Pittsburgh Penguins History: 1998 Eastern Conference Quarter Finals

Pittsburgh Penguins, Brad Werenka. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport
Pittsburgh Penguins, Brad Werenka. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport /

Under the new NHL playoff format the fifth-place Pittsburgh Penguins will battle the twelfth-place Montreal Canadiens. Here is a look back at the first time they met in the playoffs.

Once the NHL announced their initial plans for a return to hockey, Pittsburgh Penguins social media blew up with the assertion that the Penguins would not be able to get past Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens.

While the Penguins odds in a series vs. the Canadiens, look pretty good right now, we have to keep history in mind, as Pittsburgh is 0-2 (1998 and 2010) in series vs. Montreal.

Here is a look back at a few things you may not have known about the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals.

Prior Experience

Heading into the series the Penguins had lost six of eight opening games and won two of four series, after dropping the first game.

Only three Penguins had previously played against Montreal in the Playoffs.

  • Francis – 1986,1988, 1989 (with Hartford Whalers)
  • Ken Wregget – 1989 (with Philadelphia Flyers)
  • Darius Kasparaitis – 1993 (with New York Islanders)

The Penguins also had some pre-series injury scares as Straka collided with Brad Werenka and suffered a minor injury to his upper back. Jiri Sleger took a deflected Rob Brown shot to the mouth which loosened a couple of teeth. The good news for Pittsburgh was Straka, Sleger, along with Sean Pronger (broken foot) and Alex Hicks (concussion) would all be available for the start of the series.

Starting in goal

Three-time Cup winner, Andy Moog went 2-2-0 vs. the Penguins in the regular season, with two shutouts and got the nod from Canadiens head coach Alain Vigneault to tend the crease.

Moog was looking to flip the script in the playoffs against Pittsburgh, as his record up to the start of the series was 0-8.

Moog finished the series with a record of 4-2 and got a little revenge against

Shut down in steel town

If the Canadiens were going to pull off the upset in the series, they were going to have to shut down the Penguins top two lines of Jaromir Jagr/Ron Francis/Stu Barnes and Robert Lang, Martin Straka/Alexei Morozov.

The Canadiens utilized a line comprised of three defensemen and two forwards to shut down the top line with Vladimir Malakhov focused on keeping Jagr contained.

Off the bar

Morozov had an opportunity to lift the Penguins to victory in overtime of Game 1 when he was awarded a penalty shot.

Canadiens defensemen Patrice Brisebois knocked the net off its moorings prior to a shot attempt by Straka on Moog.

Morozov went to the backhand and sadly rang the shot off the post.

The game was the Penguins first overtime game since their four-overtime classic vs. Washington in 1996. With the 3-2 win, the Canadiens earned their 14th consecutive overtime victory.

Coaches log

When the Penguins went on a 1-5-4 skid near the end of the season, head coach Kevin Constantine, broke up the team’s top line (Jagr/Francis/Barnes) in hopes of changing the chemistry.

The move was met with some hesitation from Jagr that suggested to the media, that when a team hits a slump, that rather than a coaching issue, the fault usually lands on the players. Which he felt was unfair. Not many teammates sided with Jagr.

Jagr also took exception to Constantine gradually decreasing his ice time as the playoffs drew closer.

Some other odd behavior began to develop during the series from Jagr. Jagr would arrive at practice late, leave early, wear his helmet backward, and change outfits mid-practice.

Could this have been the beginning of the end of Jagr’s time in Pittsburgh?

For what it is worth Jagr led the team in scoring with four goals and nine points in six games.

What do you think of the Pittsburgh Penguins chances are against the Canadiens?