What a series this has been, every time you would think Pittsburgh is ready to take over control of the series, Montreal comes storming back. Montreal deserves a great deal of respect as Jaroslav Halak is not the only reason why it has a chance for a Game Seven win against the Penguins.
How did the Canadiens make it to Game Seven?
They have played a tremendous system which has allowed them to effectively shut down the Penguins three key centermen (Crosby, Malkin, and Staal). The Canadiens have limited these three centers to only three goals in six games.
In playing this system they have Crosby showing the kind of reckless emotion he did in his rookie year. They have him frustrated he's nearly at his wit's end. Crosby will need to find a way to be a calming influence on his team in Game Seven.
Essentially the Canadiens are ignoring the Penguins wingers and are playing a frustrating man-to-man style against Crosby, Malkin and Staal. Much credit for this system has to be given to Montreal's assistant coach Kirk Muller who did the pre-scouting on the Penguins.
Much credit must also go to Mike Cammalleri whom has scored six goals thus far in the series, including one game-winning goal. Also, Maxim Lapierre has done a very effective job of getting under the Penguins skin throughout the series while also contributing two goals in the series, including the Game Six winning goal.
How do the Penguins beat the game plan the Canadiens have employed?
Throughout the series the Penguins have either received the same amount of power play opportunities or more opportunities than the Canadiens. They will need to take full advantage of these chances against Montreal shorthanded.
The Penguins should take a page out of Wayne Gretzky's book and utilize playing behind the Canadiens net more in both power play and even-strength situations. One man behind the net (Crosby, Malkin, or Staal), one man at the side of the net, and one man in front of the net creating traffic and ready to pop in a good rebound.
Also the Penguins defencemen have been successful in getting shots through from the point for goals. Playing behind the Canadiens net more will draw Montreal lower in their own zone, which will create more opportunities for the Penguins defence to fire a shot on net. It is essential that a Penguin player to be in front of the net to screen Halak and whack away at any rebounds.
Bill Guerin and Michael Rupp will be essential contributors standing in front of Halak, and Marc-Andre Fleury will once again need to provide the Penguins with the type of goaltending he gave them in Game Five.
Who will win Game Seven in Pittsburgh?
This is a tough call, but to this point in the series neither team has won two games in a row. I believe this trend will continue with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Penguins winning on home ice in Game Seven. Although it will be a close game, as only one game in the series thus far has been decided by more than a two goal spread.
The key to the Penguins winning is altering their game plan to counteract the style that Montreal is playing. Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato was quoted (paraphrased here) during Game Six on the CBC Hockey Night in Canada broadcast as saying that the Penguins do not need to worry about how the Canadiens are playing and must stick to their own game plan.
I am not an NHL coach or former player by any means, and with all due respect to Tony Granato, if the Penguins do not make adjustments based on the Canadiens game plan they can say hello to the golf course earlier this season.
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