For me, its not time to panic, but it is time to be concerned. The Pens are down 2 to the Caps as of now. So the simple math is we need 4 games to win the series and they need 2, hence the time to be concerned. We could have very easily been up 2-0 on the Caps, but the hockey gods had other plans. Though as the my buddy Hooks with PensBurgh notes, "A playoff series doesn't begin until the home team loses a game." [Melrose] And we're on our way back to Pittsburgh.
Tonight's game was very similar in many respects to Saturday's game. The Pens had many opportunities in which to score, they just didn't. They led the game twice but simply didn't close it out. The reason they lost tonight wasn't Alex Ovechkin, but rather Valarmov and the Caps role players. In the head to head dual of Crosby and Ovechkin, neither won. Both had a hat-trick and both ignited their teams. They're no question living up to the hype which the hockey and non-hockey world is thriving off of. But ultimately our 2nd and third lines aren't producing anything. Come to think of it, no one other than Crosby has scored other than Mark Eaton. Is that what we can expect from the Pens in the next two games?
Malkin's line didn't produce anything either. Geno put six shots up but none with any real chance of going in, save maybe one. Fedetenko actually had a halfway decent game effort-wise but nothing to show for it. Sykora registered an assist by accident and didn't even get a shot on goal (though he did shoot). I'm not going to bother with the 3rd and 4th lines at this point, they're doing their jobs. Though I would like to see Staal have a little more impact on the score sheet.
Ultimately what I see Bylsma doing for his squad is encouraging his guys to play the same offensively but making a few adjustments.
- First and foremost they need help on the draw. The Caps won 38 faceoffs to the Penguins 23, that needs to change. Crosby went 10-25 himeslf.
- The were out hit tonight 27-20 which means they need to play more physical (other than Orpik).
- The power play was much better than in the past, 2 for 5. But you have to produce when you have a 5-3 opportunity, and someone other than Crosby needs to score.
- Geno needs to step up and create more chances for himself. He is most effective attacking the net. And he's just not doing that at the moment.
At this point, no more excuses. The Pens need to approach every game as if it were their last.
And you and I both know no one wants that to be the case.