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Penguins Report: Game Day at Tampa Bay (Game 4)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • The Pens are not revealing whether Tangradi or Comrie will play for Kunitz (12:46 PM).
  • Pens hold an optional morning skate (11:48 AM).
  • Mearsy’s reporting makes Dan Rather blush (2:35 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on Neal, physicality and 5-on-5 play (1:24 PM).
  • Orpik and Tangradi spit knowledge (12:48 PM).
  • Letestu and Rupp talk to PensTV (2:24 PM).
  • Pens practice (1:00 PM).
  • All In (4:27 PM).
  • PensTV in the house! (4:30 PM).
  • “Free with the style. I flow like the Nile…” (11:15 AM).

4:30 PM:
I want to give a quick shoutout to PensTV laborers Mike Davenport and James Archer. Both have made the trip to Tampa with me and have been a huge help with the videos from practice, behind-the-scenes footage and Steve Mears' daily sermon. You boys do great work and it's much appreciated.

Davenport action shot. I see you seeing me. And if you look closely at his media credential you'll see that Mike Davenport is All In.

4:27 PM:
Tampa Bay's marketing slogan this season is "All In." And you can't go five feet around St. Pete Times Forum without being reminded.

Rod Stewart is All In. John Mayer is All In.

Taylor Swift is All In. Tom Petty is All In.

Fergie is All In. Random WWII Pilot is All In. (Actually Trib's Rob Rossi believes this is Roger Waters from Pink Floyd. I admit that I'm clueless).

2:35 PM:
Steve Mears tells you everything you need to know about tonight's Game 4 matchup in his PensTV online update. Watch the video to see if he does the clip with a British accent.

2:24 PM:
PensTV chats with Letestu and Rupp:



1:24 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On if James Neal’s difficulty scoring goals is related to him not being 100 percent:
I don’t think his health is a factor in that situation. The last game, with him on the doorstep, where he has the one that hits the post and he has another one that is denied on the power play with Roloson’s pad – you can’t see it on our video – those are opportunities where he has been getting those chances and hasn’t been able to bury them. The history says he’s a streaky goal scorer, and he’s put himself in position to have those chances. He’s had good chances, but he hasn’t scored those goals. I was betting he was going to score last game, so I think he’s a guy who is on the verge of putting in goals for us.

On if this not a typical first-round playoff series due to the physical nature:
I think that’s the great thing about playoff hockey is right from the drop of the puck, you expect it to be very physical. The intensity level and the speed of the game is ramped up, (as is) the emotions of the game and the building. We saw here in Game 3 with the way this building was, it makes for more physical hockey. The toll of the payoffs is being able to deal with that and if you do get injuries, what you play with as a team. That’s always a storyline, and you’ve seen that in this series. It’s been a physical series. You play seven games, you hope to take a toll on the other team with your physicality as long as you’re playing within the way your team needs to play and within the structure and the discipline it needs to play in. That’s been a story pretty much of all three games.

On what the Penguins have been doing to cause the Lightning such problems in five-on-five play:
I don’t think the play has been lopsided in terms of us really being able to dominate five-on-five. They’ve made some adjustments and done some different things, as have we. Part of this series is teams being able to get to that part of the game. In Game 2, the Lightning got to that game sooner and we had to try and come back and play in the second period in Pittsburgh at our level, and we were able to do that. But it has been the ebb and flow of the games, and we were fortunate enough to hold onto our lead and then come back in Game 3. Now we’re going into Game 4 up 2-1, but we know the Lightning are going to be desperate. It’ll be a big atmosphere for Game 4.

On if this team has been better on carrying out that message than last year’s team:
I just think last year, dealing with the success of ’09 is a difficult thing to negotiate and maneuver through for everybody. That’s something that we dealt with last year, and it’s something completely different than what, as a team, we dealt with this year. Two years ago and last season, we felt like we were a good team and we felt like we knew what we needed to do, talked about it, knew it. But getting there was not something we did as well as we needed to do. And that urgency, whether it’s because we won the previous year, is completely different. So teams develop differently every year. That happens whether you’ve been successful or not or what you’re dealing with. This year, with some of the things we’ve had to go through, I think we’ve developed a better sense of what we need to do as a team to have success and that’s something we have to continue to try to do here as the playoffs and the series unfold, and as the games escalate.

On if that gives him a better feeling after three games in this series than Montreal last year:
From an outsider’s standpoint, I probably would feel that way. Inside it, we’re playing a good team, it’s been dangerous with their power play. In this series, we think we’re dealing with a real dangerous team, a real well-coached team and a team that plays a certain way. We’re happy to be up 2-1, but we know we’re a long ways before this thing is even close to being over and we’re going to have a battle on our hands tonight. So maybe from outside, but not from inside.

On Kris Letang bouncing back from Game 2 to Game 3:
I think Kris is somewhat indicative of our team a little bit. We weren’t as strongly focused in Game 2 on certain things. We got off our game fairly quickly for some reasons, and last game we were able to put some of those behind us and get back focused on playing the way we needed to play. Kris was certainly that way. One of the things I know Kris really talks about and really focuses on for our team is defending, and defending well. He knows he’s going to be playing against their good players, and they’re a handful and they can be really dangerous. That mindset, for Kris, has been really good for him when he’s going up against those types of situations in the regular season and especially in the playoffs. He got back to that last game – really defending and doing it both tough defending and position-wise – but also his ability to move the puck out of trouble. At times, he was really good with that last game.

