The two teams that were picked by many to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals were faced with an unlikely situation on Wednesday. Both were in immediate danger of being swept in the first round.
Fortunately for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Vancouver Canucks, the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and the President's Trophy winner, they were spared the embarrassment.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers
With James Neal gone for one game and Arron Asham gone for four games as a result of their actions in Game 3, the Penguins had to bear down to get the series back to the Consol Center to play on home ice.
Boy, did they.
The players who were supposed to step up, did.
Jordan Staal had a hat trick, Evgeni Malkin notched a goal and two assists, and the captain, Sidney Crosby, also had a goal and two helpers in the lopsided affair.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury still did not perform at a Stanley Cup-playoff level, finishing with an .880 save percentage.
The only thing that saved him was the horrid performance of both Flyers' goalies.
Ilya Bryzgalov allowed five goals in 18 shots. His backup, Sergei Bobrovsky, was equally horrible. Both goalies had .722 save percentages and, remarkably, allowed the same number of goals in the same number of shots faced.
The end result was a 10-3 thumping of the Flyers, which forced a date across the state for a Game 5 in Pittsburgh.
That being said, the Penguins are not out of the woods yet.
For the Pens to be successful, they will have to play the full seven-game series. And against a physical team such as the Flyers, it will most likely be a long, drawn-out and exhausting affair.
Especially now that they will be dealing with a Flyers team that just got embarrassed in their own barn.
The likelihood of the Pens getting out of this with a series win is remote. Very few teams have done it. Still, there is a chance.
If they do come out of it with a win, what condition they will be in?
They have the players who have been to the finals more than once and have raised Lord Stanley's Cup back in 2008-09 season.
Vancouver Canucks @ Los Angeles Kings
Apparently, being the President's Trophy winner does not guarantee you a Stanley Cup, but it does show you that it is a team that should go far.
No President's Trophy winner has ever been swept in the opening round up to this point...and it still stands.
The Canucks gave up the first goal, but made the last three to win Game 4 and continue the series in Vancouver.
Much like the Penguins, the Canucks have a daunting hill to climb.
Daniel Sedin, their top scorer, is back on the ice, but it will remain to be seen if he will be able to push this team to the next round.
The Canucks will have a much worse time trying to achieve their goal since they are dealing with a revamped Kings franchise that is hungry for playoff success after having made it past the first round only twice since 1992-93, when they made the finals only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens.
Although this roster has none of the players who were on the 2000-01 team, the last to win a first-round playoff series, these players are hungry nevertheless.
On the flip side, the vast majority of the Canucks roster had to watch the Boston Bruins skate around with the Cup in their own barn.
A Daunting Task Ahead
While the prospect of embarrassment has been quelled, this is far from over.
As I stated earlier, while there is always that remote shot at coming back, both teams will have to be hungry enough to want it. They will need to muster every effort they can to win the next three games and wipe the slate clean for the next round.
If they succeed, they still have to beat three more teams and win 12 more games to reach their common goal.
That said, one of these teams will most likely be a causality of the first round.
While it is rare to see a team overcome a 3-0 deficit, having two do it in the same round, much less the same playoffs, has never been done.
Best of luck to both teams.
They are going to need it.
This is Cory Ducey saying, "Hit Hard, But Keep It Clean."
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