A 4-2 series victory over the Blue Jackets in round 1.
It's about what I expected.
Sure, like a lot of Penguin fans I would have loved to see a 4-0 series sweep...with dominating performances by our top guys and stellar goaltending by MAF.
But...this is the NHL. Two quality teams play each other and rarely does one dominate the other (no...I am not forgetting the Eastern Conference Finals from last year).
So, when I say "what I expected", I mean I expected the Penguins to be challenged and need to rise to and above that challenge. A 4-0 sweep would not have helped this team as much as a 4-2 series win - that included a lot of closely played games - because this is a team that needs to keep getting better. Sweeps rarely provide that lesson to the winner.
The most important aspect of this series is that...at times...the Penguins played the way we (and everybody else for that matter) expects a cup contender to play.
Crosby said it in a post game interview..."the last 5 periods"...they played some good hockey. About two and half of those were last night and about two and a half were from the game before.
That's the way they have to play to advance. And it's something that has to continue to improve in both frequency and duration. Get to your best game often and stay at it as long as you can.
It's definitely something to build on.
Evgeny Malkin did his best to quiet the critics concerning his lack of goal scoring...notching the hat trick last night. Surely those who have called for Malkin and Crosby to 'step up' (myself included) will back off the negative comments about Malkin a bit now.
Sidney Crosby, on the other hand, is still goaless in the 2014 playoffs. In fact, the last goal Crosby scored was an empty net goal on March 30th against the Chicago Blackhawks.
By the time Sid laces up the skates for the Penguin's second round series, it will have been over a month since he scored a goal in an NHL game.
And it's NOT the off season...so this is unheard of for Sidney Crosby.
I have been one of those people that said that Crosby needed to step up his game. But whether or not he scores/scored goals (I would like him to as well as everybody else, including Sid I'm sure)...my main comments came from what I saw as a lack of intensity in Sid's game.
I think...over the last two games...I have seen that intensity come back a bit.
Malkin's first goal last night was the result of Sid being one of the best 'along the boards' players in the league. Winning a tough battle for the puck...pushing it down to Kunitz who then made a great pass across to Malkin.
If Sid doesn't score a goal the entire playoffs but he makes plays like that and the Penguin's win games...then I could care less about the goals.
I guess what I am saying is...don't judge Crosby's play by the goal total.
People booed him the other night at Consol.
That's ridiculous!!!...mainly because most of those people are booing the goose egg in the goal scoring column and because of all the "Crosby has yet to step up" comments that are related to that goose egg.
Write this down...
Crosby and Malkin both stepped up their play in games 5 and 6. It was noticeable and helped pave the way to a series win.
I think Crosby will surely...eventually...score a goal in the playoffs. When he does...lots of people will say 'FINALLY!' - as if he is finally playing well.
He's already got to 'FINALLY as far as I'm concerned. He has reached the intensity level he needs to. Now it's just a matter, as with the team...of getting there often and staying there as long as he/his team can.
Once they do that, the rest takes care of itself. The goals...the wins...the advancement in the playoffs.