Off-Day Tidbits
— Ray Shero’s philosophy of building his team around defense and a group of forwards that are difficult to play against, is paying dividends as Pittsburgh has a 3-1 series lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Penguins third paring of Matt Niskanen – Ben Lovejoy is nothing to write home about but the Penguins off-season strategy of establishing two No. 1 pairings in Brooks Orpik – Kris Letang, Paul Martin – Zbynek Michalek has been the difference in the series.
Another area that can’t be overlooked: Pittsburgh’s physicality on their 3rd and 4th lines and ability to wear down the opposition is why this is a team built for the playoffs, even without superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
— Last spring Brooks Orpik in the Penguins walkout meetings, mentioned to the media that the Penguins Game 4 loss against the Montreal Canadiens was the pivotal game in the series that they let get away and was the Pens eventual downfall in their second round ouster.
With the way the Penguins controlled the play against Tampa Bay in Game 4 and how Tampa came back, last night’s game had that same feel once the Lightning forced overtime.
Instead of heading back home tied 2-2 in what would have been an emotional loss and letdown, the Penguins are now a win away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs in what is a wide open Eastern Conference.
— Dan Bylsma, as expected, confirmed today that Chris Kunitz will be back in the lineup for Game 5 after serving his one game suspension.
So who comes out? Eric Tangradi remains the likely candidate due to the coaching staff being pretty pleased with Chris Conner in his third line role with Max Talbot and Pascal Dupuis.
However, even if Tangradi doesn’t appear in another post-season game, the way he played last night and against Atlanta in the regular season finale is a big confidence booster for him going into next season.
It’s still hard to ever see Tangradi develop into a true top-2 line power forward that some might have projected him to be, but he has showed a strong emphasis on trying to become a dominant front-net presence player. That could lead him to having a productive career with the Penguins or elsewhere.
As he showed last night on the power play, for a young player he’s very good in that area. Being an effective front-net presence takes more work than just having good size.
— Offensive production from the blueline is always big in a playoff series. Pittsburgh has 11 points from their blueliners compared to Tampa having just 7 points from their defensemen, with Eric Brewer collecting 4 of the 7 points.
— The Penguins did not practice today and are scheduled to practice tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m. Due to the absurd 12:00 p.m. start time for Game 5, they will not have a morning skate on Saturday.