Pressure on the Pens?: Game Five Becomes More Important with Flyers' Win
You would think that Penguins fans would be relaxed and worry free with a three to one game advantage.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia's victory over Montreal Saturday night has sent the Steel City down a notch. Suddenly, the Game 5 affair this afternoon becomes an almost "must win" situation for the Pens.
It wasn't like this five days ago. The Pens were blowing through the playoffs and every other team was becoming banged up and expending energy.
The Pens were well rested coming into the series. After a Game 1 scare and two impressive victories, they were looking at another rest before opening up the Eastern Conference finals. Add on top of that the fact Sean Avery was lost for the series and the brooms were out in Pittsburgh.
In Game 4, the Rangers reappeared in a way that had not been seen since the first two periods of Game 1. They played with ferocity and hunger, while their goalie was simply phenomenal.
This was the Henry Lundqvist that we all expected to see staring down one of the games best scoring teams. In addition to the goal tending, the Ranger's Captain stepped up and reasserted himself as a factor in this series.
After being held scoreless in the first two games of the series, Jaromir Jagr finally notched a goal in the second period of Game 3.
His Game 4 goal was much more of a statement. With the score tied Jagr flew to the net and put a move on Fleury. He was pounded by the Penguins' defense the moment after the shot and he knew it was coming.
Jagr stayed down on the ice for a few moments and then got off of the ice, remaining in the game and being able to score an empty netter in the third period. It was a statement goal; "There's a lot left in my tank and these young guys are not taking over just yet."
The youth of Crosby and Malkin was highlighted a period later. With their team down two goals, the young stars allowed Daniel Girardi to get under their skin.
Of course, no one blames them. After all, these two guys are consistently and constantly being harassed and molested with cheap shots and unflattering chants from opposing crowds.
It is the equivalent of the "Hack a Shaq" strategy. If the Pens were up three goals they would be applauded for standing up for themselves.
The Penguins, however, were down two goals. With six minutes left, both Crosby and Malkin were in the box for two minutes. This was a mistake of their youth.
It's those times were they have to brush off the harassment more than they usually do. They can not try to ignite their team by being in the box, leave that to LaRaque, Gonchar, or Rutuu. The two young guns ignite their team by scoring goals, and all they could do was look on.
So Penguins fans are left with the hope that the stars will stay on the ice and figure out a re-energized goaltender. They also hope that their own young net minder will not allow Jagr and the Rangers any chance to build on momentum.
They hope that Ryan Malone can find a way not to whiff in front of the goal anymore, and that Hossa can be as dominant as he can be.
They know what's at stake. They have a two-game lead, and a loss would not exactly be devastating. They also know however that their arch rival, the Flyers, are sitting at home resting up after an impressive series against the number-one seed.
Below the air of confidence of having a three games to one lead and being the highest remaining seed in the East lies a whisper: "Win today, at home and let's move on."
Because if they don't, it means more travel, more stress, and more room to make mistakes. It means they point out kinks in the armor to an opponent who would love to destroy them.
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