While going through audio for this week, I heard Brian Metzer and Michelle Crechiolo talking about all the hours that went into the Penguins Round 1 Playoff Media Guide. If you haven't already done so, check it out. 200+ pages of all kinds of Pens info, and it's not just page after page of text either. They put a lot of infographics into it as well, so if you don't like to read stuff without pictures, there's still something for you in there.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Have nothing to do tonight? Here's the <a href="https://twitter.com/penguins">@penguins</a> Round 1 Playoff Media Guide to get you ready for the series <a href="http://t.co/CiguVXkIy0">http://t.co/CiguVXkIy0</a></p>— Penguins PR (@PensPRLady) <a href="https://twitter.com/PensPRLady/status/587414084976582656">April 13, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
April 16, Penguins Live
Dejan Kovacevic drives home exactly what the Penguins are trying to overcome: "They're missing three defensemen. They're missing three guys, Metz, that if this were the opener, would be starting on their blueline. You're talking about Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, and Olli Maatta. That's half of your defense. That's asking an awful lot of any team, I don't care who you are."
People have become numb to all the injuries the Pens have had to endure, so I felt like this was worth repeating. And it's not only that they're missing half their defense, it's three of their top four. That's insane. This is also a big part of how important Ian Cole has become. For the most part, he's done a remarkable job with the increased workload. I was a bigger fan or Robert Bortuzzo than most, but that trade's been a huge boon to the Penguins.
Metzer and Kovacevic talked about David Perron and his struggles of late. Metzer: "One of those guys that has got to do an awful lot more in a hurry in my mind in David Perron. He has just 2 goals going back to March 12 I think and this is a guy you gave up a first round draft pick for, he plays with one of your big 2 all the time. Is it just him over-thinking now? Because he doesn't one-time the puck any more, he stops and thinks, trying to pick corners and he's missing the net... what can they do to get that turned around, convince him to start shooting off the one timer?"
Kovacevic replied: "What concerns me about Perron is for a while there he was getting a lot of really good chances, but not burying them, but then the chances went away. That's when you start getting really concerned. He had a few chances in the Buffalo game, but that's against the Sabres so you can pretty much throw that one out. And even when he did have chances, he was basically hitting Anders Lindback right between the buffalo's mouth. I talked to him this morning and I asked him a general question about wingers needing to step up and he, to his credit, turned the question into one that was directly about 'I'm the one that needs to step up, I get that. I understand that.' He's a good, smart kid who may be beating himself up a little bit lately, but he has to get back to that level he first showed when he came in that trade from Edmonton. We talk about scenarios in which the Penguins could win this series. That's one, where you have one winger - and I'm talking about one. I don't think that's asking a lot - who elevates his game a little bit with some opportunities. Perron is there on a line taking a regular shift with Evgeni Malkin. He's going to be part of the first team power play. He's getting an opportunity. He has a chance to step up, so let's see it."
Maybe Perron is just snakebit and he's gripping the stick too tight. Maybe he's fighting through some kind of injury. Maybe it's a bit of both. Getting something out of him would be a huge plus for the Pens, especially if Chris Kunitz' game 2 performance wasn't a one-off. One thing to keep in mind about Perron, regardless of what happens the rest of the way though: James Neal didn't light the league on fire when he first got here, and he ended up working out pretty well for a while. Perron is a talented, hard-working player with a good head on his shoulders. He was a good add and should be a good Penguin going forward.
April 16, Penguins Hotline
After losing game 1, Stan Savran joined the postgame show and talked about belief: "I worried about their belief. When they went through the month they went through, how can they possibly be confident? This is the one sport where everyone has to believe, I mean really believe, you can win. You can't win without it. And I'm thinking just being human beings after going 4-9-2, how can they believe? They way they responded, I think if anything good comes out of this, it is they now believe they can play with these guys. They believe they can compete with them. I think they might have been a little bit in awe of them, maybe awe isn't the right word, but they knew the Rangers were the number one seed, they knew they were the eighth, they struggled to get in, but maybe the last 30-35 minutes gave them the idea they can play with these people, and that may be a very significant step forward."
Bob Grove added: "Whatever belief might start to get restored from the 2nd and 3rd periods, the thing that will take that belief and take it to another level is when somebody starts scoring some goals. They can't do it with this kind of production from Crosby and Malkin."
A little bit of foreshadowing from Savran and Grove. Belief can be a very powerful thing. There are plenty of examples where a good team is playing a lesser one, and the longer the bad team hangs around, the better they play. Often times, the lesser team pulls off an upset because of it. Hopefully, we're on the verge of seeing that dynamic play out over the course of a series.
April 17, Penguins Live
Brian Metzer on attacking Henrik Lundqvist: "I think getting some traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist is a big ticket item as well because he seemingly hates that. He does not like traffic. You saw it with Max Lapierre last night. The moment he got in his cage a little bit, he's going right to the official, and when he's barking at the official, he's not stopping pucks."
Sean Leahy continued: "Anytime you can get traffic in front of a goalie, no matter how good they are, if they can't see the puck, it's going to be pretty tough for them to stop it. If you can create that traffic in front of the net where the goalie becomes cognizant of it and as they're setting up to make a save, but in the other side of their head, they're thinking 'there's this guy in the crease, I gotta look around him, or I gotta be aware of him pushing in a rebound' that could help. The more shot attempts you can create, the more traffic you can get in front of a guy like Henrik Lundqvist, the more successful you're gonna be. This time of year, it doesn't matter how pretty the goals are, as long as they go in."
No goalie likes traffic, but it does seem like Lundqvist is bothered by it more than most. For all the bad press Marc-Andre Fleury takes about supposedly getting rattled, you don't see him barking at the officials much. If someone gets within a stick of Lundqvist, he has something to say. Hopefully, Patrick Hornqvist continues to get into his face and Kunitz, Perron, Steve Downie and others follow suit.
April 19, Penguins Hotline
Savran on the Rangers possibly being overconfident: "It's premature to think that the Penguins are favored in the series [now], even though they have home ice advantage at this point. You still have to give the Rangers their due. But I also wonder if the Rangers maybe came in and said 'Look at these Penguins, 4-9-2 the last 15 games, We won game 1. We don't think it was out best effort.' Maybe they have taken the Penguins for granted. At the very least I'm sure they realize, as frankly all of us should, there's a series now. The Rangers have a series on their hands."
Savran continued: "And now, not that they should be overly confident, but I think they believe. I think that they believe that if they're not the better team, that they have played the best in these first two games."
No one would blame the Rangers for taking the Penguins lightly coming in. None of them would ever say it out loud, but they dominated the regular season series. They were the regular season champs and the top seed. The Pens limped down the stretch, basically backed into the playoffs, and were the 8 seed. Almost no one was picking the Pens to win, and most didn't even think the series would last long. The Pens would never say it out loud, but some of them may have even been thinking the same way. Two games in, and things are a little different. As a road team, all you want in the first two games is a split and the Pens not only got that, I don't think it's a stretch to say the Pens have had the better of the play thus far.
Now none of that guarantees anything for the Pens going forward. The Rangers are likely to come out strong tonight and the Pens will need to be ready for that. Like I said though, belief can be a very powerful thing, and the Pens believe now.