Pittsburgh Won't Win Game Seven, Unless...

Chris MillerCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

WASHINGTON - MAY 09:  Boyd Gordon #15 of the Washington Capitals tries to stuff a shot on goal between Brooks Orpik #44 and Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 9, 2009 at the Verizon Center in Washington,  DC.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Wednesday is coming.

And for one team, the pursuit ends here.

For Pittsburgh to win once again on the road in Washington, they will have to play a nearly flawless game. And by flawless, that means some of the slackers must step up their game.

Hal Gill played not only a sub par game, but could be blamed for both of the third period goals scored by Washington. He has been paired up with a mammoth on the blue-line, Rob Scuderi, who has excelled in this series.

Unfortunately, Gill has weakened the effectiveness of Scuderi.

Washington is targeting Gill when he is on the ice, and his lack of mobility is costing Pittsburgh. His minus-2 statistic is deceiving. While Gill has played above average during the playoffs, Washington is beginning to figure him out.

Gill hasn't shown the physical aspect of what contributes to a winning effort. In Game Six, Ovechkin flattened the tall defenseman, and with that should've came a wake up call.

Gill, unfortunately, slept through the rest of the game.

Another player who has smacked the snooze button throughout this series is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, allowing three or more goals in all but one game this series.

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Fleury allowed three or more goals only three times in six games in the opening round series against Philadelphia.

You could argue that Washington brings more offense to the table than Philadelphia, but realize Philadelphia's resume included SIX players with 30 or more goals. The Flyers presented a dynamic offense, and Fluery stole games.

Fluery has yet to steal anything against Washington.

Pittsburgh's offense did their job in Game Six, outshooting Washington 42-24, scoring twice on the power play, and tallying four goals on the night.

With an experienced playoff goaltender between the pipes, four goals should be enough to get the job done.

It wasn't.

For Pittsburgh to win Game Seven, they'll need a dominant performance from Fleury, something he hasn't contributed to in the series thus far. Varlamov has outplayed Fluery in this series, arguably stealing the first two games.

It's time for Fluery to steal one for himself.

Finally, it's time to sit Alex Goligoski.

It's unfortunate Sergei Gonchar went down with an injury, but experience matters in the playoffs, and Pittsburgh shouldn't shoulder enormous pressure on a rookie who's in position to make-or-break the team. 

He has been descent in two games, but with so much on the line, Pittsburgh needs to defer back to dressing six defenseman, with Philippe Boucher getting the final spot on defense.

Boucher hasn't seen much ice time since he was brought over to the team from the Dallas Stars, partially due to injury, and partially due to depth at the defensive position.  Boucher, though, has a rocket shot and a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

Boucher also has enormous success against Washington, with seven points in 14 games in his career against the Capitals to go along with a plus-9 rating.

When it comes down to it, Boucher earns the spot over Goligoski, and hopefully the Penguins sense that.

The final adjustment to winning Game Seven must be keeping the lines together.  In Game Six, coach Dan Bylsma chose to mix and match during the game, putting Miroslav Satan on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko. Chris Kunitz moved to the third line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.  Sidney Crosby played with just about everyone.

Consistency works.

The lines had clicked in the three wins Pittsburgh registered prior to Game Six.  For some reason, Bylsma elected to create different line combinations during the course of the game.  For the most part, it was ineffective.

When Bylsma began the mix-and-match concept in the second period, the Penguins registered seven shots on goal, and for the most part, Washington controlled the pace.

For Dan Bylsma, it's time for the top three lines to rejoin each other, find the chemistry, and control the game.

Max Talbot brought new life to the second line with his speed and physical play, creating opportunities and scoring at important moments.

In Game Six, the much slower, less physical Satan played on the second line.

It didn't look pretty.

So with the above adjustments, and with these few critiques, a recipe for success is born.

And in this recipe, a combination of ingredients that, if followed correctly, will give Pittsburgh a Game Seven victory.

And for desert, the Eastern Conference Finals.

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