The update you have ALL been waiting for...(does anybody even read this thing?). Game 1 was a steam roller of a game for the Sens. There were squashed Pens littering the ice all night long. And yes, this is comming from a LONG TIME Penguins fan. Game 2 presents quite a challenge for our kids...will they be able to respond like we all think they can?
THINGS TO LOOK FOR
The First 10 Minutes
Can the Sens play "balls to the wall" the way they did in Game 1? Can the Pens find a way to match or counteract the passion the Sens showed in Game 1?
In retrospect...Ryan Malone was interviewed prior to game 1 by FOX Sports Net PGH. He made a comment (I won't quote him because I don't recall his exact words) that was something to the effect that the Pens needed to stay under control and not get too excited. I wonder if the coaching staff may have been trying to keep the team toned down (too much?) prior to the game and maybe it backfired? God, I hope that was it!!!
Pens D to D and outlet passes
The Sens forechecking in game 1 was perfect. Force the puck carrier and smash the recipient. In the defensive zone, the Sens took away a lot of our usual behind the net (D to D) and some of the across the ice passes that the Pens have used so well during the season. What adjustments will the Pens make? Hopefully playing with more intesity and energy will counteract the forechck some, but the Pens also need to make quicker plays and better plays with those passes. I am guessing the coaching staff worked on the outlet passes and, more specifically, the position of the guys that don't have the puck...they need to find spaces to take passes while moving forward.
Aside from raising the over all energy level, I believe this might be the single most important adjustment the Pens need to make. Otherwise it will be another "flat footed" effort. And you'll see more of your beloved players getting smashed each time they get the puck.
Can the Pens cycle down low?
Obviously we don't know because in game 1 they didn't get down low very often. This was a staple of the team's success during the season. It also helps to set-up more open offensive plays. When the opponent is expecting a "dump and chase" and then for you to cycle, they start to go back to chase the puck BEFORE you dump...thus opening the ice for rushes. Of course, this only works if you can get that cycle going.
I have seen Gary play for a lot of years. He got bounced around in Game 1 and he did not like it. Does he have what it takes, at 40 years of age, to do the same things he did to the Sens in the past?
Laraque or Petro?
Georges was a step slower than even the rest of the group in game 1. Will Petro take his place in game 2? Will we see both of them and maybe not see Ruutu?
Fleury was not the reason for the game 1 loss. He played a solid game after that first ugly goal. Emery on the other hand was never really tested. He seemed just as nervous as Fleury early on and later in the game when he gave up goals, his body language spoke of uncertainty (some head shaking and the look of a guy that did not seem confident). I look for Pens to try and rattle him in Game 2. Assuming of course they can play a decent part of the game in the offensive zone!
This is tough. Game 1 went pretty much as I expected as far as the outcome was concerned. But, I did not expect the team to look so flat...or the Sens to look so strong.
Assuming the Pens can find a way to play with more intensity, this should be a much more competitive game. I expect less penalties as well, assuming the refs call this game the way they called game 1.
Even so, I am a realist...and I think the Pens head back to Pittsburgh down 0-2.
Sens 4 Pens 3
Look for my review Saturday night!!!
BTW, just because I said I think we'll lose doesn't mean I won't be sitting on the edge of my seat, cheering the guys on!