Islanders in 1993. Panthers in 1996. You can now add the Canadiens in 2010 to the list of all-time Pens’ playoff disappointments. All three series have a lot in common. The Pens were heavy favorites; the Pens had a 3-2 series lead; they all ended in Game 7, at home; and all of them were both devastating and hard to fathom.
A lot of fingers will be pointed after Wednesday’s loss. I’m sure the majority will be aimed in M-A Fleury’s direction. Some will even be directed at Sid and Geno. But let’s be honest with ourselves. This was a team loss, plain and simple. The Pens didn’t deserve to win Game 7, and they didn’t deserve to win the series. Are they better than Montreal? They were in the regular season, but the Habs were definitely the better squad in this seven-game series.
A lot of people probably needed talked off the ledge this morning, me included. I’ve had some time to digest what I witnessed last night, and – after a bout of nausea and diarrhea – I’m as flustered as ever. Flustered at Fleury’s horrific performance, flustered that Sid and Geno failed to capitalize on golden opportunities early in the third that could have made it 4-3, and flustered that there were so many friggin’ Montreal fans in the building last night. (How exactly does that happen for a Game 7 that could be the last game ever at Mellon Arena?) But, again, you must give Montreal some credit. Halak, Cammalleri and Gill/Gorges all outplayed their counterparts in black-and-gold.
The Pens weren’t the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. They were, however, the best team remaining in the second round of the playoffs. That’s just one of the reasons this defeat is so hard to stomach; the path to the finals seemed clear. The other reason is the fact that the team will most likely look dramatically different next season. Alas, I’ll save that discussion for another post. I’m still digesting.