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Penguins Report: Game Day at Tampa Bay

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Pens go with optional morning skate (11:48 AM).
  • Bolts opt morning skate, may make lineup change but stick with 7 D (11:30 AM).
  • Mearsy brings you the game day scoop on Game 6 (2:20 PM).
  • Coach Bylsma on lineup changes, Staal and his PK pride (1:30 PM).
  • Coach Boucher on scouting, the PP and trying to win at home (1:23 PM).
  • Staal, Rupp and Letang spit knowledge (12:58 PM).
  • Pens pics (1:04 PM).
  • Bolts pics (11:48 AM).
  • Ironmen (1:28 PM).
  • “It kills me not to know this but I’ve all but just forgotten what the color of her eyes were…” (10:30 AM).

2:20 PM:
Steve Mears brings you a game day edition of Penguins Insider from St. Pete Times Forum. He gives you the scoop on the teams' lineups, the current postseason trends and concludes the segment by saying, "Steve Mears Out."

1:30 PM:
Coachspeak with Dan Bylsma…

On if there will be any lineup changes he would consider sharing:
There are none that I would consider sharing with you in the meantime. It doesn’t rule (the possibility of line changes) out.

On if there needs to be better concentration defensively in Jordan Staal’s game to lead to more overall offensive production:
I think I like your assessment of Jordan’s game. When he’s playing his best and he seems to be able to add offense, I think he’s well aware of his role, his line’s role and the matchup that they’re getting on a nightly basis against Tampa Bay’s top players. That’s a big responsibility, to be good in both ends of the rink and to be able to add some offense. We’ve been able to do that as a team, not so much relying on Jordan for it. We’ve seen Jordan’s ability to add big games offensively at different times, but he knows going over the boards he’s got a lot of responsibility with how he plays the game with his line, on the PK and five-on-five.

On Tampa Bay staying at a hotel last night and he’s ever been a part of a situation like that or considers it extreme:
No, I have been a part of things like that as a player. Other teams in the past have done similar things and circumstances. He didn't go so far as to give the gate and the ticket revenue to us, did he? (Laughs) It’s still a home game for them.

On if their pride from having the No. 1 PK unit in the league has been crushed in this series:
That’s an interesting way to put it, your pride being hurt. But it’s something much different than that. We know we have dangerous players and (a dangerous) power play on the other team, we know what they’ve done in the regular season. Our focus is really, every time you step over the boards, it’s a game-to-game thing. It’s interesting how the storyline goes. They won last game; they got four power-play goals. It certainly was a big factor. But we know going into tonight that special teams is going to play a factor, and we’re going to hop over the boards with the confidence of what we need to do and how we’re going to do it to kill the penalties off and it will be a factor in tonight’s game. It could go the other way. That’s what our mentality’s got to be. We’ve got to do the job. We have to know where they’re dangerous and we have to do a better job than we have been doing, and not worry about looking at what the percentages are right now or where our pride is at when it comes to letting in a significant number of power-play goals.

On if the Lightning’s second PP unit have given them something else to look at with Marc-Andre Bergeron and Boucher saying he has four PP looks:
None of what we’ve seen from them is different than what they showed during the year. Their coaching staff has a lot of wrinkles in a lot of parts of their game. So to have four power-play breakouts, that’s something we know they’ve done and we know they’ve given different looks with different people. We’ve seen Marc back at the point for them before as well. We’ve seen that look. They have added a couple of faceoff plays in the game in that they’ve thrown a couple wrinkles at us, but we’re aware of that situation. There’s areas where we have to do a better job – we just haven’t been good enough. They’ve executed and have gotten faceoff goals, they got a rush goal last game on the power play, and they were effective in the set they were giving us as well.

On what’s behind the team scoring the first goal winning every game and if that’s surprising:
It’s a little surprising. Big goals are always big, the statistics and probabilities are always in favor of the team that scores first pretty heavily. I think over a short haul, you’ve seen it being 100 percent in these games. I think it is a big deal. I think the thing that’s even more evident is that there is an emotional response that’s gone with the first goals or getting successive goals that has happened in this series. You’ve seen that. They scored two in pretty short order last game; we had that in Game 1. That’s been something that I think is the response to a goal or the emotion going with the first goal and getting some momentum from that. That’s been something that you’ve seen in other series as well, and something we’re well aware of. It’s that emotional roller coaster from game to game and in the playoffs that has been somewhat of a story and will be a factor again tonight. We’re well aware of the response to shifts in momentum in the series and what that means for hopping over the boards and our matchups and our lines.

