BOSTON (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will be looking to take the first step on a long road to a comeback when they hit the ice in Boston for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight.
After a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Bruins in Game 2, the Penguins find themselves down 0-2 in the series.
There wasn’t much good to come from Game 2, as the entire team looked frustrated and out of sorts.
Brad Marchand scored on a breakaway just 28 seconds into the game and the Bruins never looked back. The goal seemed to stun the Penguins and they never recovered. Before they knew it, the score was 3-0 in favor of the visitors.
Tomas Vokoun was pulled in favor of Marc-Andre Fleury, but the move failed to wake the team from their stupor.
Brandon Sutter scored with under a minute to play in the first period, which would have been a huge momentum boost heading into the locker room. However, Marchand answered right back with under 10 seconds remaining in the period to take the air out of CONSOL Energy Center and the Penguins.
After the team’s practice on Tuesday, head coach Dan Bylsma said adjustments and roster changes would be made ahead of Game 3. While he wouldn’t elaborate on what changes might be coming for obvious reasons, the Penguins cannot afford another poor effort tonight.
The Penguins must absolutely be better in the defensive zone and manage the puck better. As was exhibited in Game 2, it won’t matter which goaltender is in net if the Penguins play that poorly in front of them.
UPDATE 12:30 P.M. – The Penguins have announced that Vokoun will get the start in Game 3 tonight in Boston.
Through the first two games, they have been credited with 20 giveaways, which seems low to me. Conversely, he Bruins have given the puck away a total of three times.
Keys To Victory
1. Weather The Storm
This will be an incredibly hostile environment to start tonight because the fans already smell blood in the water. There weren’t many who saw the Bruins taking both games on the road to start the series. Now, the team knows they have an incredible opportunity to take a stranglehold of the series in front of their own fans.
The Penguins will need to survive the first 10 minutes of the first period to increase their chances of making this a series tonight. An early goal could help quiet the crowd and give the team some confidence.
2. Be Patient
I cannot stress this enough. The Bruins know they have the Penguins close to being on the ropes. They also know that their trap is frustrating the Penguins immensely. Pittsburgh just needs to do the little things and make smart decisions with the puck to break through the trap.
Forwards need to help the defensemen by not flying the zone on the breakout. When they hit the red line with the puck, chip it deep and utilize their speed advantage to get after it.
In general, the Penguins have tried to be extremely physical in this series to a fault. Take the opportunity to hit people when appropriate. One example of this would be to make any Boston defenseman pay a price for retrieving a puck.
3. Put Pucks On Net
Think back to the Islanders series for a moment. After the Penguins pasted them 5-0 in Game 1, what did the Islanders do in Game 2? They started shooting from everywhere, crashed the net looking for rebounds and it worked.
The Penguins now need to adopt that same mentality. Think of it as an overtime mentality where no shot is a bad shot. If a high percentage passing option is there, by all means take it, but rather than force a pass into traffic, put the puck on net.
You never know what is going to happen when that puck gets in the vicinity of the net. Tuukka Rask could let up a softie or a bad rebound. Maybe the puck hits a stick or skate in front and goes in. The point is, get the puck to the net and then get bodies in Rask’s kitchen.
Fancy plays haven’t worked for two games. The Penguins have to be willing to pay a price to score a goal in the dirty areas. Guys like Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Brenden Morrow and others have made careers by going to the dirty areas. The time is now to get back to Hockey 101 basics in order to get back into the series.
The puck is set to drop at 8 p.m. and you can watch the game on the NBC Sports Network.
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