so what’s the harm?

But please, Penguins, no matter how badly the team needs a bonding boost, promise you’ll never, EVER do a team strip shootout. I already have to withstand 80,000 “Crosby is gay” comments in opposing arenas now; if word broke that Crosby and his teammates stripped for one another, that number will cube itself, and the word “is” will also be replaced by the word “gay,” so they can make sure to get “gay” twice in the three-word sentence.

Hypothetical Example:

[Enter Madison Square Garden. One billionth of one second passes.]

“Gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay
gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay
gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay
gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay…”

[Repeat x Duration of Game, Overnight, Sesame Street On Ice The Following Day]

No Seriously, The Tampa Bay Lightning Want You On Their Team

July 24, 2009

Is this “The Tampa Bay Lightning Want You On The Team” thing just a website promo? We’re talking about the Lightning here, so I’m pretty sure they really would just indiscriminately add anyone who reads the website to their team…

Lightning Website

Just fill in your name and number to receive an  “Important Message,” and by “Important Message,” we mean an actual, 5-year, $22 million contract to quarterback the power play. Enjoy!

Also, Ryan Malone still looks thrilled to be in Tampa.

(via Puck Daddy)

ESPN’s NHL Games To Watch In The 2009-10 Season (#1 = Basketball)

July 15, 2009

I always feel bad for Scott Burnside when ESPN forces him to troll out a “Games To Watch This Coming NHL Season” Column like three minutes after the NHL reveals its schedule, partially because we know ESPN secretly doesn’t want us to watch any games ever, but mostly because we won’t know which games have playoff implications until, I don’t know, a little while after July 15th?

Regardless, here are some of Burnside’s Onez II Watch [spelling mine] in ’09-’10:

Oct. 3: Tampa Bay at Atlanta
Speaking of top picks — and troubled franchises, for that matter — the Lightning inherited Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman with the second overall pick, although a number of observers felt Hedman was the best player available in the draft. Hedman in all likelihood will be in the Lightning’s lineup, too, as they try to rebound from a disastrous 2008-09 season.

Whoa-ho-hoaaa!! DVR ALERT!!! Lightning at Thrashers for the first of their eighty-two regular season games!! So much gripping front-office instability!!! This game is actually on my list of Games To Definitely Not Watch in the 2009-10 NHL Season, and my list is only one game long.

Other words to fill out a forced, pointless column games to watch:

Oct. 24
All 30 NHL teams will be in action, marking the second and final time the NHL will feature a full slate of action during the 2009-10 season. The first will be Oct. 3.

See, this is exactly the kind of crap that’s going to inevitably pour out when you squeeze someone to write a pointless column like this. Burnside can’t just keep repeating Chicago/Detroit games so he has to revert to random anomalies like the fact that all 30 teams happen to play on a date in October. What is exceptionally worth watching about October 24th? All fifteen games? Man, the out-of-town scoreboard between periods of the Pens game that I’ll be watching anyway is gonna be SO FULL!!! Who cares?

March 1
First regular season game (Detroit at Colorado) following the Olympic break.

Awesome! Cleanse your palate of that exciting, All-Star Olympic action with a random regular season game between two rusty teams! I can’t wait to see how long it’ll take the third-liners to find their legs! Scintillating.

April 11
The final day of the regular season with eight contests. Wonder how many will have playoff implications?

I wonder that too.  I guess we’ll have to wait until after July frickin’ fifteenth to find that out. But let’s not let that fact stop us from already deciding which NHL games we should keep an eye on in a column written minutes after the NHL schedule came out.

Who would’ve thought Pens/Canes or Pens/Panthers would have been critical matchups before February of last year? I mean, they’re not traditional can’t-miss, always-classic rivalries like Thrashers/Lightning, but they still ended up being worth a peek. But don’t let that stop you from setting your DVR tonight for every game on this list. I’m just gonna Season Pass the Thrashers now to be safe.

April 11
The final day of the regular season with eight contests. Wonder how many will have playoff implications?

Early NHL Free Agency Moves = BOOOORING

July 1, 2009

C’mon, NHL, we’re almost two hours into free agency and nothing completely retarded has happened yet — I’m on the verge of almost having to do some work here! Let’s pick things up.

Tuesday’s moves so far:

– Canucks re-sign the Sedin Twins for 5 years, $30.5 mil apiece. They’re both nice players, but so much for the “staying together” discount — there goes $13 mil of cap space a year for the Canucks, and Henrik’s only ever topped 20 goals once in his career (his 22 this year was a career high). Again, they’re solid top-six forwards, but I also can’t imagine any opposing team entering a playoff series and saying, “Oh man, we’re gonna have to shut down the SEDINS this series — I wish we’d drawn Anaheim instead.”

