This is it, Pens fans.
If the Penguins plan to survive, they’ll need to stick to these five elements. Otherwise, Crosby and Co. will face another summer of what-ifs and disappointment.
Keep your composure—The Pens have been smooth as the ice surface when the team has been ahead. When playing at home, Pittsburgh has shown grit, determination, and class, proving they’re an elite team. But following frustrating losses in Game Two and Game Five, the team completely lost its head.
Although the typical grinders were in on the act, the key players were the ones wearing the largest dunce caps. Evgeni Malkin lost his head both games, and Sidney Crosby and Maxime Talbot joined in on the fun after the 5-0 blowout on Sunday. Pittsburgh will need its leaders to keep their slates clean, even if they face an early deficit.
Use home ice—The home team has the crowd and the energy on its side. Although up for debate, it seems that the team in dark uniforms also gets the better calls from the officials as well.
The Pens know the home crowd will be as loud as ever, so they’ll need to carry that momentum early. If the calls do go in Pittsburgh’s direction, the Pens will need to score quick on the early power play. If they can take any momentum away from the Wings, they’ll have a good shot of winning the contest.
Pressure the puck carrier—In both home games, Pittsburgh had success on the defensive end because the team put heavy pressure on Detroit. It seemed like every team a pass was made, a defender was right there with a stick in the way.
Pavel Datsyuk will once again be in the lineup, so this will be a daunting task. But if the Penguins can return to its man-to-man style D, they’ll take pressure off goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, allow fewer shots, and in turn limit the number of chance Detroit will have to score.
Fire away—Is Chris Osgood really Conn Smythe potential? It’s possible, because he’s made incredible saves throughout the playoffs. But he’s also been credited with some soft goals. Although he’s been fantastic, there’s no doubt that at least a couple of Detroit wins could have gone the other way had Osgood seen more shots.
Pittsburgh needs to put a steady diet of pucks on the net if it plans on playing hockey instead of golf on Friday. While setting up shots and taking good chances is a coach’s dream, it will not work here. Fire away, fire early, and fire often. It just may be the difference in the season.
Play desperate—This one is obvious. Pittsburgh has nothing to lose and something to gain. The Penguins need to play smart, play physical, but above all else, play like there’s no tomorrow. Detroit may have a game to give, but a team with that much experience is going to play like it’s a Game Seven. Pittsburgh must treat Tuesday’s matchup the same way.