Panic Time in Pittsburgh After Penguins Routed in ECF Game 2
It took 28 seconds on Monday night to realize that the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup run for 2013 was over.
Done. Finished, Finito, Caput. Sayonara, have a nice day.
Sidney Crosby, the "Next One," the greatest player the league has seen since Wayne Gretzky, turned the puck over at his own blue line and in a flash super-pest Brad Marchand stormed down the ice and beat Tomas Vokoun glove side to send the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Of course, it's never that simple. Marchand's goal simply gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead in what would turn into a 6-1 rout as the Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 series lead heading back to Beantown.
Can Pittsburgh come back to win the series?
But it's the way the Bruins have taken the series lead that has me thinking this series is already over. The fact is that Boston has gotten to this point by overcoming adversity, both on and off the ice, that Pittsburgh simply cannot match, though they will desperately need to if they want to have any chance in this series. And the stark reality is that they don't.
The Bruins are playing physical hockey and are winning nearly every battle and every race against the faster Pittsburgh team. They're playing with a determination and confidence that Pittsburgh simply doesn't have. They've already adjusted their play to beat the Penguins, and they've done it in different ways.
In Game 1, Boston got Pittsburgh to play into their hands when mounting frustration led to uncharacteristic play. Matt Cooke returned as the villain with a hit from behind on Adam McQuaid, sending him off with a game misconduct. Then Evgeni Malkin fought Patrice Bergeron at the end of the second period, which made him sit for the first five minutes of the third.
All of this came in the second period, with Pittsburgh down just a goal at 1-0.
Tuuka Rask continued his brilliant performance in the third while David Krejci scored his second goal of the night and the Bruins cruised to the 3-0 win. In doing so, they became the first team after 59 regular and postseason games this year to shut out the Penguins.
In Game 2, it looked like the teams switched uniforms in the tunnel before coming out onto the ice.
Boston's grinders skated circles around Pittsburgh's stars all night long, particularly Kris Letang. The veteran defenseman attempted to clear the puck out of his zone late in the first period when it was intercepted by Torey Krug, who's rebound was cashed in by Nathan Horton to make it 2-0 Bruins.
On Letang's very next shift he got victimized again by the combination of Horton, Milan Lucic and Krejci, who scored his eighth goal of the postseason, knocking out Vokoun in the process.
Brandon Sutter injected some life into the Pittsburgh crowd a few minutes later in the dying throes of the period with a goal on his only shot of the night, but 25 seconds later Marchand beat Marc-Andre Fleury on what should have been a routine save to give the Bruins a 4-1 cushion heading to the first intermission.
And just like that, the Penguins were done, again.
The Bruins tacked on two more meaningless goals in the third as the crowd filed out of the CONSOL Energy Center after watching their star players disappear for the previous 50-odd minutes.
Where has Crosby the leader gone? The one who helped raise the game of Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis this season, as the pair scored a combined 42 regular season goals.
Where was Crosby the goalscorer at? The guy who had seven goals in the first two rounds combined and barely got off two shots in the Game 2 drubbing.
Where was Crosby the facilitator at? The guy who had eight assists through the first two rounds but whose only highlight-reel pass in Game 2 came on the giveaway that gave away the game, 28 seconds in.
The Penguins have 20 giveaways through the first two games, compared to Boston's three, by the way.
The Crosby that's shown up this series is the one that fuels his haters and doubters to call him "Cindy" Crosby, the crybaby who looks for Papa Bettman to save the day when things are going wrong.
This is the Crosby that pushes Tuuka Rask while skating by and then starts jawing with opposing captain Zdeno Chara, a guy who's got 10 inches and 55 pounds on Sid the Kid.
Boston's playmakers and grinders beat the Penguins at their own game in Game 2, and there's no reason to believe they won't do the same in Boston. Krejci's play has inspired his line to be one of the best this postseason, while Crosby, Malkin, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and the rest of the Penguins have done nothing.
Except look disappointed and uninterested and soft in the face of adversity, that is. They're getting plenty of that now, down 2-0 to a better, more determined and disciplined opponent that is 5-2 this postseason on home ice.
It's not to say that the Penguins won't win a game this series because they should. They have too much star power, too much depth and too much pride not to win once. But any way you look at it, the series is done. Boston's effectively stolen home ice advantage with three remaining bouts at home, if needed, to Pittsburgh's two.
Tuukka Rask (BOS): stopped 55 of 56 shots in series. .982 save %....David Krejci leads NHL in scoring this postseason with 20 points— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) June 4, 2013
The Bruins have all the confidence and all the momentum and haven't looked back since that galvanizing and relief-bringing third period at home in Game 7 of the quarterfinal series with Toronto.
Playing in front of their hometown fans, with a Cup berth just two wins away from them, it's tough to believe that they'll let that chance slip away. After all, they've already felt that feeling this postseason and decided that they didn't like it.
Pittsburgh certainly has it right now. Whether they like or it not remains to be seen.
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