— About 45 minutes to game time in a win or go home Game 7 situation and the Penguins look to improve to 9-1 all-time when they hold a 3-1 series lead.
The Penguins have a chance to advance to the second round for the fourth straight post-season.
The winner of tonight’s game will either face the Washington Capitals or Philadelphia Flyers, depending on the outcome of tonight’s Montreal – Boston game.
— The momentum right now is with Tampa Bay who have outscored Pittsburgh 12-4 in the past two games but momentum in the playoffs is over-rated and doesn’t always carry over.
— A good sign for the Penguins this morning is they were very calm and collected. There doesn’t appear to be any panic from the players and there wasn’t any from head coach Dan Bylsma who won’t be making any lineup changes.
Eric Tangradi who was a factor in Game 4, will remain in the press box and the move is not surprising. However, the move I’m sure won’t be popular with the fanbase.
The Penguins feel Tangradi is not quite there in 5-on-5 play and due to matchup situations, the Penguins are not going to take Chris Conner out of the lineup who is skating on the second line with Pascal Dupuis and Max Talbot. That line will matchup against one of the Lightning’s top-2 lines.
— For the Penguins to win tonight, their group of top-4 defensemen who the team relies heavily on, has to play the type of dominant hockey they played in Game 1.
There has been a lot of up and down play from the likes of Kris Letang and Paul Martin in the series and the Penguins can’t have that tonight.
— Guy Boucher mixes up his lines quite a bit but in games 1 and 2, Bylsma matched up the pairing of Orpik-Letang against Stamkos and Martin-Michalek against Lecavalier’s line. Some tweaking with that philosophy could be warranted tonight.
When Ryan Malone see’s time alongside Lecavalier, St. Louis, that’s a big strong line down low and the Penguins would be better off combating them with the physical presence of Orpik-Letang.
— A reason the Penguins were so successful in the first four games, was due to their ability to crash the net.
The past two games they have become a perimeter team. They have to get back to attacking the net tonight.
— What I’m watching tonight is how the Penguins respond if they get down early. They have shown at times in this series of imploding once the Lightning get a couple quick goals, most notably on home-ice.
Game 7’s is about players rising their games. We’ve seen it in the past from the likes of Max Talbot. A player who needs to be factor tonight is Chris Kunitz who has 0 goals in the series and whose play hasn’t been strong since returning from a suspension.
— The line to watch for me tonight is the Neal – Letestu – Kovalev unit.
— Who I like: I’m not confident picking Pittsburgh but it is very difficult for a hockey club to win three straight games in a series. That’s why teams that have held a 3-1 series lead are 221-23 all-time in best-of-seven series.
Look for Pens to find a way to get it done tonight.
Kunitz – Staal – Kennedy
Dupuis – Talbot – Conner
Neal – Letestu – Kovalev
Rupp – Adams – Asham
Orpik – Letang
Martin – Michalek
Niskanen – Lovejoy
Marc Andre Fleury in goal
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