Pittsburgh Penguins On Wrong Side of Series


For the first time this postseason, the Pittsburgh Penguins face elimination. Can the resilient Pens force a game seven and show why they made it this far?

The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoiled us this year, that much is for sure. Once they hit their stride, it almost felt like they could never lose. They bulldozed through the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, battled through a physical but tired Washington Capitals team in round two, and now find themselves down 3-2 in the series against the surprising Tampa Bay Lightning.

That means that the next game could be potentially the last one of the Pens’ phenomenal season. The team – and us fans – have to begrudgingly acknowledge that. However, it could also be the start of a revival that rockets the Pens to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Penguins have overcome a lot this year, including a poor start to the season and their usual myriad injuries. This is undeniably the best team the Pens have had in a while, and they know it.

But there’s a reason we’ve even made it this far in the playoffs. The Penguins are hugely resilient, nearly always managing to rebound – whether that’s from a deficit of a few goals in a game or just the next matchup on the schedule following a poor performance. Game five of their current series showed that.

The Penguins played poorly in game four following their game three trouncing. Obviously, they aren’t the only team here that can bounce back well. But in game five, they came out to play and generally outplayed Tampa Bay. The only real error (albeit a fairly egregious one) was allowing the Bolts to come back again and again.

And overtime, frankly, is anybody’s game. By nature it’s desperate and unpredictable, and I don’t consider their OT loss last night one of those big errors. Of course, a loss is a loss, and it’s put them down in the series.

However, they shouldn’t have even gone to overtime. Credit where credit’s due, Tampa did a great job turning the Penguins’ attack on its head and taking advantage of Marc-Andre Fleury‘s long time off. Without Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop, the Bolts have realized that they need to take advantage of every little chance they can to get the better of opponents. 

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Let’s look on the bright side for Pittsburgh, though. Everything was coming up black and gold. Every single line is clicking, the coaching staff is smart and effective, and we have three great goalies who all did their part in getting the Pens this far. The Trevor Daley injury threw a wrench into things, but the Penguins have often stepped up to fill big lineup gaps before.

It’s doable.

They’re confident, and they’re talented, and they have gone through a much more difficult team than Tampa to get to this point. The Lightning walked right over the Detroit Red Wings and New York Islanders, but neither of those teams were even very good – certainly not the President’s Cup winners the Capitals were. If the Penguins can get every aspect of their game going, they’re the better team.

Everyone is chipping in for them, especially the young guys. Brian Dumoulin and Bryan Rust both made major impacts last night, and Olli Maatta impressed in his return to the lineup.

Have we dug ourselves into a bit of a goalie hole? Well, maybe. But as long as things are working in the locker room for the team, then I don’t think it matters too much what us fans and the media are saying. Matt Murray‘s gotten the Penguins this far; he needed a break and he got it. Fleury helped sparked the near-comeback in game four and this is really his team, and he’s got experience.

Both goalies have good attitudes about the situation and recognize that a team win is the most important thing right now, no matter who backstops it. That’s an invaluable asset that this Penguins team has. Whoever head coach Mike Sullivan chooses to start in game six, they will do their best to keep their team in it.

The rest of the lineup knows their shortcomings as well. They’ve been good at blocking shots and helping their goalie out that way, but have struggled with keeping play out of their zone. Consequently, they’ve also had trouble putting big numbers of shots on the other net, excluding that great game three again.

Next: Penguins Drop Game Five in Overtime

The Penguins know that tomorrow could be the end of it all, but that doesn’t mean they’ll play like they’re out of it. This team is persistent and pesky, but they’re also a big offensive threat. They’ll be firing on all cylinders tomorrow, and as long as the referees actually do their job we should have a darn good, darn evenly-matched game.