The Pittsburgh Penguins did it differently this year in many ways, including allowing themselves to touch the Prince of Wales Cup.
So did Mario Lemieux all those years ago–twice–and they went on to win the big one–Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Penguins bought into a system and a new coach’s philosophy and with each win, that buy-in rooted deeper into the soul of the team. The Carolina Hurricanes played with a lot of heart and a lot of tenacity, but the Penguins also kept coming like any one of the Terminator movies. It was at once an awesome and frightening thing to behold.
Tuesday night’s game in Raleigh, NC showed the almost bottomless depth of the Penguins and their newfound love of the road, destroying the spirit of opponents on their ice. Malkin and Crosby were double- and at times triple-teamed, and still, scoring came in the forms of Ruslan Fedotenko, Maxime Talbot, Bill Guerin, and Craig Adams. Talbot and Adams both proved that no goal is an ugly goal, and every shot is an opportunity to score. This particular game was frenetic in its pace and bone-crunching in its physicality end to end.
Series Notables that Will Serve Well in the Stanley Cup Finals
- Solid goal-tending–Netminder Marc-Andre Fleury played his most complete game in this series, making the key saves he needed to make, managing the puck well, and staying sharp in his positioning in front of the net. However, he came up big in each of the four games.
- Scoring from 10 of their 18 position players (sans goalies)–Goal contributions came from Malkin (6); Crosby (4); Guerin, Fedotenko, Talbot, and Adams (2 each); and Kunitz, Kennedy, Satan, and Boucher (1 each). It’s hard to account for so many potential scorers, and while the defensive scoring was not as high as it was in earlier series, it exists and could rear up again in the finals.
- Defensemen in on the offense–Pens’ blueliners accounted for 24% of the shots on net, led by Kris Letang who had 11, followed by Hall Gill (6), and Sergei Gonchar and Brooks Orpik (5 shots each).
- Defense with the reflexes–Like a well-oiled machine, the Pens’ blueliners have become sharper and quicker with their feet and with their sticks. None has shined better in the latter category than Rob Scuderi whose poke-checking has been like a hot poker, serving to frustrate rushes into the Pens’ defensive zone. Whether it’s six defensemen or seven in the line-up, these guys work so fluidly in tandem that one would swear they are psychic. This kind of teamwork in the defensive zone makes for a very secure and composed Marc-Andre Fleury, and such sympatico will be critical in the final series.
Brothers’ Keeper: The Staal Tracker
Despite Eric Staal’s best efforts, “little” brother Jordan (all 6’4″, 220 pounds of him) was equally a man possessed, matching Eric’s intensity and surpassing it, attempting to hit everything in sight with a Hurricane logo. Jordan was not without his own scoring opportunities, having had two good chances and a handful of scrums in front of a nervous Cam Ward–just to keep it interesting. Eric was fast and wily, managing the Hurricanes’ lone goal early on a thread-the-needle kind of stuff of the puck between Fleury’s skate and the post on a wrap-around.
For the final time of the season, here’s how the Brothers Staal shaped up in Game 4:
- Goals/Assists/Points–Jordan (0/0/0), Eric (1/0/1)
- Plus/Minus–Jordan (even), Eric (-1)
- Total Ice Time–Jordan (19:33), Eric (22:30)
- Shifts–Jordan (24), Eric (30)
- Average–Jordan (:48 per shift), Eric (:45 per shift)
- Shots–Jordan (2), Eric (5)
- Hits–Jordan (5), Eric (0)–Jordan combined with Chris Kunitz (5 hits) and Brooks Orpik (4) hits for a total of 14 of the team’s 25 hits on the night (56%).
- Giveaways–Jordan (0), Eric (0)
- Takeaways–Jordan (1), Eric (1)
- Blocked Shots–Jordan (1), Eric (0)
- Faceoffs Won/Lost/%–Jordan (6/6/50%), Eric (13/10/57%)
Rumor has it that if the Chicago Blackhawks go gentle into that good night on Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings, the Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 could start as early as Saturday, May 30.
The “Date with Destiny” draws closer.