I don’t want to think of tomorrow’s game in Philadephia as a “rematch” from the playoffs. This needs to be a clean slate for the Pens. Shake it like an Etcha-Sketch, Cntl+Alt+Del. Whatever you have to do. Like it never happened.
There are a few keys to success for the Pens tomorrow.
First and foremost discipline is key. The Flyers are going to come out doing their best to get under Crosby and Malkin’s skin. Giroux in his new Captain position is going to act one of two ways: all business or poking at Sid like a sleeping bear. This is absolutely Sid’s game to lose. In the playoffs to say that he lost his cool would be absolutely the understatement of the century. Refreshing to hear him being honest in his dislike of G, but shove it aside. The Flyers are going to be begging for an excuse to lay Sid out, giving Sid reason to to retaliate and Kunitz a reason to throw the gloves down as Sid’s linemate, drawing major penalties. Sid MUST stick to his game and ignore the B.S.
2. Penalty Kill
The penalty kill in the playoffs was a nightmare. A lot of things that happened in the playoffs were a nightmare, but our PK was downright awful. The Flyers scored 11 power play goals over 6 games. Even the game the Pens won 10-3, all three of the Flyers goals were on the power play.
Matt Cooke is arguably the Pens best penalty killer and and coupling that with Brandon Sutter’s defensive ability and their natural chemistry as linemates, they can absolutely shut down the Flyers.
Defensive collapses will NOT fly tomorrow. (Pun not intended.) Going back to discipline, Kris Letang needs to suppress any urge to engage in theatrics and concentrate on keeping Fleury covered and staying solid on the power play.
Tomorrow is a huge day for two people: Paul Martin and Robert Bortuzzo. Tomorrow is Pauly’s opportunity to set the tone for his season. He needs to move the puck and he evades hits very well. Paul Mart is an all-star, seasoned, proved defenseman. He started coming out of his slump late in the season last year. He can only go up from here.
Bortuzzo may be the big body the Pens have been waiting for. At 6’4″, 215 lbs and proven grit, Bortuzzo is the perfect stay at home d-man. His game is quiet and efficient. He clears the net, has good positioning, and once he has his bearings on the season, he may be a very nice partner for Letang, giving Kris the freedom he likes to roam the ice. The Pens have offensive defensemen in the system coming out the wazoo. Bortuzzo is a pure, stay-at-home guy. He’s tough and hits hard and clean.
Other Things to Consider
The biggest thing the Pens can do tomorrow is smash Bryzgalov’s confidence early. If there is one clear example of a headcase in the NHL, it is Bryz. Fleury takes losses to heart as well, but I’ve never seen someone collapse like Bryz and go into an all-out depression. Capitalize on this.
Also, the Flyers don’t have Jagr anymore. They didn’t do well in the offseason rounding out their roster. They are in desperate need of defense and Jagr won’t be there by G’s side taking up space and setting him up. They also lost a potential 20 goals (well…maybe more like 10-13 with the shortened game schedule). This missing puzzle piece affects their power play as well. Eight of Jagr’s 19 goals last season were on the power play, plus he had 35 assists and seriously elevated G’s ability to score.
As far as the Pens go, Tangradi also has something to prove tomorrow. This is his last chance in the eyes of most fans. Being on line with Neal and Malkin could be incredibly good for him. He needs to stick to what he does best, screening shots. He has to be that guy and collect rebounds. One of the reasons I wanted Mike Knuble on the team this year is because he is fantastic in front of the net. Tangradi is a big dude and he can take up a lot of space. It was frustrating for the longest time watching him because he didn’t seem to know how to use his size to his advantage. It started coming together for him late last season and I can give him credit for that. If Neal and Malkin can help him get some points and get his confidence up early this season, starting with tomorrow, “Big Dog” may finally EARN a roster spot in the NHL.
The guys need to play a clean game tomorrow. Hard hits. Defense. Strong special teams.
It’s a short season. They can’t afford to start it off with a game that shakes their confidence going into Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Let’s Go Pens!
**Edited to Note** I think another key to success is that Pauly keep making James Neal eggs for breakfast. I think breakfast with Paul Mart makes Neal score and score big.