On what he does to try and get a positive response if Tampa scores first:
I think we’ve had some discussions about the situation. Certainly the line that goes over the boards is a line that’s aware of that situation as well. We’ve been good with that response. Last game, they did score on us. But it’s also something we’ve talked about where there’s other ways as well as a coach you can look to do something. Hopefully we don’t have that situation tonight.

I'm not the answer for the questions she still has: Michelle Crechiolo

1:28 PM:
Practice ironmen - athletic trainer Scott Adams (left) and asst. equipment manager Danny Kroll (right) are a staple on the bench at every team practice and skate. The two take in the morning skate at St. Pete Times Forum.

1:23 PM:
Coachspeak with Guy Boucher...

On if pre-scouting has been behind the Lightning’s special teams success or just adjusting throughout the series:
Well during the season, it’s been an adjustment all year. But during the playoffs, there’s certainly moments when you spend a lot of time looking at the power play and penalty kill. But it’s the players on the ice. They’re the ones doing the job. So we can have a great plan and they go out and execute it, or we have a really bad plan and they go out and execute something else and it works and we look like a genius. So I think it’s a mix of planning and executing. But you know that the other team is going to get prepared. So every game, when your opponent plans something, you plan something and we adjust as the game goes on. It’s been an adjustment from game to game. So I cant say we’ve found this great way of playing a different power play that nobody has figured out. We’ve done some good things on it. They’ve played a game here against us where they shut us down and won the game because of it, so they’re doing a great job on their penalty kill. Obviously today, as a staff, as a group, we’re hoping our plan is going to work. You don’t want to leave any stones unturned in any of these games, and I’m expecting the same from their team.

On if he’s found a second power-play unit as a result of putting (Marc-Andre) Bergeron out there:
Well, we haven’t found it, we’ve had it. It’s just that Bergeron wasn’t playing. So we knew that with Bergeron, that (our power play) becomes a major trend. When we’ve got Bergeron, we thought we’d put him on the first power play. That’s where he was supposed to be. But then he got injured and then (Eric) Brewer went on it and then we kind of changed a few things. But like I’ve said, we’ve given different looks to our power play, not only in this series but the entire year. We have four different setups that we like to do, and in the past, (we use one) depending on the game and the team and the type of the penalty kill that we see. We try to adjust to it. But yes, having different players on it does give you a different chemistry, and absolutely, (Bergeron) is a top-notch power play guy in this league. Last year, he was one of the top-two goal-scoring defensemen in the league. So him being healthy and being able to put him in the lineup last game, we were quite happy about that.

On if he is surprised that the team that’s scored first has won every game so far this series:
Surprised? I’m not really surprised by things, to be honest with you. I’m expecting everything to happen. But I’m not surprised. It’s not unique. We think that it happened before, and I think I saw it on TV that it’s like 83 or 85 percent of the teams that score the first goal win the games in the playoffs right now. Am I correct? I don’t know, you guys are better at that than I am. But it’s something like that. It was 83 point something the other day, so it might have changed the last few games. But I guess it does have an impact. But the reality is, like we told our players, we can’t change our game if the other team scores the first goal. Usually what I think happens is if you don’t score the first goal, it’s because you change your game. You either panic and the other team gets confidence, and you don’t react well. That’s our job, to react well, whether it’s us scoring or the opponent scoring the first goal. We have to be mature about developing the lead. I can’t believe that if the other team is going to score the first goal tonight, we can’t win the game. That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe in that. We were trailing by two in both games that we were here, and we came back and they scored in overtime and we could have scored in overtime. We talk about that now, but it seems to have been the trend now. Hopefully if we don't score the first goal, we can change that trend.

