Plenty of commentators have already left the Penguins for dead after a dreadful Game Five in which they played with little discipline, taking a bunch of stupid penalties that eventually buried them.
Let’s rewind and look at how conventional wisdom has played out in this series. After the first two games, the Penguins were done. The series appeared to be over before it even started.
The conventional wisdom was that a team can’t rebound from a two-game hole in the Stanley Cup Finals. Detroit was simply too deep and too good for these Penguins to mount a comeback.
The Penguins promptly won the next two games.
Conventional wisdom then did a back flip saying that the Red Wings were too old, too worn out, and too beat up to keep pace with the young-gun Penguins over the long series.
Again, the Red Wings had plenty to say on that subject, rebounding to hammer the Penguins in Detroit.
Conventional wisdom is now saying that the Penguins are too young and inexperienced to fend off the more disciplined and veteran Red Wings. That’s absurd.
The team played one uncharacteristically bad game, perhaps after paying just a little bit too much attention to its own headlines.
Another storyline getting thrown out there is that it is too hard to bounce back after getting blown out. Again, that is simply not true. Is it better to lose a heartbreaker in overtime or to be out of contention before the third period? I’m guessing the easier loss is the latter one.
Both results lead a team to exactly the same place, a loss that puts them behind in the race for four wins.
I’ve never been a big believer in moral victories. The Penguins played very well in the first two games and still found themselves staring out of a two-game pit. Were they better off for it? Only in a sense that they knew they didn’t need to make major adjustments to their game plan.
One thing we should have all learned in this series is to not pay attention to all the background chatter that fills the air between games. Most of it is completely meaningless.
Everyone wants to make sweeping statements about the state of the series after each game.
Full disclosure: I also threw out some broad generalizations after Game Four that proved to be wrong. But, even at the time, I had a sneaky suspicion that I was engaging in wishful thinking.
These sweeping statements and generalizations are almost always wrong, or at least inadequate.
Anyone who doesn’t think the Penguins will play their hearts out in Game Six has not been paying attention.
The glory of these Stanley Cup Finals is that each game is an independent battle between two great teams. There won’t be a Game-Five hangover heading into Game Six, as some are expecting. Nor were the Red Wings demoralized after losing Game Four as many predicted.
Each game develops differently, with new storylines emerging to take center stage.
And if the Penguins do win Game Six, expect the new storyline to be that the Penguins can’t win in Detroit. Again, this will be nothing more than background noise. Of course, they can win there.
They played well enough to win on Detroit’s ice in the first two games. And a less experienced team that really was outmatched by the Red Wings won in Detroit last year to take Game Five.
The Penguins already showed what they can do on an opponent’s ice in a pivotal Game Seven when they dispatched the Capitals.
The flip side is that anybody who thinks the Penguins will win Game Six just because the game is in Pittsburgh has not been watching very closely.
Expect the Red Wings to attack with a fury in Game Six. The last thing they want is for this series to come down to a best-of-one matchup.
That is what is so great about a seven-game series; the storyline is constantly changing between the two teams. New heroes emerge in each game, momentum shifts on a dime.
These Penguins have shown plenty of resilience throughout these playoffs. I have a hunch they have one more trick up their sleeves.