Everything Else

Watch The Weather Change

If you’re a fan of watching storylines change on a nightly basis and watching teams try and counter one another, this is a series for you. And yet it feels like when each of these teams plays its best, or the best it has in this series, they lose.

The Penguins probably played their best game of the Final last night. They figured out something that the Hawks only figured out far too late, the Blues simply aren’t capable of, and the Ducks are too stupid. They didn’t have any forwards fleeing the zone, coming deeper in the defensive zone on breakouts to try and relieve the pressure, and break up the ice as a five-man unit. It’s really the only way to deal with the Preds’ pressure. You have to be an outlet for the defense under their ridiculous forecheck and then you need options coming through the neutral zone with the Nashville d-men standing up at their line and the forwards closing in from behind.

The Penguins did it, caused the Preds more problems than they’d seen, and got the equalizer from Crosby after forcing the Preds into a shoddy line-change after sustained pressure.

But there’s a problem with that…

Having your forwards come so deep and break as a team is pretty exhausting. There’s a reason teams can’t do it for a full game. It’s like picking up full-court in basketball, You can’t successfully do it all the time, and any turnovers take place deep in your zone instead of out beyond the line, which is a real problem. And when you need pinpoint passing from your d-men to the forwards, even if it’s just 10-15 feet, when it’s Daley and Maatta and Hainsey you’re counting on to make them under severe pressure, that’s not going to work out in your favor too often.

It also hasn’t helped the Penguins that Matt Murray and Pekka Rinne have apparently gone Freaky Friday. Not that Rinne has looked particularly good the past two games, he’s just made his Bernie-lean/Gangham Style methods work by flinging himself in front of things even if he’s facing the wrong way, which he often has.

Hey, there’s been something strange about Murray’s goals against the past two games. Let’s take a look here. Starting with Jose in Game 3…

And now Gaudreau in Game 3 soon after…

And now Neal in Game 3…

And still in Game 3, may I present Craig Smith’s breakaway…

Let’s move to Game 4 and Arivdsson’s breakaway..

I haven’t even included Jarnkrok’s rebound goal to the same side. But what’s the common theme here? Not getting it? Let me give you a hint. Cast your mind back to Game 4 in 2013. Warmer now? Yep, these are all glove-side, aren’t they? And yet I don’t recall a Pierre McGuire highlight package tearing down Matt Murray’s glove, do you? Hmmm. And this is over two games, isn’t it? Why yes, I am still bitter about McGuire costing Corey Crawford his Conn Smythe that instead went to Garbage Dick who had exactly two great games in all the playoffs. Why do you ask?

It feels like this series is a race to whose injuries can cost their team more. Will missing Letang cost the Penghins more before the loss of Johansen costs the Predators? It looked like it wouldn’t in Games 1 and 2. It looked like it sure will the past two games.

Getting back home will make a big difference, as Mike Sullivan has been able to finagle last-change on icings to get Crosby or Malkin out against Weber and Irwin and get his team a big goal or two. When Murray was playing as well as he was in the series’ opening two games, those one or two goals are all the difference.

At some point, if the Penguins can continue to ramp up the pressure they get, they’re going to discover that moving Rinne side-to-side is opening up huge swaths of net. That’s what I’ll be watching on Thursday.

Well, actually that’s not true. I’ll be watching Tool on Thursday. But you watch for that.