On if he feels any sense of responsibility to get a playoff win at home:
Well, I’d love to say yes. That’s how we felt the last two games we played here. It didn't work out for us. So I think right now, what is important is that it’s ice and boards. We’re not playing a game in another team’s building. We’re just going to try to play the way we know how to play and get away from the extra emotion. That certainly hasn't helped us the last two games here. It’s something where we don’t like our fans. The fans are cool, the fans are great and they’ve helped us all year long. But with a young team that’s asked to manage their emotions, we have to make sure that we don’t get overwhelmed again. I think that the game that we played in Pittsburgh – the second game – nobody got surprised with the white crowd and how crazy it was there. We felt just focused on the task. Same thing last time we were there. We haven’t felt that at home and that’s our job to do that, to be prepared. So we’ve got to be a lot calmer mentally and be a lot more calm about our game in the first period, which we haven’t had. They beat us basically in the first periods here at our rink, so we have to be better.

On being too calm in first period of Game 4 and being a little flat:
No, people think that when teams are flat when they’re not nervous. I found over the years that it’s usually the opposite. We freeze. We freeze in games here, we look flat because we’re actually too nervous. It’s something we figured out and talked about with a few players. A lot of guys didn't want to disappoint at home. They’re very well aware that there hasn't been a series won in six years here in this organization. The fans obviously were waiting for that big win in the playoffs, and so everybody cared so much, probably too much about it, and it took us away from our task. I went through that one time in juniors too, in the fifth game. The team hadn’t won in 30 years. Everybody kept talking about ‘That was the day, that was the day, that was the day,’ and everybody froze. We ended up winning the seventh game because we were a lot calmer. We want to make sure we can come on the ice intense, but mentally calm, because we know they’re going to come out (that way). That’s their trademark. They come out flying. They hit, they throw pucks on net, they get momentum and then their hearts are beating in their head. So we’re aware of that.

1:04 PM:
Pictures are worth 1,000 words, but I've added a few more anyway...

Roll call (left); Conner stealing sticks to sell on EBay (right)

Mark Letestu is lovin' it (left); Under this helmet is one tough mohawk (right)

Little known fact: Tangradi skates with his feet sideways. Unfortunately that limits his ability to skate forward and backward (left); Letang, enough said (right)

Right leg, stretch! (left); Brent Johnson got the memo to: Wear Your White. Note: he's psyching out the Lightning by doing it on the road (right)

Roommates Fleury and Talbot. Can you tell which one is which?

Conner jumps into ludicrous speed, he's going plaid (left); Tainted Love(joy) - (right)

Danny Kroll pokes his head in while Johnson hydrates (left); Tangradi's attempt at skating upstream

12:58 PM:
Sounds heard around the visitors locker room…

Jordan Staal

On why the team that has scored first has won every time in this series:
I’m not sure. Obviously yeah, we know it’s important and you want get that first one and get that momentum and keep pushing. (There’s) two good goaltenders that are able to close the door, so you want to get that first one and hopefully you’re sitting pretty after that.

On what are some of the keys to bouncing back:
Just keep sticking with it and doing the things we did like the way we played here in Tampa in the games we’ve played. (We’ve got to keep) sticking with the system, doing the things that we know how to win games and I think we’ll be fine.

On if there is such a thing as momentum or that each game has a life of its own:
I think it’s each game. Obviously they have a big game back in Pitt, but we want to rebound off of that and make it our best effort tonight. Every game is a new game and a new day, and we’re excited to see what we can do in this building.

On how they block out the crowd:
It’s different on the road. It’s 20 guys against thousands of people. It’s a challenge and it’s exciting for a team, especially for us. We’re excited for that challenge.

On the Lighting’s goals in Game 5 being off bang-bang plays and if that’s something they’re doing differently or just missed defensively:
It’s both. They throw a lot of stuff on net and we’ve got to be more aware of where their guys are. Being strong in front and taking away the second chances that they’re getting. And again, it’s both things, they’re doing a good job; but we’ve got to do a better job of stopping them.

On him having big games late in series and if there is another level he reaches mentally:
I don’t know, I think it’s towards the end of the series where you know you don’t want to lose and you don’t want to end your season. So it’s bigger games and there’s more on the line, I think, and hopefully I can play well enough to get this one tonight.

Mike Rupp

On if the team is happy to be back on the road due to their success there:
Yeah, I mean that a lot of attention is paid to the road success this year for all of the series, but I think if you were to look at it all, those are just rebound games from a prior loss. I think it’s just that all the teams in the playoffs have character and fight in them, or they wouldn't be in the playoffs. So we anticipate rebounding the same way and it should be a good one.

