And the 100th post is about...the Pens. Come on, with game 4 tonight and the Pens looking at a 2-1 series deficit, what else could consume my attention? Also, since I'm graduating from college in a couple weeks, I need to get my mind off of the tragedy at Virgina Tech yesterday. Seriously, all prayers and thoughts go to the entire Hokie nation.
With that being said, its time to look at what the Pens need to do differently in game 4 (uh...everything?), in order to have a fighting chance against Daniel "I'm going to outshoot the Pens in this series" Alfredsson and Company.
The shooting is a big problem. Although Geno has 4 assists in only 3 career playoff games, he has been nearly nonexistant. 8 needless penalty minutes in the series will do that to a player. If he doesn't snap out of this shooting slump, there might be problems in Penguins-land. Sidney Crosby needs to pull the trigger more as well. Actually, all of the Pens need to start firing the biscuit. How many times has just putting the puck on net helped the team? Isn't this one of the reasons that we picked up Gary Roberts? Haven't both of his goals in the series come while cleaning up in front of the net? And what about redirects ? Even unintentional redirects will find the back of the net. Ryan Whitney's goal in game 2 hit a Ottawa leg before going in.
But back to Sid. I know he's already got a goal in each game and he's a great passer, but he is passing up way too many scoring opportunities by trying to feed his teammates with better shots. I can't count how many times during this series, as well as the final 2 weeks of the season, in which Sid was streaking down the right wing with a teammate to his left, and he opted to pass to the teammate rather than shoot (for which he still had a good angle). Many of these passes were intercepted or blocked by the opposition, so the Pens got no shot rather than a clean look. Its a best of 7 series, and any smart team would put a lot of time into learning the tendencies of a superstar like Sid. Eventually, they are going to figure out that Crosby looks to pass first when he's coming down the right wing with a teammate to his left, and blocking these passes become an easier task. If Crosby puts the puck on net rather than passing to the guy to his left, he can set up a perfect rebound just as easily as he can fire a perfect pass. All I'm saying is mix it up, Sid. What's the harm in putting the puck on net? There's 3 outcomes.
Plus, more shots equals a greater chance of numbers 2 and 3 happening. The Pens have been outshot 99-66, so its not hard to see the biggest reason we're down 2-1. Actually, the Pens are fortunate to have 1 game. A few different bounces in game 2, and we're down 3-zip. Good article here regarding the "must-win" status of tonight's game, by Penguins playoff-beard wearer, Larry Brown.
I think Laraque needs to play game 4. He seemed kinda frustrated with not being in the lineup for games 2 and 3. I read an article yesterday, but can't seem to find it again, where Laraque basically said, "I'm not going to talk about it now," in response to his benching for games 2 and 3. If I was Laraque, I'd be upset, too. The Senators have been much more physical than the Pens, and its come down to Sid, Max Talbot, Gary Roberts and Colby Armstrong to provide the physical plays to boost the team. Now each guy can hold their own, but no player on this list is Georges Laraque. And now with a huge bullseye on Colby Armstrong (that was a legitimate hit, though), Big Georges needs to be in uniform for game 4.
The game starts at 7. My predicted score for game 3 was right, but the Pens scored the 2 rather than the 4. Tonight, I think the Pens will (must) win, by a score of 3-2. I know, I'm boring. I always pick the Pens to win. However, tonight can be (needs to be) the Penguins night, because a 3-1 hole might be impossible to climb out of. Plus, LBS will have to shave his playoff beard, which is just starting to come in nicely.