Okay, I will admit to it.
Three days ago, I was ready to bury the Penguins—as evidenced by my article "It's Only Game Three, But Five Reasons The Penguins Are Doomed".
At that time, not many people could have blamed me.
The Penguins, while coming home, were faced with a huge mountain to climb. They had been outmatched, outplayed, and outclassed, and for the most part had been dominated in every way one could imagine.
It appeared that there was nothing that looked good about their situation, and there was surely nothing good that could be said about it.
Someone must have given them a copy of the article I wrote, because Tuesday night the Penguins won Game Three. Then on Thursday night, the Pens got started quickly. Evgeni Malkin scored the first goal of the game early in the first period, and Pittsburgh rode both his dominating performance and the hometown crowd's energy to a 4-2 Game Four win over the Detroit Red Wings.
The Stanley Cup Finals are now tied at two games a piece, and now it is Pittsburgh who has stolen all the momentum heading back to Detroit for Game Five, judging by the way a very tired Red Wings team looked when they left the ice at the end of the game.
Let's give the Penguins their due credit though, as they found a different approach and made the adjustments that I had previously said I was not sure that they could.
What did they do differently you might ask? Let's take tonight's Game Four and compare it to Game Four of last years Stanley Cup—a game that one might say lost them the Cup lost year.
First of all, my congratulations to Marc-Andre Fluery. I was very critical of him in my last article, but perhaps he is learning from Chris Osgood as this series goes on. Fluery came up huge for the Penguins when they needed him—diving for pucks, making ridiculous saves, and even putting his body in harm's way to make a play.
The Penguins also found a way to shut down Detroit's scorers and limit their chances at the net, get bodies in front of them, and actually make them have to think whether or not a clean shot was there.
Of course, let's not forget Malkin's efforts, as he was time after time setting up plays and giving his team chances to score.
The Penguins did a great job as a team making plays and doing their part to get a much-needed win. The most important thing they did was match the intensity of the crowd and keep up their own intensity—as well as holding their composure which I also said was crucial if they were going to turn this series around.
Take, for example, the last half of the second period when they scored three goals in five minutes and thirty-seven seconds to put the Red Wings away! It was great to see them actually be able to make the Red Wings chase them, and take advantage of some one-on-one situations with Osgood.
This was unlike Game Four of last year's Stanley Cup Finals, when the Penguins were totally dominated by the Red Wings.
In that game, they had no intensity at all. They gave up some very suspect goals, and they did not take advantage of many of the scoring opportunities that had been given to them. You may remember that they had several five-on-three advantages,. and did nothing with them.
Then, with their backs really against the wall, they had to fight to get a historic Game Five win, only to eventually concede the series to the Red Wings in Game Six.
This year is different. This time they may have Detroit right where they want them. This series is now a best-of-three, and the team that is truly the best will win.
As an NHL fan who at first was not very keen on this series I could not be happier. This is a truly critical Game Five on Saturday night.
The Penguins, based on tonight's win, have most if not all of the momentum on their side, going into a very hostile environment with a chance to steal home-ice advantage. If that happens this series will take an interesting turn.
Can it happen? Certainly. Will it? Doubtful—but based on the last two games, not out of the question.
For the Red Wings, this is nothing to hang their heads about. They simply came into what for them was a hostile environment against a team desperate to get a win. It was not going to be easy—and to be frank about it, they were beaten.
Now they are coming home to their fans with a chance to get everything they lost in the past two games back with a win, in a place where they generally do not lose. However, this creates some pressure, and they must understand what they have to do.
I would fully expect them to play at a dominant level and make things hard for the Penguins. It is just not likely that Detroit is going to lose three games in a row.
Game Five on Saturday night will most likely be the Penguins' best shot of wining the Cup this season. Why? Win, and all of a sudden they have not only the upper hand—plus the advantage of coming home to a place they have not lost in a month, with a Red Wings team not used to having their backs to the wall.
Lose? While yes, a win at home in Game Six would give them a chance to play a tired-out Red Wings team at their home in a Game Seven when all bets are off, it would also bestow a lot of unneeded pressure. The odds would be against them then.
This was a very important win for the Penguins tonight, and they should be proud. With this win they can make a case for why this will be the year that they will hoist the Cup. More then that, it gives them a chance to believe that they can win this series.
It shows that even if they do not win the Stanley Cup this year, it is quite possible that they will next year and very several years after that.
They have opened my eyes! And yours too, f you were a doubter or a nay-sayer like I was about the Penguins after the first two games of this series. They are starting to give us reason to think about changing our tune.
But will they pull it off? Only time will tell.
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