On if they think as their 24 regular-season road wins as a relaxing factor:
It doesn't faze us playing on the road. I enjoy playing on the road. It’s an opportunity – there’s not many things in life where you have an opportunity to make a lot of people upset. So it’s a challenge. You accept that as a challenge and you go in there and you play your game and get them off theirs.

On what it is about Arron Asham’s game that works in the playoffs:
I think one of the biggest things for our line has been pursuing the puck and when you’re in the offensive zone, and say we get a shot and the puck goes in the corner and they get it, we’re right on them to force a turnover and get it back. When you can have success getting two, three touches in zone, stuff’s going to happen. And Arron’s a big reason for our success on our line by moving his feet, getting in there and playing physical. It’s proven to give us more chances than one in the offensive zone.

On what his playoff experience tells him:
Momentum’s a big thing, and it’s something that you try to get any way you can. It’s the little plays. It’s the guy blocking a shot, it’s a hard backcheck – just little things where you know that a guy is all in and he’s ready to go. We need to do those little things tonight.

Kris Letang

On what they can take out of Game 5 to help them tonight:
Obviously our start was really good. We had a strong start, we put the puck at the net and it hit the post right away. In like 30 seconds, the game changed. But there’s things to learn from that game, and obviously keeping our cool and make sure we’re focused and composed in the game.

On the road team having success and if that means anything to them:
No, it doesn’t mean anything to anyone. I think the team that’s played on the road has had success in the playoffs so far, but they’re at the limit of the series. If they lose, they’re going home. So they’re going to bring their best, and I think that’s what we should expect and they should expect our best too.

On what they’ve addressed at practice over the last couple of days:
Shooting the puck. I think it was just a question of staying focused in our game. When we got off our game, we’re not focused anymore after being down 4-0. I think it’s just a question of keeping our cool.

On some of the Lightning players getting on the scoresheet for the first time in Game 5 and if they’re doing anything differently:
No, I mean, obviously their power play played really well out there. I think (Steven) Stamkos scored two goals and got a little of his confidence back. I think for us, I don’t know – it’s just to forget about that game and move on.

On if there is such a thing as momentum or that each game has a life of its own:
I think in the playoffs, you bounce back. I think every time you win a game, you should expect the opposite thing to come way harder. I think it’s been the same way in the playoffs so far. All the teams have kind of exchanged wins. I think we should expect them to come hard at home, but I think we’re going to be a totally different team.

Wants to save me while there's something left to save: Michelle Crechiolo

11:48 AM:
The Pens have also decided to hold an optional morning skate. The players not on the ice for Pittsburgh are Martin, Orpik, Kovalev, Neal, Crosby, Asham, Dupuis and Kunitz.

11:35 AM:
Pics of the Bolts who opted to skate...

Snow angel save (left)

Apple cider break! (left); Goalies talking about their life ambitions (right)

You make a better door than window (right)

11:30 AM:
As they have during the playoffs, the Bolts had an optional morning skate. Only a few players participated. Following head coach Guy Boucher said there is one possible lineup change. He said the team was looking at changing one player, but they would still dress seven defensemen.

10:30 AM:
The Pens are back in Tampa Bay for a Game 6 showdown with the Lightning tonight at St. Pete Times Forum. Pittsburgh, which has a 3-2 series edge, will be trying finish this series with a victory and advance to the next round.

Despite an 8-2 loss in Game 5, the Pens have a history of following a tough setback with a strong performance in the next game - particularly since Dan Bylsma has arrived as head coach. The Pens are hoping to tap into some of that magic this evening against the Bolts.

For today's music selection, we'll open with Rise Against "Savior." The song is filled with pretty powerful lyrics - even if they are kind of cryptic with hidden meanings (and over-the-top metaphors). The seriousness of the song is underplayed in the video though - which stars the band and a bunch of costumed animals.

The video features the animals (shark, lion, frog, chicken, tiger and bear) moshing at a concert, a polar bear utilyzing the public transportation system and riding a bus, three homeless bunnies, and Rise Against rockin' out hard. It is a comical video, but the song is ridicul-awesome.

Anyways, enjoy.

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