On who will replace Kunitz and what it’s going to take to win this hockey game tonight for his team:
The lineup will stay a game-time decision. I still think that minimizing (their power-play chances) and staying focused and composed so we can play a five-on-five game is very important for our team. Our execution and puck management and dealing with Tampa Bay and some of the things they do is extremely important. Minimizing their times on the power play, I think, is going to be a factor in this series, and it’s a game-to-game thing. In Game 1, they got one opportunity. They’ve scored goals now in the last two games, that’s been a factor. But now Game 4 is a restart in terms of that and discipline-wise, staying out of the box. And then our penalty kill is going to have to come up against a hot power play right now and be a factor in Game 4 for sure.

Don't mistake the smile: Michelle Crechiolo

1:00 PM:
Pens practice pics...

The Pens balancing on a wall of pucks (left); Stretch it out (right)

Eric Tangradi (above) could play in his first career postseason game tonight. Or.......

...Mike Comrie (above) could play in his 33rd career postseason game tonight. Only God (and Bylsma) know for sure.

Got a little Captain in you? (left); "These eyes cry every night for you..." Orpik (right)

12:48 PM:
Sounds heard around the visitors locker room...

Brooks Orpik

On if he expects Tampa Bay to come out with desperation to avoiding going in a 3-1 hole:
Yeah, being down 3-1 and then going on the road, it’s obviously a tough task. I think that’s how we’re approaching it too. It’s a big opportunity for us to maybe put a stranglehold on them, especially going back home. But they’re in a desperate spot. I think they know that. They’ve got some veteran guys over there that have been in situations like this, so I think everyone in here knows we’ve got to expect their best.

On if they did anything different in Game 3 that the Penguins will have to adjust to for Game 4:
Yeah, even coming into the series and during the year, you see some of the systems they play and (Guy) Boucher, he makes adjustments that are kind of out of the box, like unique systems and changes that he makes. Last game, not so much – maybe there were a couple things where they changed a little bit, but nothing too drastic. I think he does more stuff in-game, though, rather than game-to-game. So he kind of forces you to make adjustments in-game, kind of on the fly. I think five-on-five, we’ve been pretty happy with the way we’ve played. It’s just special teams that have definitely hurt us in the first couple of games.

On if it’s easier to make in-game adjustments because there’s no time to think, just react:
It probably makes it a little bit harder. But I think especially in the playoffs, everyone is so focused in and stuff. We don’t have too many young guys; we’ve got a lot of experience in the room, so I think that makes it a little bit easier. I think with some younger guys, if you ask them to make adjustments in-game, it would kind of rattle them or maybe overwhelm them a little bit. I think guys here have the ability to kind of adjust a lot better.

Eric Tangradi

On being ready to play tonight if he gets the call:
As of now, I’ve skated in warmups in the first three games. It’s kind of still a game-time decision, but I’ve prepared to get ready to play every day and maybe that opportunity will come.

On watching the compete level on the ice and if he is trying to get himself mentally adjusted for his opportunity:
Yeah, absolutely. I think being up top and being able to watch the whole game (has helped) and (Chris Kunitz) is definitely somebody I watch the way he plays, because I think we have similar styles. I think going in, I’m just going to try to have fun, because if I play the way I’m capable of playing, I know that I’ll be alright out there.

On how tough it is from going to practices and morning skates to playing in the playoffs:
It’s been an interesting road to where I am right now. I’ve prepared off the ice in the gym and on the ice in some scenarios to get ready if an opportunity like this arose.

On if there are any serious nerves:
I get nerves every game. It feels like every time I’ve played so far, it’s like kind of a first-game feel. Being here opening night, then being sent down again and called back up and injured in the first game, I don’t think the nerves will go away for a while. So nerves are something that I’ll definitely have.

On if the way the Lightning has played is attractive compared to what his game could be:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the gray areas are an important emphasis in the game tonight, I think with my big frame, my big body, if I’m in there I think I could definitely benefit the team.

Came to give directions: Michelle Crechiolo

12:46 PM:
As expected in playoff time, the Pens were quiet about how the lineup will look tonight in Game 4 against the Lightning. Head coach Dan Bylsma said it will be a game-time decision on who will play in place of Kunitz. None of the players tipped their hands.

11:48 AM:
The Pens are holding an optional morning skate at St. Pete today. Those opting to rest for the morning are forwards Alex Kovalev, James Neal, Arron Asham, Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal and defensemen Zbynek Michalek, Kris Letang and Paul Martin.

11:15 AM:
Hello from Tampa Bay’s St. Pete Times Forum. We are a few hours away from puck drop in Game 4 of the Pens-Bolts. Game 4 is now the pivotal showdown in this series. After tonight the Pens with either a stranglehold on the series, or it will all even at 2-2.

The Pens will be playing without winger Chris Kunitz. Head coach Dan Bylsma said a few lineup options are inserting Eric Tangradi or Mike Comrie. We’ll see how the morning skate lines shake down.

On another note, one year ago yesterday hip hop legend G.U.R.U. (Gifted Unlimited Rhythms Universal) passed away after a battle with cancer. GURU and DJ Premier teamed up to form the group Gang Starr, one of the pioneers of hip hop.

I’ve always loved Gang Starr because their lyrics were much different than any other hip hop MCs of that era. The group always had a positive, upbeat tone and rapped about personal integrity and character. One of my favorite GURU lyrics is: “Instead of preaching death in our songs, we breathe life.”

Here is GURU’s song “Lifesaver.” It’s about rising above violence to forge a better world in the future. Some great lines: “Don’t bend to the mental strain. Against all odds, we must strive for essential gains. Be true to the life the Lord gave ya, and that’s a message from the Lifesaver” or “It’s takes a more intelligent man to squash a fight than to set one off.”


Put in work: Eric Goodman
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