I’m not one to share my opinion, but since you asked…
- Despite going 0 for 2 on Monday’s Power Play vs. Tampa Bay, the Pens continue to find ways of winning playoff hockey games. Now 0-15 with the extra man, the Pens used three even strength goals to propel themselves to a 3-2 win in Florida. Thanks to the quick start and gutsy performance of players like Max Talbot, Tyler Kennedy and a steady net presence by Marc-Andry Fleury for a much needed Game 3 win, the Pens find themselve just two more like it away from a date with the second round of Lord Stanley’s playoffs.
- I thought for sure the Pens would score on at least one of the two PP’s they had. James Neal missed on an all but empty net. He has to finish those. Chances like that are slim in the playoffs. For all the buzz he carried from Dallas, Neal has been a disappointment, but I’m still holding out hope he can shake off whatever is causing his scoring drought and kick it in gear when the team needs him most to contribute goals.
- It was good to see Tyler Kennedy show up after his disappearing act in Game 2 at Consol Energy Center. He was tied for the team lead in shots with five and netted the game winner just 31 seconds after the Bolts tied the score at 2 with the man advantage. Kennedy has 21 snipes during the regular season and will need to be an offensive factor for the ‘Guins if they expect to advance.
- After a so-so Game 2, Fleury rebounded nicely in Game 3, stopping every shot he faced when not playing down a man. His play is so critical and I really think that when the team scores 1st, it takes a tremendous amount of pressure of the Sorel, Quebec native. Given his up and down nature, it’s hard to figure out what Fleury will show up, but when given an early lead, I’ll take that version any day of the week.
- Who would have guessed that Aaron Asham would have a point in each of the 1st three games of this series? Vegas odds against that had to be 100-1 or bigger.
- Mike Rupp continues to impress me. His move around Tampa defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron to create a 2 on 1 with Asham was just slightly better than his cross-ice pass to Double A, as he deftly sent the puck past a diving Pavel Kubina. The vulcanized rubber disc found Asham’s stick and it gave the team a two goal cushion.
- Kris Letang was a factor last night, registering two assists, including one on the game winning goal by Kennedy. Letang, who made his 1st All-Star game back at the end of January, disappeared during the last portion of the season registering just nine of his 50 points after January. His production is also necessary if the club wants to keep winning in the second season.
- With the Pens extra attacker issues well chronicled, Tampa Bay has found a groove on their PP, netting two more goals on the man advantage Monday, giving them four on 11 chances, or 36%, best in the playoffs so far. If there was one stat the Pens carried into these playoffs like a badge of honor it was the leagues best penalty kill. Things need to tighten up when down a man. Easier said than done when facing snipers like Martin St. Louis and Vincent LaCavalier who have accounted for all four PP goals the Lightning own.
- With the surprising play of Mike Rupp, why not put him on the power play and stick him in front of Tampa goalie Dewayne Roloson to create some traffic? His play on the 4th line has been nothing short of a bonus and I think at this point anything that could add a spark to the dismal performance of the power play is worth a shot.
- With a win on Wednesday, the Pens could wrap everything up Saturday afternoon, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m still not sure it’s over just yet, but given how well the team has played on the road, a 3-1 series lead coming back to Pittsburgh would make life easier for both the players & fans. Therefore my prediction is Pens 4 Tampa Bay 2 on Wednesday.
John Phillips is the author of this article and a recent convert to Scientology after having breakfast with Tom Cruise at Jo-Jo’s in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. When he’s not walking The Bridge to Total Freedom, Phillips can be found hosting weekend talk-shows and anchoring sports updates on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan. You can also follow JP on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/japboy69