Many non-NHL fans (read: NFL idiots) question why hockey has such a long season. Game 7 is the reason that hockey has such a long season. 82 games are played out to determine who will have home ice in a game that will potentially determine the rest of the season, and for some players, even their careers or lives. There were a lot of mixed feelings amongst Pittsburghers going into Game 7. It was great to have it on home ice, but coming off of 2 straight losses, momentum was an issue. Add in the lack of a powerplay and some big defensive lapses in the series, and there was certainly cause for concern. Nothing can top the nervousness/excitement for a Game 7 at home though.
The crowd was roaring right off the bat in support of their Penguins, but you could certainly hear the mumbles when the scratches were shown on the screen. No Tangradi and Engelland still? Bylsma opted to be loyal to his playoff lineup since he didn't want to put in a "cold" player in Game 7. So finally, it was time to play it out, 60 minutes to determine who was going home and who was moving on.
|We'll ignore the fact that you were on for the last regular season |
and only playoff PP goals.
The Penguins came out flying with the crowd and controlled the puck for a majority of the 1st period. It even appeared that the Pens may have gained an early lead, but the goal was called off due to incidental contact as Letang bowled over Roloson while 4 guys were in the crease. The team outplayed Tampa at even strength, but as usual, officiating was a bit of an issue as was the powerplay. Early in the period, Max Talbot was sent into the boards headfirst by Mattias Ohlund. No penalty was called on the play, and Talbot was on the ice for a few minutes before play was called and he was helped back to the bench. The Penguins did get 2 powerplays in a 5 minute span though, as Eric Brewer and Martin St. Louis both took penalties. The first powerplay looked great, or at least great compared to what we have come to expect. Puck movement was solid, shots got to the net, but the Pens couldn't beat Roloson. The 2nd powerplay was everything we have come to know and hate. It took 1:45 for the Penguins to get possession in the offensive zone, enough said. The period ended in a scoreless tie. It was one of those periods where you are concerned that the team is playing so well, but not scoring, so it's inevitably going to turn the other way.
The second period started off with yet another Penguins powerplay as Steven Stamkos took a tripping penalty. What more could you ask for? You could ask for a competent powerplay. The powerplay had trouble getting the puck into the zone yet again, and couldn't find a way to even challenge Roloson. The Hockey Gods decided that would be the last straw. Just minutes after the missed opportunity, Tampa Bay finally struck. Dominic Moore took the puck behind the Penguins' net in an exact replica of a goal scoring play in Game 6. The result? A goal. Moore passed the puck from behind the net to an uncovered Sean Bergenheim again (this time, Craig Adams missed the coverage), and Bergenheim shot it into a wide open net as Fleury had no chance to get from post to post in time. Same Tampa line, same play, same result. 1-0 Tampa Bay.
|Geez Fleury, why can't you be 6 feet wide for |
when we have defensive lapses?!?!
As anyone could have predicted, Tampa Bay came out with every intention of clogging up the neutral zone. It did not help that the Penguins appeared completely incapable of a) passing around the neutral zone, b) dumping and chasing, or c) putting a good shot on net. Tampa Bay took a too many men on the ice penalty early in the 3rd period, awakening the crowd and giving the Pens yet another chance to right their series with a powerplay goal. They wouldn't have any of it though, with another disappointing attempt that led to some in the crowd booing.
More back and forth play took over the majority of the 3rd as Tampa truly just frustrated the Penguins and the crowd. Pittsburgh got their final chance on a gift of a powerplay with 1:33 left in the game. It was a fitting end to the series and the season, as the Penguins, with their backs against the wall, still couldn't manage a powerplay goal to save their season. Dwayne Roloson finished with 36 saves and the shutout to send Tampa Bay to the 2nd round. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh blew a 3-1 series lead for just the 2nd time in franchise history, and lost Game 7 at home for the 2nd year in a row.
|Remember that feeling boys, because apparently |
you didn't from last year's Game 7 loss at home.
#3 - Fleury (22 saves, .957 save %)
#2 - Bergenheim (1g)
#1 - Roloson (36 saves, 1.000 save %)
- Don't let the 36 shots by the Penguins deceive you, many were from the red line and most were weak wristshots. The Pens really didn't test Roloson much.
- I will never understand why Bylsma was so against making a lineup change going into a Game 7 after 2 losses in a row where the lineup clearly wasn't working
- Kovalev got 2 shifts in the 3rd period. That is the last we will see of him in a Pens jersey. At least the conditional 7th rounder does not turn into a 6th since we didn't make it past the 1st round?
- I know a lot of people say the Penguins did admirable for not having Crosby, Malkin, and Cooke. But, we had a 3-1 series lead without those players too...no excuse for losing it.
- Guy Boucher out-coached Dan Bylsma, plain and simple.
- This series was lost on the powerplay. Statistics don't lie. 1 for 35, yuck.
In the end, it was a great season, but the end of it will never do justice for everything that was accomplished. An underachieving end to an overachieving season. Many posts reflecting on the season and looking to the future are on their way, so don't abandon my blog yet!