Heading into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final, the Pittsburgh Penguins made it clear that the team needed a stronger performance. Following a blowout loss against the Boston Bruins in that contest, the same holds true for Game 3.
The Penguins have been outscored 9-1 over two losses in the final round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Despite boasting one of the NHL's most impressive collections of offensive talent, the Penguins have failed to generate production fitting such a group.
In the opinion of Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma, that lack of production has come from the team's inability to establish presence in the offensive zone.
"To our unliking, most of the game or great portions of the game have played in the neutral zone," Bylsma said after the morning skate. "There hasn't been a lot of offensive zone play by either team in either game, and we'd certainly like to change that and get to the offensive zone a lot more and spend more time there than we have."
Despite his team seemingly coming apart at the seams in Game 2, Byslma believes the Penguins are mentally prepared to rebound on Wednesday night.
"We've come here to Boston with that focus," he said. "We did that yesterday, and we're ready to step out on the ice for Game 3 with that renewed focus about where we need to get better and where we need to be and play at to be successful tonight."
For much of the postseason, the situation with Pittsburgh's goaltending has been a story line. Tomas Vokoun replaced Marc-Andre Fleury in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the New York Islanders and helped stabilize what had become an unstable position. However, speculation persisted that one flawed move by Vokoun could result in Fleury's return to the goal. However, that apparently isn't the case as Vokoun will return as the starting netminder in Game 3.
Bylsma stated that he doesn't need perfection from his goaltender, just consistency. He believes Vokoun can provide that.
"Looking for a solid game from our goaltender," he said. "We've gotten that from Tomas in virtually every game he's played, a real solid performance, and he's done that for us, and that's what we need tonight. We don't need perfection. We're looking for a solid game in between the pipes and from our goaltender to allow our team to win the hockey game."
For Boston, the pressure is far less. However, the team still hopes to take advantage of home-ice in order to establish a commanding lead in this series.
Head coach Claude Julien is confident his players recognize what they need to do.
"I think our guys are mature enough to understand that whatever we've been through, whatever the situation is right now, we have to be a good team in order to win at this stage of the season," Julien said after their morning skate. "We can't afford to let our guard down, whether it's the respect for a team you're playing and the ability of that team to take advantage of you if you're not ready, or whether it's just from within our group, to want to be a good team every night.
"That's what's important right now, is that we stay focused on the present and don't live in the past and don't look in the future."