Post-Game Five Reactions
Admit it. When the Canadiens scored late Saturday night against the Penguins, you got nervous. Don’t worry. You should’ve been. This Montreal team always has life. And it draws on every breath big time, even when the pulse is faint.
That’s why it is so important for Pittsburgh to close out this best of seven Eastern Conference Semifinal Monday night in Game Six back in Montreal.
And the Penguins have a bad history when it comes winning initial close-out games in playoff series.
Game Five vs. Ottawa this year
Game Six vs. Washington last year
Game Five vs. Philadelphia last year
Game Four vs. the Rangers in 2008
Game Four vs. the Flyers in 2008
Yes, the Penguins usually do finish off their playoff opponents. But it usually takes a little bit longer than their fans would like. And in this series, against a team with a well deserved “never-say-die” attitude, the Penguins would be best served avoiding a chance where Montreal could gain further hope in the form of a Game seven.
“We have to come out with a heightened sense of urgency and desperation in a tough place in Game Six against a team that isn‘t going to quit,” said Penguin head coach Dan Bylsma. “This team deserves a lot of credit for the way they keep coming at us. We have to respect that and be ready to bring that urgency and desperation level.”
When the Penguins have closed out various series, they have often done so on the road. Each of the last five playoff series victories have been clinched away from Mellon Arena. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the bunker mentality of playing in a hostile environment brings the best out of this Penguin team.
“We are going to go in their building. We know it is going to be hard. But we are just going to go in there and play the game which we always play on the road,“ says Penguin defenseman Kris Letang.
That’s the right approach for the team to have. But perhaps not for Letang who has been one of the few Penguins who has actually played better in Pittsburgh than away from home of late. He had a goal and a number of big plays in his own end en route to being named one of the top three stars Saturday night in the 2-1 victory over Montreal.
Conversely, he may have had his worst game of an otherwise very good semifinal in Montreal in Game Four. Among other issues, he was victimized on a bad bounce for an “own goal” on the game winner for the Canadiens’ Brian Gionta.
In the past, perhaps the Penguins have gotten complacent when a series has appeared to be over. They have done that at times during individual games this year too. Matt Cooke was critical of his team in that regard following Game Two of this series when he stated: “You’d think we would’ve learned our lesson by now.”
Maybe now they have. At least the tone of the message the players were uttering in the locker-room following Game Five suggested as much.
“Every game we have played against them so far has been a close game, a tough game.
That’s what we expect for the next one also,” said goaltender Marc Andre Fleury who stopped 32 of 33 shots on the way to an impressive win Saturday. “So for sure we are going to give everything we have to close it down.”
If they don’t, then the Canadiens are going to have the chance to close down the series at Mellon Arena in a pivotal Game Seven Wednesday night.