Pittsburgh is on the brink of elimination once again and must find a way to force a Game 7. Some keys to the game for the Pens:
Build off Game 5. The Pens were widely outplayed for the bulk of Game 5. They did, however, have their moments that night. They need to build on those tonight and find a way to control things more.
Evgeni Malkin. I thought that Malkin, as obvious as it is that he’s enormously fatigued, looked better as the night went on in Game 5. The Pens need him to be strong tonight.
Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury showed himself capable of stealing games and possibly the series Monday night. The Wings dominated Pittsburgh in every space on the ice except for the crease because Fleury was stellar. If he’s that way again tonight, good things will happen for Pittsburgh. Remember, he shut the Wings out for a full three periods Monday night.
I don’t anticipate any lineup changes for Pittsburgh tonight. Sergei Gonchar (back spasms) said he would play, though if he’s hurt, his effectiveness will be curtailed somewhat.
For the Wings, the only way this game could be more important is if it were being played on Saturday instead of Wednesday. In my mind, they face a must-win situation here because Game 7 will be a crapshoot at best. Some keys to the game for the Wings:
Be the storm. As I said before Game 5, the Wings need to start better. They didn’t do that Monday night and in the end it killed them. They have to bring the hammer down on the Pens early and then keep it there until that final buzzer.
Depth. I thought Jiri Hudler and Darren Helm were among the Wings’ best players Monday night. That has to be true again tonight. The Eurotwins will be getting a lot of attention in Mellon Arena and it will be the task of the depth players to do what they can to alleviate that pressure by peforming offensively.
Chris Osgood. I’m not going to follow the herd and call Osgood’s performance Monday night his worst of the playoffs. I thought he looked solid. He certainly gave the Wings the chance to win. He will need to be at his best tonight, however. He’ll need to match Fleury save-for-save and more.
The only lineup change I can foresee is a possible switching in of Chris Chelios for Andreas Lilja.
Tonight is not going to be a fun game, folks. It will take a gritty, gutsy effort from the Wings to pull a win out in the Igloo. It’s something they are fully capable of doing.