Tuesday, April 26, 2011

7 Things to Work On For Game 7

I know it's only hours until I become an absolute wreck, so I figured I'd spill out my thoughts now while I still have a clear head. Here are 7 changes the Pens can make to their game to make sure that we all have some hockey to watch for at least the few weeks.

1. Move Kennedy to the Half Boards for PP1
Ok, so Kovalev hasn't turned out to be the shooting dynamo we all thought he would. He hasn't really lost his shot, he just isn't shooting enough. The half boards on the PP are essentially the best spot to get pucks to the net, and who better to do that than machine gun Kennedy. Kennedy has also scored just about every single one of his goals from that exact spot (including the only PP goal we have in the series) so it makes sense. Move Kovy down behind the net or something where he can do more passing.

2. More Physical in Front of Fleury
Nothing pisses any fan off more than to see your team give up an easy rebound goal after your goalie makes a good initial save. Usually, you fix this by telling your guys to make sure they box out their man from the net and allow the goalie to either clear it or cover it. This isn't really the problem for Pittsburgh. They are getting guys around Fleury to help, but then someone like Downie/Malone/Moore just bullies their way right through the D to slam an easy one home. Essentially we need all 6 d-men to be like Orpik and drive their man right into the side of the cage and physically prevent their opponent from even getting near the puck. That goes for you too, backchecking forwards.

3. Watch your Defense Pairings
The most important part (or at least one of them) of any home game has to be last change. This is big for any matchup competition, but especially huge when you have a weak 3rd defense pairing. Lovejoy and Niskanen should NEVER be out there against St Louis/Stamkos/Lecavalier, and hopefully that can be avoided with last change.

4. Match 3rd/4th Lines Against Scorers
This is another one that goes along with that strategic advantage of last change. Conventional wisdom says to play strength against strength, but I think the Pens have been more successful when they had the Talbot and Adams lines against Tampa's top unit. For every second that our grinders spend controlling the forecheck, that's one second that the Bolts' scorers weren't spending scoring, and multiple times they wasted entire shifts just trying to get the puck away from the Pens' 3/4 lines.

5. Don't Let Letang Carry the Puck on PP
Kris Letang has been a great defenseman all year long, and truly a threat on the PP, but it's time for a bit of a change. Letang is simply not disciplined enough to be successful against Tampa's frustrating 1-3-1, because he refuses to abandon his strategy of trying to bust into the zone by himself. Almost every single time the puck ends up sliding its way back down the ice at the hands of a Tampa forechecker, and the powerplay opportunity goes with it. Maybe if Letang promises to dump it in and allow the rest of the unit to set up, but otherwise I'd rather see Michalek or Martin carry it up the ice.

6. No More Drop Passes
This is another one that Letang does quite a bit, but it really applies to the entire team. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can dazzle with the drop pass, but only because THEY KNOW HOW TO DO IT RIGHT. It's a very hard play to do correctly, and it is very easy to screw up if you're not 100% precise. It just seems counter-intuitive against a tough 1-3-1 zone team to give up any forward progress, especially if its on a home run attempt to act like Crosby or Malkin. Keep it simple on the passing.

7. Composure
This has really been the biggest shock from my standpoint. This team has been through just about everything imaginable this season, yet they still unravelled at key moments of games 5 and 6 and completely lost all composure. I always say that in Game 7 the 2nd goal is more important than the 1st, so the key is to keep focused and not allow yourself to get thrown off by that first goal.

That goes for the fans too. Try to keep yourselves together until game time, and there's no need to freak out unless A) the team falls behind by 2 or more or B) they are still trailing with less than 10 minutes to go. The chips are down let's bring it home.

Let's Go Pens

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