Tocchet's take on the playoff series
As a former player for the Penguins (1992-94) and coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning (2008-10), Rick Tocchet brings a unique perspective to the teams' first-round playoff series. A four-time All-Star, Tocchet scored 440 goals, 952 points and accrued 2,972 penalty minutes in 18 NHL seasons. He won a Stanley Cup as a right wing with the '92 Penguins, and had 52 goals and 112 points in 145 postseason games. He was 53-69-26 in nearly two seasons with the Lightning.
Tocchet is now a host on TribLIVE Radio at sportstalk.triblive.com and a Philadelphia Flyers pre- and postgame analyst on Comcast SportsNet.
-- As told to The Trib's Kevin Gorman
I don't think he has to be unbelievably great, but he has to be Marc-Andre Fleury. One thing I like about Fleury, Tampa plays a north-south style but is very good at getting one-timers and quick shots. When you have a goalie who's slower and takes angles, that's hard to stop. His push from side to side is as good as any in the league. He can come up with post-to-post saves. You're going to see more of those saves because Tampa is very good at finding those guys on the other side of the ice. That's where having a guy like Fleury helps, where you might get those spectacular saves that you won't get from other goalies. He's playing well. The last three months, he's been one of the best goalies in the league. When you have a goalie that's played that way for 90 percent of the year, who's won a Stanley Cup and been to the finals, you've got a lot of experience with a young goalie. I don't think he gets rattled too easily. Everybody talks about Dwayne Roloson's age -- he's 41 -- but the one thing with Roloson is he's in unbelievable shape. His work ethic is incredible. If Roloson has a couple bad games, I think you give the edge to Fleury to bounce back. All the great goalies, you know if they get belted, the next game they are going to shut the door. Fleury has that ability.
Between the pipes
Goalie, team -- Record -- GAA -- Save Pct.
Fleury, Pit -- 36-20-5 -- 2.32 -- .918
Johnson, Pit -- 13-6-1 -- 2.17 -- .922
Roloson, TB -- 18-12-4 -- 2.56 -- 912
Smith, TB -- 13-7-6 -- 2.90 -- 899
Tampa's defense is really something that was very weak. When I was there, we had 22 new guys in the lineup. It was an NHL record, real patchwork. Clark is an experienced guy that's helped him. Michael Lundin was in the minors last year but he's done well. Hedman had a rollercoaster last year as a rookie. Because the defense was bad, he was overplayed. This year, he's really steadied that consistency line. The one thing with Victor, I'm not going to say he's going to get rattled but you can hit him. He might be thinking there could be retribution for the Crosby hit, which I don't think was intentional. You can play that psychology game and hit him hard.
A lot of people rip their defense and say it's really weak. I think it's serviceable and they can get it done by committee but they really rely on their forwards. If the Penguins can rely on their forecheck and make their defense work, that's the key: to come up with loose pucks.
I'm going to call it even. The forwards of Tampa can balance their goaltending and defense against the Penguins goalie and defense and forwards. If it's a 2-2 game with 8 minutes left, Tampa has more of the players that can get that two-on-one goal, a highlight goal. Pittsburgh has to get a grinding goal. If Tampa is behind, they can still score. If Pittsburgh's ahead, they can shut it down. But I don't know if they can come back from a two- or three-goal deficit. I don't know if they can't against Tampa. I think they can take advantage of their defense.
Goals by period
Team -- 1st -- 2nd -- 3rd -- OT -- Total
Lightning -- 82 -- 87 -- 64 -- 8 -- 241
Penguins -- 67 -- 91 -- 65 -- 5 -- 228
Two check marks for Tampa. I hate to rip the Penguins, but Tampa's power play is deadly. The first two, three months of the season, they got most of their wins with the power play, overtime and shootouts. I watched games where they scored power-play goals in the third period to win games. Stamkos is the key, but LeCavalier has played really well lately. The guy who stirs the drink, obviously, is Martin St. Louis.
Team -- 5 on 4 -- 5 on 3 -- 4 on 3
Lightning -- 53 -- 1 -- 5
Penguins -- 44 -- 2 -- 3
Tampa's PK is good. I don't think it's to the level of Pittsburgh's. It's won Pittsburgh a lot of games this year. Not having Matt Cooke takes a chunk out of it, but they have enough guys to carry the load. With Stamkos, you have to take away his one-timer. You're going to have to let Marty St. Louis have the puck and let him shoot it. The 'X-factor' in the PK is always the goalie. Fleury has to be the best penalty killer. Tampa Bay has really improved. Getting Dominic Moore was a great acquisition by Steve Yzerman. He's been one of keys for Tampa's turnaround. Adam Hall, a former Penguin, is not afraid to block shots. They have four or five quality guys up front that kill penalties and the one thing they went and got Eric Brewer, who can play in front of net and is good at blocking shots. One thing the Penguins can take advantage of with Tampa's defense is they're not the quickest and they should be able to beat them to pucks in corners. That's the key to power plays. It's not the initial shot, it's retrieving the puck after a chance.
Team -- PK% -- NHL rank
Penguins -- 86.1 -- First
Lightning -- 83.8 -- Eighth
The work ethic favors the Penguins. Tampa plays hard, but that's what the Penguins hang their hat on. The Penguins have to stay out of the penalty box. If you're going to give Tampa four or five power plays a game, you're in trouble. If the Penguins can give them three or less, the advantage goes to the Penguins. The Penguins play a more in-your-face style. That's playoff hockey. You can't hook and hold. Don't have your stick around anybody's skates. Don't give refs any reason to make a ticky-tack call.
The coaching is really interesting. I would spotlight the two coaches as a big key. Sometimes we overanalyze the coaches too much. We say they're great or they stink. Guy Boucher has done a great job, implemented new systems different than most NHL teams. Dan Bylsma has short experience coaching the Penguins but a lot of experience coaching in the playoffs. There's going to be more of a chess match between the coaches in this series than in other series. It's going to be interesting to see how they tweak their lineups. There's going to be a lot of adjustments throughout the series. Does Staal go against Stamkos or LeCavalier?
If it gets to overtime, I'm more apt to give it to Tampa. They played very well in OT this year and they've got game-breakers. Any loose puck and odd-man rush, Tampa has ability to finish better than the Penguins. There's still a lot of guys on the Pittsburgh team that have been in pressure games.
1-goal (W-L) 24-8-8
2-goal (W-L) 7-6
3-goal (W-L) 18-11
1-goal (W-L) 23-7-11
2-goal (W-L) 11-4
3-goal (W-L) 12-14