I apologize for not having something posted sooner about Wednesday’s double-overtime thriller. I used Thursday as a mental health day to recover from the stress and emotional roller coaster that was Game 4.
Looking back on the game-winning goal by James Neal, I can’t help but think that Dwayne Roloson was napping on the play.
No one should get beat that clean on a shot from where Neal was. Obviously, I’ll take it and the 3-1 series lead that came along with it.
I wonder if Neal has thought about all the glorious scoring opportunities he’s had that have either barely missed the net or were miraculously stopped by opposing goaltenders.
Yet, he puts his head down and rifles a puck at the net that clearly surprised Roloson and it goes in. I thinking this was the hockey gods’ way of evening things up and restoring order to the universe.
Despite the lack of goal-scoring, he has consistently been attacking the net. If ever there was a guy who deserved a big goal, it was Neal.
Hopefully, this is just the first of many to be scored by Neal during these playoffs.
Over an hour after the game I was still taking deep breaths to try and calm down. My wife even looked at me at one point and said, “It’s okay, they won you know.”
Anyway, back to the rest of the action.
My excitement level for Tyler Kennedy scoring on the power play was about one notch down from where it was for Neal’s goal.
The goal snapped an 0 for 15 streak with the man advantage for the Pens. My reaction was completely delayed because of disbelief. I wanted to be sure the referee wasn’t going to come in and signal no goal before annoying the neighbors with my shriek of happiness.
Also impressive was seeing Eric Tangradi parked out in front of Roloson. That goal was as much a reason of the screen he set up as it was a nice shot by Kennedy.
Traffic out front leads to goals and that’s what happened on the play. It’s great seeing a guy who knows that his job is to stand outside the crease to set up screens and battle for rebounds.
Let’s not forget that Tangradi was inserted because of the one-game suspension to Chris Kunitz.
The question now is will Tangradi get another shot in Game 5? If he does, who sits out?
My guess is that he won’t be back in Game 5, but that’s just a guess.
The third and fourth lines have been too effective in this series to break them up and Kunitz is too valuable to not have in the lineup.
Chris Conner hasn’t figured in on the scoresheet, but how many times has he come out of a pile in the corner with the puck? It’s incredible that a guy his size is mucking and grinding away with Tampa Bay’s big defensemen and he’s winning the battles.
Arron Asham is enjoying a huge series with three goals and one assist to lead the Penguins in scoring.
Read that last sentence again.
Arron Asham is leading the Penguins with four points in four games. Brooks Orpik is second in points with his three assists.
Numbers like that lead me to believe that this is some sort of bizarro world. I’ll be completely honest here. I wasn’t a big fan of the Asham signing at first. Buddies of mine who are Flyers fans sent me hate texts when Asham signed here.
They kept saying things like, “You don’t know the type of player you just took from us. The guy is money in the playoffs.”
Initially, I laughed it off and let my anti-Flyers side blind me from being objective about the signing. I now see what they were talking about.
The guy doesn’t mess around. He finishes his checks, he puts pucks on net, he does just about everything you’d want a fourth line guy to do.
The goal he scored in Game 3 on a feed from Mike Rupp resembled countless highlights we’ve seen of Evgeni Malkin feeding Sidney Crosby and vice versa.
One area of concern I have about the last two games is that the Penguins blew a 2-0 lead in each contest. The also had a 2-1 lead heading to the third period in each of the last two games and saw it melt away.
You have to give Tampa Bay credit, they sure aren’t going down without a fight and Martin St. Louis (four goals, two assists) is killing the Penguins in this series. His second period goal in Game 4 completely changed the momentum.
Up until that point, I was convinced Tampa Bay’s fans were attending a funeral instead of a hockey game. There was no atmosphere in the building whatsoever and the Penguins fans could be heard loud and clear. Granted, they weren’t at the same level as the Rangers faithful in their taunting of Bruce Boudreau the other night.
Should the Penguins meet the Capitals at some point during these playoffs, it will be up to the Pens fans to raise the bar the Rangers fans set in Game 4. I’ve never seen or heard anything like that in my life.
My buddy Gopher is a big Rangers fan. He sent me a series of elated messages that aren’t suitable to be printed here while the chants were going on at MSG.
Can you just imagine what Penguins fans would come up with to hound the Caps’ bench boss? Maybe something about Haagen-Dazs ice cream? The guy was booed out of Heinz Field during the Pens/Caps Alumni Game for crying out loud. This could be a momentous occasion we’d have on our hands, but I digress.
Tampa Bay’s playoff motto is “All in,” but to me, the Penguins are the ones embodying that mantra.
I said before this series started that I thought the Pens would prevail in six games. Hopefully, I was wrong and they close out this series Saturday afternoon.
Check back tomorrow morning for my keys to victory in Game 5.
You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CaseySheaPens.