Penguins' Bylsma, Lightning's Boucher put their minds to work
At times, Game 1 of the playoff series against Tampa Bay seemed as cerebral as a knife fight.
More like a 60-minute experiment in social Darwinism than a sporting event.
Except that, even though the strongest might survive, they still would end the evening covered in ice bags.
And, while Game 2, set for 7:08 p.m. today at Consol Energy Center, likely will be contested with as much vigor and rancor as the opener, there's more to this series than high-impact checks and bad intentions.
There is an intellectual aspect, as the coaching staffs evaluate performances and assess strategies, looking for an edge -- maybe in a particular personnel matchup, perhaps in a tactic that exploits a soft spot in the opponent's game plan -- that could make a difference.
Game: Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
TV, radio, Internet: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9), penguins.nhl.com.
Series: Penguins lead, 1-0.
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Dwayne Roloson for Lightning.
Penguins: Are 13-8 in Game 2 after winning Game 1. ... Had 35 hits in Game 1. ... With five postseason shutouts, Fleury is one away from tying Tom Barrasso's club record.
Lightning: Were not shut out in last 12 games of regular season before 3-0 loss in Game 1. ... Had 44 hits in Game 1. ... RW Martin St. Louis had nine-game point streak snapped in Game 1.
Of note: Penguins RW Alex Kovalev has 99 career playoff points.
Might lead to the goal that would determine the outcome of a game. Perhaps a series.
Barring injury -- and word of those travels as quickly as a tortoise with bad hamstrings at this time of year -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma isn't likely to alter his lineup tonight because it produced a 3-0 victory in Game 1.
His Tampa Bay counterpart, Guy Boucher, seems inclined to tinker with his, and apparently is contemplating dressing seven defensemen and 11 forwards. No matter what he decides about that, Boucher said Thursday that the Penguins can expect to face some new forward combinations.
"There's always adjustments, and I do make adjustments against everybody," he said. "I'm certainly not going to share [the details] with the world, but we are making a few adjustments in personnel. I always do, from game to game. It's very rare that I keep the same lines."
One change both clubs will be hoping to make involves what goes on in front of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins, unhappy about how consistently Lightning forwards were able to get to the net Wednesday, are intent on reducing the number of bodies and pucks with which Fleury must contend.
"They throw a lot of pucks on the net, and we didn't do a great job of blocking them out and taking away their second opportunities," center Jordan Staal said. "[Fleury] was there to make the save. Hopefully, that won't have to happen every time in the next couple of games."
Tampa Bay, conversely, wants to capitalize on more of the second-chance opportunities they generate. Which is to say, at least one of them.
"We still have to create some traffic in front, but you want to make sure that you're ready to get those rebounds," left winger Simon Gagne said. "We had too many rebounds that went by us.
"[Fleury] is a really good goalie who will make the first save and make himself a lot bigger than most goalies in the league. He's going to make the first save. We know that, so we have to go in front of the net, put some traffic in front of him and look for those rebounds.
"Their [defensemen] did a great job in front of him to push us away. If you want to get those rebounds, you're going to have to pay the price. Right now, we're getting outbattled by the defensemen."
It helps the defense when those skirmishes are fought at even strength, and the Penguins' 6-1 edge in power plays was a significant factor in their Game 1 victory.
"The best penalty-kill is to not get a penalty," Penguins center Max Talbot said. "Being disciplined is huge for us, because we know their power play is really dangerous."
Boucher, while volunteering Thursday that the Lightning "deserved" the penalties it got in Game 1, noted that the Penguins were short-handed just once after being penalized more often than any team except the New York Islanders in the regular season.
"They're the most-penalized team in the league and they take one penalty," he said. "Either they're really smart about it or we're not smart about it."
Message sent. Whether it was received by the Game 2 officials remains to be seen.
Working the referees is not the final move in Boucher's coaching repertoire. Bylsma pointed out that there are technical wrinkles that could surface at any time.
"Going into [Game 1], we were aware of a couple of different things they could do and looking to see which aspects of breakouts or special-teams situations they would go with," he said.
"They still have the potential, based on what they've done over the 82 games, to make adjustments, and we have to be ready for some of those."
Which is why it's critical to bring an intellectual scalpel to a knife fight.
First Published April 15, 2011 12:00 am