Oh how times have changed, and quickly.
I'll let my colleagues break down the ugliness of Game Six, but allow me to jot down some completely unofficial and generally worthless thoughts as we count down the hours before Game Seven:
- Put Leroy Gibbons back up to the first line with Crosby and Kunitz. The kid doesn't have the greatest hands of all time, but that little bastard can fly and is more than willing to fight for loose pucks along the boards, hopefully allowing him to dish it to either 87 or 14 for an actual, wait for it, shot on goal!
- With Gibbons on the 1st line, get Geno back where he belongs, on the 2nd line with James Neal and Jussi Jokinen. Not only does it spread out the center wealth, but more importantly, it may actually result in Neal not looking like a lost puppy out there without Malkin.
- Craig Adams is an absolute shell of himself nowadays. He's no spring chicken anymore, just turning 37. But the problem is now that his forte, what has buttered his bread, that being his penalty killing, has started to break down. His mobility is certainly not what it once was, it's noticeable, and that's unfortunate. Adams, in my view, scored one of the biggest goals in recent Pens history, when he scored right after Sid in '09 Game 7 at the Phone Booth against the Caps. The Pens have him signed for one more year at a modest salary, but I'm not sure if Adams survives this offseason. But we might end up saying that for a LOT of Penguins this offseason.
- Oh, Marc-Andre. You were SO DAMN GOOD earlier this series. We'll need your best on Tuesday night, mon ami. Simply can't have any backhanded floating ducks to get past you this time. Be steady in goal, and hopefully your teammates will support you in front.
- Although the beat writers have indicated that Sidney Crosby is not injured, I'm still interested just what the hell is going on with Sid. Just what is going on with the timidity in the offensive zone. Just what is going on with the passiveness. Just what is going on with the painful forcing of passes, while of course not shooting. Of course, all of that is mere speculation on my part, but I don't think it's outlandish to suggest that the post-concussion, post-neck injury, post-jaw break and post-multiple tooth loss may have made Sid a much more timid player overall. But hey, you say, he won the scoring title for Christ sakes! Well I know, I know! At this point, if and when the Pens get eliminated, a part of me is hoping for a groin injury, or something along those lines. Because if this is the Sidney Crosby we get in the playoffs every year, perhaps we as fans need to recalibrate the expectations we have to realistically challenge for the Cup every year.
- God, what would we give in Game Seven to see a harmless looking wrister on the power play from the point, where it gets pinballed around and eventually gets poked in the net by Kunitz, or anyone else for that matter. C'mon guys, you aren't getting bonus points for creativity. Throw the damn puck on net and take your chances.
- I really think now that if the Penguins lose this game, fair or not, Dan Bylsma will be fired. You may not agree with that opinion, that's cool. But recent beat writer reports indicate that the ownership is not happy at all with this team. And unfortunately, a lot of times, the firing of the coach is the opening salvo to a summer of change. I do also think, however, that if the Pens win this game and head to the Conference Finals again, Bylsma retains his job.
- As I mentioned on Twitter last night (please follow @TheConfluence, would ya?), I think we're gonna know what Penguins team has shown up no later than five minutes into the game. If the Penguins come out flat yet again, and if you follow this team you know this team has come out flat in Game Seven's at home before, it could be 1-0 or 2-0 before the first TV timeout. And if that happens, it could get ugly.
- But on the opposite side of the fence, the Penguins could very well come out flying, and let's hope they do. However, one aspect of the Pens' play even when they come out flying is the continued hotdogging of their passes. So just hope that the Penguins come out fired up, but not so much that
Meadowlark, I mean Evgeni Malkin, doesn't throw one of those blind, backhanded saucer passes right to Mats Zuccarello for an odd-man rush the other way.
- Man oh man, the first goal of the game is going to be frickin' HUGE tomorrow night. The Pens score = the crowd goes nuts as they lose what's inevitably going to be apprehension and anxiety. But if the Rangers score first = Uh oh.
- As has been talked about on most 'Burgh sports shows today, I'd sit Beau Bennett tomorrow night. He's still quite young, but dude's gonna have to beef up his game. Is Tanner Glass the optimum replacement? Probably not, but it will be nice, if Glass does suit up, to finally see some Rangers getting smashed against the glass for a change.
- And lastly, the crowd. I remember last season, my son and I road tripped it from here in VA Beach to the 'Burgh to watch Game Five in the Isles series, with it tied 2-2. I can remember the crowd being on the edge of their seats, you could feel how tense everyone was. But then good 'ol Tyler Kennedy scored on that breakaway, and everyone let out a collective sigh that you could honestly feel. I'm sure the crowd will be pumped leading up to faceoff, but it will be interesting to hear/see how they react as the game goes along. Will the boo birds come out if the Pens give up the first goal? Or how about the first two goals? If the Pens' power play continues to suck? I'm not the ultimate authority on Penguins crowds compared to, say, a season ticket holder. I simply can't go to that many games every year. But man, the Penguins' faithful have a chance to be a factor tomorrow night. Here's hoping to see and hear a roaring crowd.
So there ya go. Prediction? I'll save that until tomorrow before the game.
Let's Go Pens.