MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The Penguins can win the Stanley Cup.
They could also get knocked out in the first round by the New York Rangers because that’s the nature of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but they’ve come a long way since last year when nobody gave them a chance to win it and almost nobody gave them a chance to beat the Rangers in the first round.
Injuries, especially on defense, gave the Penguins no chance last April and nobody was surprised when they lost in five games.
Recent history is irrelevant when it comes to this version of the Penguins. October through December of 2015 is ancient history.
The new coach, the addition of Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley made this a different team. It’s all about playing to win instead of playing not to lose.
Hockey analytics can give you a headache, but in the new world of NHL stats it’s all about puck possession and shooting the puck and the only team doing that better than the Penguins (52.7 CF% 5 v 5) is the Los Angeles Kings (56.4 CF% 5 v 5).
Seven of the last 10 Stanley Cup winners have been in the top three in puck possession.
The Kings learned a good lesson in 2011-2012 and 2013-2014. They were first in puck possession both years and won the only two Stanley Cups in their history.
The Penguins need to come out shooting against the Rangers Wednesday night. Dump and chase only when they have to.
No playoff mode.
Make the Rangers prove that they can handle the wave – something they couldn’t do in the regular season.
Penguins in five.
Playing the Second Guessing Game
–Mike Sullivan is taking a lot of heat for playing backup goalie Matt Murray on Saturday against the Flyers. He took most of the heat after Murray had to leave after being hit in the head, which means most of the heat was second guessing.
How many times in the thousands of games in Penguins’ history has a goaltender been taken out because of an injury?
The game meant nothing to the Penguins but it was a playoff game for the Flyers and a good opportunity for Murray to get a taste of what he might have to deal with over the next several weeks.
No second guessing here.
The Crosby Playoff Narrative
-Because of the post season disappointment of the last few years, there is a narrative out there that Sidney Crosby disappears in the playoffs.
It’s sure to get louder if Crosby is held without a point Wednesday night, but it’s a ridiculous notion.
The narrative began after the Penguins scored two goals while being swept by the Bruins in 2013. The entire team stunk in that series and Crosby didn’t stink any more or any less than any of his teammates.
But, prior to that series, Crosby was the leading scorer in the playoffs and had the third highest post season points per game average in NHL history behind Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Two years ago he had one goal and eight assists in 13 games.
He also was playing with 1 ½ wrists. He had injured his wrist late in the regular season when he was running away with the scoring title and afterwards he could barely shoot or receive a pass.
During the off season, one former assistant coach said his wrist was “terrible” and another said Crosby was a “wounded animal.”
Last year he had two goals and two assists in five games, playing on a team that had no chance.
Going into this post season, if you don’t count Barry Pederson, who only played 34 playoff games, Crosby is ranked sixth all time in playoff points per game and he’s in pretty good company behind Gretzky, Lemieux, Mark Messier, Bobby Orr and Mike Bossy.
And all of them played in an era when goals and assists were a lot easier to come by.
If he has a strong post season this year, Crosby, who’s at 1.18 PPG could pass Messier, who finished with 1.25 and get back into third behind Gretzky and Lemieux.
The point is, there are legitimate reasons for Crosby’s lack of production the last two years and it’s ridiculous to suggest that, over his career, he hasn’t been productive in the post season.
Let’s See Penguins – Capitals
-Lots of fans and many in the media will be hoping that the Capitals are knocked out by the Flyers because it will be an easier series for the Penguins.
Give me the Capitals. And if the Flyers had the Capitals’ record, I’d be hoping for a Penguins-Flyers series.
Right now, give me Crosby vs Ovechkin. And I hope it goes to overtime, maybe multiple over times in a Game 7.
Drop the puck. Let’s get the best tournament in all of sports started and the more Game 7s the better.