Sunday, May 18, 2008

Penguins to play for Cup

Eastern Conference final
(2) Pittsburgh v. (6) Philadelphia
Penguins win series 4-1
Wayne Gretzky needed four NHL seasons. Mario Lemieux required seven. But Sidney Crosby was swifter than both No. 99 and No. 66.

The Pittsburgh Penguins' sensational 20-year-old captain has steered his team to a Stanley Cup final in only his third season.
The last thing I want to do is rehash everything that's already been written about this series. For a five-gamer, it sure felt like we heard enough about all of the particulars.

The Eastern Conference finals have been covered to death here in Canada, receiving twice as much press as the Detroit-Dallas series because of (a) Crosby and friends and (b) geography. Detroit's close enough that the Toronto media can easily (and cheaply) trek there, but Texas?

Not everyone's been making that trip.

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, on the other hand, are a stone's throw apart.

Still, you can't talk about this series without speaking to the Flyers' hurts on defence. Braydon Coburn played 26 minutes over five games. Timonen, who averaged 24 minutes a game all season, played only 21:43 in this series due to a blood clot issue.

Would the Flyers have won this series with those two in the lineup? Probably not. But my guess is it would have gone longer than five games, and the deciding one would have been such a gongshow.

No team's beating the No. 2 club in the East while down its two best defenders.

Still, give Pittsburgh credit. They're now 12-2, undefeated at home over the past 16 games, and have outscored their opposition 3.64 goals per game to 1.86 in these playoffs. The Penguins have only been outshot in three games, and have been incredible on special teams with a 24.6% power play and 87.3% penalty kill.

And they're doing it all while getting contributions from everyone.

Honestly, who has stood out as the defacto MVP on this team? In the earlier rounds, the answer would have been Evgeni Malkin, but after a so-so Round 3, Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Marian Hossa are in the conversation.

And I think even Sergei Gonchar has quietly been terrific.

Crosby's now leading the postseason scoring race, two points up on Henrik Zetterberg, Malkin and Hossa, and he's going to be very, very important in the finals. Whoever they get, Detroit or Dallas, is going to be a real test, more so than anyone they've yet faced, and the fuzz-faced captain will have to lead the way.

He's managed that so far, so who knows?

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At 6:38 p.m., May 18, 2008, Blogger gjhead said...

Go Pens!

"Sid The Kid has carried his Pittsburgh Penguins into the Stanley Cup final."

All due respect to Sid, cuz we love him here in the Burg' - but he didn't "carry" the team. This was a complete team effort.

Looking forward to the finals!

At 6:54 p.m., May 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sid has saved the franchise and his 21 points do lead the playoffs but he hasn't carried the team. They proved when he had the ankle sprain that they could win without him. Sid is just a major piece of the puzzle doing what he does best to get them into the Cup Finals. GO PENS!!!

At 8:02 p.m., May 18, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats to the Penguins, what an exciting run!

As a Flyers fan, it hurts to lose to the Pens of all teams, but most Flyers fans knew this wasn't the year. That the Flyers even made it this far when so many people didn't pick them to make the playoffs says a lot.

With Crosby entering the league and the Pens actually doing something called winning, the rivalry between the Flyers and Pens is going to make for great hockey. I feel let down that the Flyers couldn't bring it in this series, because I really thought we were in store for an epic round.

Sure, a lot was made about Timonen and Coburn, but the offense aside from Carter and Richards was really MIA. And the PK was brutal. After all these years, Flyers fans need to wonder if it wasn't necessarily the goaltending that always did us in but the defense instead. Hard to imagine Hatcher is signed for another year and Rathje is signed for another two (if he were playing).

At any rate, bright futures and great rivalries lay in store and every hockey fan can be pleased with that.

At 9:35 p.m., May 18, 2008, Blogger Hooks Orpik said...

I'd say Crosby is at the head of the Pens Conn Smythe race, but if Hossa or Fleury have a series in the finals like they did against Philly it could be them. Same with Malkin if reverts to Ottawa/NYR level of production.

But the tie probably goes to Crosby.

At 10:01 p.m., May 18, 2008, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I didn't watch this series as much as I would have liked. However, every time I was watching, Ryan Malone was in the middle of everything good happening for Pittsburgh.

At 1:08 a.m., May 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:14 a.m., May 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which blog administrator didn't understand the gag:

No matter how many points are scored by, say, Marian Hossa. Or how many times Crosby is outplayed by his teammates, all anybody reports is "Crosby scored X points to lead the Penguins..."

On the South Park episode where the boys try to find a home for Starvin' Marvin they go through a wormhole and land on the Planet Marklar. Where everything is Marklar.

Well, Crosby is Marklar.

If Comedy Central allowed YouTube to post South Park clips, it would be a multi-media gag.

At 11:44 a.m., May 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

start irony
Gotta love this hype. Pick a media read\listen a bit and you should be quite sure that "stars" make the difference and all rest are just extra weight. Of course big names are a factor, but when rest of the team suddenly becomes this extra weight not even worth mention it's ridiculous. Pens must be the dumbest team in NHL, I mean they have wonder boys Sid and Malkin, so why have they keep spending money on those other players :D Surely Sid and Malkin can take any team down just 2on5 situation, they don't even need a goalie, geeez.

Guess I'm just old fashion and see teams out there. Weird tho that Ovie and his extra weight lower form boys didn't win SC this season, well they must win it next 10 season if it's true that he is best player now. Best player = SC, man that hockey is simple sport nowadays, we can start training monkeys to it, much cheaper than those "others" players

At 12:35 p.m., May 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just when exactly hockey came so easy as media thinks(and major of fans too).

At 2:35 p.m., May 19, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

Yes, it's a team game and yes, the Penguins team has played very well. But take Crosby and Malkin off of that team and they'd be the Boston Bruins.

They're not exactly playing against trained monkeys.


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