Wednesday, April 13, 2011

1st Round Preview vs TBL

I'm sure by now you're probably sick of reading playoff previews by now, but one more can't hurt. What I'm going to try to do is break down the series into one of those 'Keys to the Game' lists shown at the beginning of every game, and I'm going to do it all without mentioning the name 'Sidney Crosby.' (or at least not yet)


Apr 13- @ PIT

Apr 15- @PIT

Apr 18- @TBL

Apr 20- @TBL

*Apr 23- @PIT

*Apr 25- @TBL

*APr 27- @PIT

How the Pens Can Win

1. Attack The Back End of Their D
It's no secret how incredibly deep the Pens have proved themselves to be this season on both sides of the puck, and this can become a major advantage come playoff time. Tampa (for the most part) lacks defensive depth, and I think that this can be a major opportunity for the Staal line to cash in on the opportunity against Bergeron/Jones/Brewer or however they choose to order it.

2. Light Roloson Up Like a Christmas Tree
Hats off to him for a solid season, but he's no Fleury. The glaring weakness in many of this year's top teams (Tampa included) is their goaltending. Roloson is somewhat quick but he does give up rebounds and can be caught out of position. What does this mean? Perhaps we will be seeing some key goals from role players like Mike Rupp or Pascal Dupuis, rather than just the top 2 lines.

3. Become Familiar With the System
In a 7 game series, you become rather familiar with your opponent somewhat quickly. This will be key for the Pens against Tampa's unique 1-3-1 system. I really think this system opens up chances for aggressive checkers on both sides to get more breakaways, and this will also be a benefit to Pittsburgh if they adjust to the system Tampa plays.

How Tampa Can Win

1. Top of the Pile

Tampa's top line of Stamkos-St Louis-Malone can strike with devastating force. Even if this line is shuffled, holding matchups will be crucial for the Pens defenders. I imagine Orpik or Michalek will be on Stamkos at all times, while Letang and Martin will be used to shut down any opportunities by the speedy St Louis or even someone like Gagne.

2. 4th Line
4th lines don't matter in the playoffs, right? Wrong. Tampa's 4th line of Tyrell-Thompson/Moore-Hall can be a key secret weapon to their success. A 4th line like this one has the ability to catch a team napping, and sneak an important goal in when the team least expects it. How to stop it? Stay sharp, and hope that Pittsburgh's 4th liners like Rupp and Adams can match up with them well enough.

3. Supercharged Powerplay
Stamkos is absolutely deadly with the man advantage, and the powerplay has become a major part of Tampa's strategy. Their set pieces are quite creative, and they make it difficult for the PK workers to gain control. How to stop this PP? It's simple, don't take any penalties!

Personally I see the Pens in 6, with one or two games probably needing OT. The Pens have become very good at these close games, and if Fleury continues to be strong, they can likely leave most of them with a W.

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