PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — The Penguins could only muster a mere 12 shots on goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night in Pittsburgh. But, the defending champs were still able to come away with a 5-3 win, even after blowing a three-goal lead after the first period.
NHL Network analyst Brian Lawton joined “The Fan Morning Show” on Wednesday to discuss Game 2. He says that the Penguins are marching into unfamiliar territory with the Nashville Predators this series.
“The Pittsburgh Penguins, they just have not seen a ‘D’ like Nashville’s thus far and that’s really the great chess match in this game,” said Lawton. “Does great ‘D’ win championships like people say or does strength down the middle, of course which the Penguins have, win out?”
Brian loves what head coach Mike Sullivan had to say when reflecting upon Game 1 and how everything played out. He believes Sullivan and his staff will make the right adjustments for Game 2.
“Mike has a really accounting of how that game went down and ultimately, I believe what he said is 100 percent true,” said Lawton. “And that is, look, we’ve got a lot of different strategies for lots of different things. To forecheck better, to break out of our zone, to get more sustained pressure in their zone. But, at the end of the day when I look at that game, a couple of things. Number one, yeah, we went 37 minutes without a shot and at one point in the second period, the shots were at four to zero. What was his point? We weren’t under siege, it was just a little bit more of a ping pong game back and forth, neither team creating much. But what the other team did, both teams defended really well, really hard. I think that’s accurate.”
“The other thing he said that I believe 100 percent was spot on [is that] we need to execute better. We need to go back and come up with any strategies that we’ve haven’t used throughout different times of the year. You go through slumps, you play different opponents, you have to make minor adjustments here and there. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to execution and we didn’t execute very well. We’ve got to be better if we want to win this series.”
So what does all of that mean strategically for Game 2?
“It means a little harder on the forecheck, it means a little bit tighter in terms of being closer to their ‘D’, I think it means minor tweaks in terms of whether you flush one guy or two guys and I think those are the adjustments he’ll make and that’s what we’ll see and it will be a different game tonight,” said Lawton.
Lawton steeps high praises on Predators defenseman P.K. Subban and says the Pens need to deal with him differently moving forward.
“They’re going to have to find ways to put more pressure on him, not give him the time and space and certainly eliminate his ability that he had in that first game to beat practically every forechecker one-on-one,” Lawton said. “That’s a change that I would see Sully making very quickly. This guy gets the puck and instead of trying to take away all of his lanes and overplaying it, you just have to eliminate (cleanly hit) him. If they do that, I think they will have more success. P.K. is so slippery for a defenseman, he’s got such great patience, he is their version of Crosby and Malkin and he’s a pretty darn good player. So, you’re going to see some changes on him and that’s going to make the Penguins game run that much smoother.”
You can hear the entire interview with NHL Network’s Brian Lawton on “The Fan Morning Show,” including his thoughts on Phil Kessel above.