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Insider Only Steigerwald: Mike Sullivan still has to prove that a superstar returning to a red hot team can’t be a problem.

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MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN

If the Penguins lose Tuesday night in New York, the series is over. They’re done.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth, but you can count on lots and lots of people, including some of your friends in the media, saying that if the Penguins do lose.

And just about everybody would have been saying the series was over if the Penguins had won Game 2 and put the Rangers down two games to none.

Whoever came up with the idea of a seven game series knew what he was doing. There are just enough games to drive fans of both teams crazy.

Remember a couple of years ago when the series with the Rangers was over after the Penguins went up three games to one?

It wasn’t over until the Rangers won Game 7 in Pittsburgh.

You may remember people saying it was over after the Rangers took Game 1 in Pittsburgh. Then it really was over after the Penguins won the next three.

There was no way the Rangers were going to beat the Penguins in three straight. Especially after they had come off a seven game series in which they became the first NHL team to ever play five playoff games in seven nights.

Henrik Lundqvist had a 1.00 goals against average in those last three games. He held the Penguins to one goal three straight times.

The same guy is in goal for the Rangers this year and, even though the Penguins seem to be better at scoring goals this time around, Lundqvist is still one of the best goaltenders on the planet and capable of doing it again.

But, how many people predicted a Penguins sweep?

How many predicted Penguins in five? (Okay, I did.)

But, even if you thought it would be over in five the Penguins were going to lose one game at some point.

Ask a Washington Capitals fan if the Caps-Flyers series is over because the Caps are up two games to none. Nobody should know how to keep perspective in a seven game series better than a Capitals fan.

That’s not to say that it’s not extremely important for the Penguins to win Game 3. It is. But it won’t be over until somebody wins four and what happened in the previous game will have nothing to do with what happens in the next one.

The Penguins have to get back to playing the way they played the last several weeks of the season and that means, coming with speed and shooting the puck.

And it might be a good idea to set the lines and keep rolling them.

That’s what the Penguins did when they won 14 out of 16. They rolled the same four lines and came in relentless waves.

geno malkinIn Game 2 there was a lot of mixing and matching because of the return of Evgeni Malkin.

Finding a place to put one of the best players in the world in your lineup is supposed to be a good problem to have, but maybe it isn’t.

Maybe at this point it’s not a good problem to have. Maybe it’s just a problem.

There is no debate about whether the Penguins looked better without Malkin. They just did. It was only one game. Which would be fine if this were February and Mike Sullivan and his staff had time to tinker, but it’s the playoffs and there’s no room for a little losing streak while they figure things out.

It’s times like these when coaches earn their big bucks and Sullivan still has to prove that a superstar returning to a red hot team can’t be a problem.

Kang’s Injury one Huntington had never seen before

DHP_7582 –Anybody remember Rennie Stennett?

You might be hearing his name come up now that Jung Ho Kang has started his rehab in Indianapolis. Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington told 93.7 The Fan radio that he and the Pirates are shocked that Kang has been able to start playing games so soon.

Huntington pointed out that Kang’s knee injury was so bad that he was operated on by a trauma surgeon. Orthopedic surgeons usually repair athletes’ knees.

Kang was a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate and played a major role in the Pirates winning 98 games last season and looked like a future star.

Huntington said “It’s an injury we’ve never seen before in our time in baseball.”

That doesn’t sound good, which brings us back to Stennett.

He was already a star when he broke his leg sliding into second base at Three Rivers Stadium on August 21, 1977. He was hitting .336 and might have won the batting title.

Stennett was never the same. Not even close. He was only 26 at the time of the injury and played three and a half more seasons, the last two with the Giants after being traded. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

Jung Ho Kang Photo: David Hague

About The Author

John Steigerwald

TIOPS Columnist

John Steigerwald, a life long Pittsburgher, has been covering PITTSBURGH sports since 1977 as a TV anchor/reporter, columnist radio reporter/commentator and talk show host. He is also the author of one of the best selling local books in Pittburgh history, “Just Watch The Game.”

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