I was going to call this blog..."Just Not As Good As Last Year" when describing what I thought of the Penguins after last night's 4-3 loss in Game 6 to the Canadiens.
But then I looked back over the first two rounds from last year again...and realized that sometimes our minds play tricks on us.
We remember watching the raising of the Cup in Detroit...and then we kind of rewrite history in a way that makes all of the bumps in the road to that point seem like they were paved with roses.
The truth is...so far at least...this post season is playing out very much like last year's playoffs.
In round one of both seasons we saw the Penguins get a 3-1 series lead...lose game 5 at home...and then win game 6 on the road. Last year it was the Flyers, this year it was the Senators.
In round two of both seasons we saw the Penguins get a 3-2 advantage in the series, only to lose game 6 and need to play a pivotal game 7. Last year it was the Washington Capitals, this year it is the Montreal Canadiens.
Aside from the fact that this game 7 will be played at home, and last year's was in Washington, the second round series against the Canadiens has been very similar to last year's versus Washington. Two teams are in an epic battle of wills...with the series momentum swinging back and forth.
The Penguins, to this point in the playoffs, have shown us some things that make us believe another run to the finals is possible. But like last night's game, they have also shown us some play that has us wondering if Wednesday night will be the final Penguins' game at the Igloo.
I'd like to believe that this team will rise above what has happened to date...and put on a performance like they did in the game seven's they played last year. A dominating performance in Washington...followed up by a magical win in the Cup Finals at the Joe.
That they will seize the moment and "history will be made"...in our favor.
I'd like to think that, during these playoffs, we have NOT yet seen the best that this team can play...and that we will see it...finally...on Wednesday night...when it matters the most.
But...honestly...just like last year...I question whether or not this team has what it takes.
After winning the cup last year, you would think that a true fan of the team would say..."I'm not worried. Our guys will be ready for this game and show everybody why we are the defending cup champions. We are going to win."
I'd like to say that...and mean it...but then I would be lying.
It's not that I don't believe the guys will be ready...or that they will do their best...I am sure they will...I am just not sure, just like last year, that their best will be enough to get a win.
Unfortunately, it's my belief at this time, that the Canadiens simply want it more than the Penguins do.
At least, in watching last night's game, that's the feeling I got.
They skated harder...made less mistakes...took better advantage of mistakes...and took back the momentum in the series.
So once again we head to a game seven and I am doubting that our guys can get the job done.
Let's hope...that just like last year...they prove me wrong.
Letang and Goligoski need to settle down and play a solid ALL ROUND game if we expect to win game 7.
Sid and Geno need to show that the SUPERSTAR labels are not just for show.
I know all the guys want to make something happen…but too many times…in both the offensive and defensive zone, we had guys out of position. Too many times last night a defender was too far up ice…or two forwards were thinking and doing the same thing while forechecking. They need to be more systematic in their approach to game seven. More focus and attention to detail in the way they attack and defend.
And…for the love of God…please stop shooting the puck above Halak’s waist (well shoulders actually!!). I know we had a couple of funny bounces off of those high shots that almost resulted in goals, but as we saw with Gonchar’s goal, shots below the knees, especially when there are 4 Canadiens trying to block shots in front of him (not necessarily on Gonch’s goal), are they way to go against Halak. Maybe I am overstating this…it just seems to me that when there are so many bodies between the shooter and the goalie…that pucks down lower are a lot harder to see (just ask Fleury about that Spacek goal…).
Last year the Caps blew a 3-1 series lead to NY and won game 7. This year they did the same but lost in game 7.