2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 3 Conference Finals so far
We have a mixed bag of NHL Stanley Cup Conference Finals. The Lightning vs Penguins has been really weird but highly entertaining. The Sharks vs the Blues is, pretty much, not heading in the right direction as far as competitiveness goes.
M2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. A2 Tampa Bay Lightning
What we learned: This series is all about momentum and it doesn’t last for long.
Game 1: Great chances at the beginning of the game by both teams. Great penalty killing by the Lightning but bad way for them to start with injuries to Ben Bishop and Tyler Johnson. Great power play goal by Ondrej Palat. Penguins were unable to generate any offensive chances towards the end of the game. Just terrible defense by Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin on the 3rd Lightning goal. Overall bad defense by the Penguins and unable to generate decent scoring changes unless on the powerplay. Great goaltending overall by Andrei Vasilevsky who came into a tough situation.
Game 2: Bad defense by the Lightning and Ondrej Palat on 1st Penguins goal.
A general terrible start by the Lightning but they rebounded well. Great pass by Jonathan Drouin if Palat only would have had his stick on the ice. What a glove save robbing by Vasilevsky on Sidney Crosby at the end of the 2nd. Lots of great scoring chances in the 3rd by both teams. Crosby scoring game winner is good for the Penguins but bad for the Lightning. Bad job of Anton Stralman getting caught on the game winner. Didn’t dig the really short overtime. Overall lots of momentum changes in the game and no penalties after the 1st period.
Game 3: Great defense from behind by Alex Killorn to stop the Penguins. A lot of great chances by the Penguins in the 1st period but even better saves by Vasilevsky. Great job by Patric Hornqvist without a stick breaking up the Lightning pass and stealing the puck. Not a lot of quality scoring chances in the 2nd and a really crappy way to end the period for the Lightning by giving up that goal in the final seconds. Although some passes were hard, the Lightning would have had much better chances if their passing was crisper. No idea what Stralman was doing on 2nd Penguins goal. Besides the Tyler Johnson goal, it was an extremely crappy 3rd period by the Lightning, especially defensively.
Game 4: Great start to the game and great checking by the Lightning to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Great saves by Matt Murray. Not a lot of scoring chances for the Penguins early. Nice defense from behind to stop Sidney Crosby at end of 1st.
Evgeni Malkin got clocked twice really good when he had the puck, not good from his point of view. Lightning just out-hustling the Penguins overall and having much better scoring chances. Penguins powerplay was pretty lackluster. Bad no call on the high stick during the 4 min powerplay but great defense by Drouin when it went the other way. Penguins finally wake up and then score some pretty goals in the 3rd. Lightning fall apart at the end, again, but manage to hold on for the win.
Likely Winner: So what does the above all mean? Mostly that momentum plays an important part in these games. The momentum switches from game to game and back and forth during the game, wildly. Which is pretty rare. The momentum doesn’t seem to carry over to the next game, however. As each one is pretty clean slate. It’s good for the Penguins that Malkin finally scored because his game has really tanked lately. The overtime winner helped get Crosby going so this might help Malkin too. Matt Murray has played pretty well overall but he seemed shaky on some of the goals in previous games. He’s very beatable up high or just under his glove hand. None of the Game 4 goals were his fault but I’d be surprised if he started Game 5. The Penguins responded well to Marc-Andre Fleury coming in as they have always really liked him. Part of it was also the Lightning taking their foot of the gas. One Penguin said, when Fleury was struggling a few years back, “It all starts with Flower.” He’s also been there 10 years and won a Stanley cup so that helps too. Drouin has really impressed me overall and he will be a star even if he doesn’t stay in Tampa. I hate to say the winner of Game 5 will probably win the series but it’s more than likely true. These games are so odd it’s hard to say who would win Game 5. Neither of these teams can play consistently. Losing Trevor Daley is also going to hurt an already bad defense for the Penguins. My original pick is the Lightning and I’d like to stay with that, mostly because their players are somewhat more consistent. And I do stress the word somewhat. Having said that, with Game 5 being in Pittsburgh, and Fleury more than likely starting, you have to give the edge to Pittsburgh. Since the Penguins have home ice it’s easiest to pick them. But I’m going to stay with my pick of Lightning in seven. Should be a really fun to watch the last few games.
C2 St. Louis Blues vs. W3 San Jose Sharks
What we learned: Those Blues teams from previous playoff failures have returned.
Game 1: Bad turnovers by Brent burns in the beginning but it didn’t matter. Good no goal call on the interference. Good answer by the Sharks right after the Blues powerplay goal. Terrible turnover by Burns, this one did matter, and even worse giving up the goal by Martin Jones, even if it was tipped. Another turnover in the 2nd by Burns that lead to a goal. Way too early on the whistle when Brian Elliott clearly didn’t cover it. Sharks powerplay unable to generate much chances. Many terrible 2 on 1’s for the Blues. Overall Sharks dominated but didn’t get the puck in the net. Good goaltending by Elliott.
Game 2: Great save at start of game by Martin Jones on Vladimir Tarasenko. Bad goal but great puck movement on the first Sharks goal. Great offensive pressure in 2nd period by the Sharks. A couple of mistakes that could have ended up worse for the Sharks. Really bad 4 minute powerplay by the Blues. Overall, probably one of the worst games the Blues have played. And when they were good, Jones was better.
Game 3: Great saves by Martin Jones even though they weren’t the hardest chances. Great one timers/slapshots by the Sharks on their goals. I liked that the Blues pulled the goalie with five minutes to go to try and start something offensively. Yup, that’s really all the notes I had as you could tell the game was already over early, even though the score wasn’t that bad. Realistically, it should have been like 6-0. The game felt even when the Blues pulled their goalie. That’s how I sad it was. I said Game 2 was one of the worst games I’ve ever seen a team play but Game 3 was pretty much on par or even worse for the Blues.
Likely Winner: There is no real in depth analysis for this series. The Sharks are like 1000 times better. If you think the Blues can win this series, you’re crazy. The Sharks should be going for the sweep tonight but they just narrowly lost Game 1. The Blues won’t win in San Jose but the effort they put forth tonight will determine if they can win Game 5 at home or not. Changing the goalie to Jake Allen is a slap in the face to Elliott, who continually gets treated like garbage in St. Louis. If I was him, I’d leave. Allen isn’t Fluery so nothing will happen in response to the goalie change. He hasn’t even been that great in the few playoffs games he has played in. In fact I think Allen will be pretty bad in net, considering what he is up against. Sharks in five, unless the Blues want to end the season somewhat respectable. In which case, Sharks in six.
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.