– Lightning sign Matthias Ohlund for 7 years, $26.25 million. He’s a solid ice time eater, extremely reasonable at a $3.75 mil annual cap hit, and will be the subject of a trillion “mentoring Victor Hedman” pieces in the coming months. Do they really need him to mentor Hedman for 7 years, until he turns 40? Eh, maybe not, but a relatively safe signing nonetheless. Expect Tampa to do something ridiculous to immediately revoke this shred of sanity.

– Panthers re-sign Radek Dvorak for 2 years, $3.4 million. Notable only as a reminder that he is not yet playing in Europe.

– Maple Leafs sign ex-Rangers enforcer Colton Orr for 4 years, $4 million. I imagine Ray Shero has nightmares about having goons locked up for four seasons…

– Panthers re-sign David Booth for 6 years, $25.5 million. Expect those “Booth” Panthers jerseys to come flying off the shelf this afternoon. Yes, shelf — there’s only one.

With Tampa’s hands cap-tied, I’m looking at Los Angeles or Edmonton to do something ridiculous and get this day rolling. Nik Antropov for 5 years, $28 million, anyone? Please??

Stay tuned for further updates from Elvis Has Left, literally the only place covering sports on the internet or elsewhere.

Yo Momma’s So Ugly, If She Were A Period Of Hockey She’d Be The Third Period Of Last Night’s Lightning Game

April 8, 2009

Ordinarily when a team blows a third-period lead or comes close to it, you’ll hear hindsight clichés spewing from coaches and analysts along the lines of “we stopped being aggressive in the third” or “we needed to tighten up defensively” or some sort of theoretical failed adjustment to explain how a team went from leading to suddenly not leading.

Sometimes, though, as in the case of last night’s Pens/Lightning game, wouldn’t it have been nice to just NOT ALMOST BLOW A FOUR GOAL LEAD IN THE THIRD TO THE DAMN TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING? Forget failed adjustments, forget a sudden lack of aggressiveness, forget any explanations or excuses — why can’t this team play a normal frickin’ period of hockey in which they do not give up four goals?

It’d be like a friend of yours saying “I need to not gain 15 pounds by next week – how should I adjust my diet?” You’d answer, “You don’t have to do anything, just be normal and you’ll be fine” then you look over and he’s shoving a wedding cake in his mouth and you’re like “Why are you doing that?” and he goes “Ah, crap, I really failed to monitor my diet…” and you yell at him “That has nothing to do with it, just don’t eat a giant wedding cake this week, it’s really really simple…” and so on. Does that make any sense? It makes absolutely perfect sense? Ok cool.

For added patheticness, the Pens’ game-winning goal came on a Flyers-esque blatant goaltender interference play by Ruslan Fedotenko that wasn’t disallowed — every replay showed Fedotenko clearly impeding Ramo as Petr Sykora flipped the puck into the vacated left-60% of the net, a play which is only legal when it’s against Christobal Huet in Game 7 of an opening round Philly/Washington series.

The rest of the third period was so uniquely, bewilderingly awful that I don’t know how to interpret its implications on the Pens’ long-term state heading into the playoffs; if Fleury had let in three straight bad goals or Mark Eaton specifically got beat one-on-one twice or something, then I’d know what to be worried about, but the Pens’ third period ineptitude was so random and so extreme, it was almost amusing. The Lightning had sporadic 3-on-1s and 2-on-1s completely out of nowhere, sometimes breaking out after the puck was already over the Pens’ blue line and a defender would just spontaneously not be there, not to mention countless instances of Penguins getting outworked in the corners and in front of the net by massively inferior forwards. Fortunately, the Pens won’t have to go up against any firepower the likes of Jeff “Third Line Center McGee” Halpern in the postseason.

- Malkin has been unnervingly human the last few games – he had two assists tonight but wasn’t a dominant offensive presence, despite quarterbacking two lengthy 5-on-3s. Hopefully he’s not headed into the postseason Witness Protection Program again, Red Wings Series style.

- I would’ve advocated starting Garon against the Islanders Thursday, but after a puzzling third period for Fleury and the rest of the club, I wouldn’t mind seeing him back in net to try to regain his bearings in what should be an easy victory.

- Can Matt Cooke score a goal without ending up on the ice afterward? Does the act of scoring just require so much effort out of him that his muscles inevitably give way as soon as the red light goes off? Hopefully that doesn’t include his bowels.

- The third period was so excitingly bad, I didn’t have to write anything about the first period, which was probably the most boring period of Penguins hockey I’ve seen since Dan Bylsma took over.

- The Capitals and Flyers both won, the Hurricanes really won, and the Devils and Canadiens lost. The Pens inch ever-closer to a first round matchup with Jersey…any chance we can sign Aleksey Morozov to a seven-game contract?


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