(Update: 1:30pm. Matt Murray will indeed/of course start in goal. Nick Bonino is a game time decision).
Upon further review, head coach Mike Sullivan says the Pittsburgh Penguins are pleased with their performance in Game 4. Scoring chances, opportunity, and pace. The Penguins had all of those things. They also lost, 4-1. Before that, 5-1 in Game 3. So, is being pleased the appropriate response?
San Jose Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said the same during the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. John Tortorella and Barry Trotz said similar things about the process and the good things their teams did against the Penguins, in these playoffs.
Those teams lost.
Big problem–This is no longer an 82 game season. There is no longer time for good things to come. It’s now a best of three season. At most, three more games–with history hanging in the balance. There is no more time to trust the process will eventually yield results.
It is–Do, or do not. There is no try.
If the Penguins are to win the Stanley Cup, again, it is about results, right now. Game 5. It does not matter if the Penguins and Evgeni Malkin believe Phil Kessel is primed for a breakout game. He must break out. It does not matter if the Penguins are getting good chances if the Predators are scoring more goals.
According to www.NaturalStatTrick.com, the Penguins had more high danger scoring chances than the Predators, 13-10. The Corsi battle was within tenths of even, for most of Game 4.
The Penguins had a few breakaways. Several great looks in front of the net. The difference was goaltending. The Predators and fans were treated to a show, while Matt Murray was beaten on the breakaway he faced and gave up a wrap-around goal.
Murray wasn’t bad. Rinne was great. And so, for Game 5, Murray will have to be better and the Penguins will have to increase their chance ratio. Significantly.
If the dynamics don’t change, the Penguins will have to make line-up and roster changes. Make no mistake, the Predators have the upper hand. The Penguins will ignore that fact, to their own peril. It is the Penguins who must change the dynamics of the situation.
A turning point could be as simple as bumping Rinne a few times. A big shift, A big hit. Or a few minutes of sustained pressure can inflate a team’s lungs, like nothing else. No matter what jersey number those players wear, the players with jump must immediately go to the head of the class. And it doesn’t matter what jersey number those players who don’t have jump wear (ahem, 81), go to the back of the class.
The Predators are getting unforeseen contributions from players like Freddy Gaudreau and Colton Sissons. It’s the equivalent of Carter Rowney and Josh Archibald pouring in offensive chances and production. Statues would be built to such players in Pittsburgh. 25 years later, the Muskegon line still reverberates in Penguins lore.
It’s time for the Penguins to find those contributions. From anyone.
Response to Controversy
So, I guess it was my turn in front of the Twitter firing squad, yesterday. Thousands of notifications rolled in, blog posts from Philadelphia, Edmonton, and parts unknown gleefully vilified yours truly. CBS Boston even took a swipe (Uh, thanks boys for helping one of your own).
I read every word.
It was groupthink at its finest. Nothing was out of bounds, from my “bank manager” look to pedophilia. Even the tongue-in-cheek line about “radio trained ears” became an insult. Alrighty.
Do I think Nashville inflated the crowd noise? Yep. Do I think the crowd noise has become a bigger story than the hockey? Yep. Do I hold it against Nashville fans or in any way downgrade a city coming to the sport? Hell no. Welcome aboard, glad to have you.
I’m a hockey guy. From the singing Canadiens fans to the controversy seeking Leafs faithful, to the jersey loyal Pens fans, I’ll talk hockey with anyone.
Every city goes bananas for a Stanley Cup run. The Penguins had over 50,000 people outside their building in the 2016 Cup Final, without Alan Jackson. Last year, as this year, that’s an irrelevant detail to the game.
I greatly wish Nashville would talk about HOCKEY.
Once upon a time, Carolina blew the roof off their joint in two Cup runs. But those fans never returned. They were sold winning and the party. They weren’t sold hockey. Consequently, that market may not survive another five years. Or two.
In the locker rooms, reporter after reporter only asked players about the crowd. It became a joke. They had access to one of the two best hockey teams in the world with the best player of this generation, a diverse roster, colorful characters, and smart schemes. And they only asked if the crowd was a factor. Such a missed opportunity.
Well, when the winning stops, the party dies down. Then what? That’s why legitimacy is important. Talk hockey. Stop worrying if your decibels eclipsed a college basketball game…because it doesn’t matter. If you make the crowd the lead story–someone is going to poke a hole in the details.
So Nashville, have at me. Sanctimonious tweeters who love a good pile-on, jump to it!
But for hockey fans and those who love the game like a clean sheet of ice at an early morning skate, let’s get to talking hockey. I’m always ready for that.