Former Pen Scuderi breaks down Round 2
He was "The Piece" for the Penguins on their Stanley Cup run last spring. However, shutdown defenseman extraordinaire Rob Scuderi plays his hockey in Los Angeles these days. Only days removed from the Kings' first-round loss to Vancouver and scheduled for hernia surgery today, Scuderi provided the Tribune-Review his assessment of the second-round series between the Penguins and Montreal Canadiens:
THE PENS WIN IF ...
"They must press the play. If Montreal is playing defense for three quarters of the game — that wears on you over a series because you can only take so much bombardment in the defensive zone before that takes its toll.
"(Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) can stick-handle in tight areas, so I don't think Montreal's great stick work in the defensive zone will work as well as it did against Washington. Plus, all three centers for the Penguins go north-south, and that adds a dimension Montreal didn't get from the Capitals.
"If the Penguins plays north-south and keep it simple with their plays, it's only a matter of time before they score against Montreal. The Capitals tried to go one-on-one all the time. The Penguins won't. They may not generate as many shots as the Capitals did, but they'll generate more offense by working the puck deep and avoiding trying to be perfect with every shot."
THE CANADIES WIN IF ...
"Pretty much the same reason they won last round: (goalie) Jaroslav Halak. They're going to pack it in tight on defense and ask Halak to make a lot of saves, to be the series MVP.
"The Canadiens' penalty kill will be challenged more by the Penguins on the power play than they were the Capitals. There are two ways to run a power play — by shooting, or, like the Capitals, by spreading it around and looking for pretty plays. The Penguins change their power play for the playoffs. They look for shots, and they'll get them because of the way Montreal defends on the penalty kill. (Penguins defenseman Sergei) Gonchar is going to get shots through that the Capitals' point-men couldn't because Gonchar is the best in the world at that.
"The idea that a shutdown defense pair like Montreal has with (Hal Gill and Josh Georges) can frustrate a great player, like Crosby, is partly true. But the problem is the Penguins have Malkin and Staal, and their lines will do well against Montreal. I really like the Penguins because they are just an impossible matchup in the playoffs because of those three centers."
PENGUINs player TO WATCH...
"Not Sid, Geno or (goalie Marc-Andre Fleury)• I'll take Staal. He'll dominate at both ends against the smaller Montreal forwards. Those guys are quick, but they're going to have a hard time keeping the puck from Jordan, and he'll take it from them. Plus, from what I've seen, he's looking to finish more than ever, which isn't a good thing for other teams given how strong he is down low."
CANADIENs player TO WATCH...
"Obviously it's Halak. If I can't pick him, I'll go with (center) Scott Gomez. He seems to be controlling the pace when the puck is on his stick. Against Washington he kept them off-guard by speeding it up and slowing it down at unexpected spots. Plus, he's dangerous on the power play.
"He and (winger Brian) Gionta have chemistry from their days together in New Jersey. They can create a lot of offense without a lot of chances, but it all starts with Gomez — and he looks confident right now."