Penguins on the verge of hoisting Lord Stanley
One Win Away AND the Stanley Cup will be in the building Thursday night.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have never trailed through four games of the Stanley Cup Final and a big celebration could be happening in two days.
The city of Pittsburgh is going to be electric Thursday night as the Penguins will have an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup on home-ice, something the franchise has never done, winning all three Stanley Cups on the road.
Monday night’s 3-1 win had just about everything that’s led to the Penguins stunning turnaround since March and mold them into a team that’s one win from a championship title.
An unlikely player scoring in a Stanley Cup Final game, Ian Cole ends a 104 game goalless streak with a first period goal on a juicy rebound from Martin Jones. Another lead, another game with the Sharks chasing the game.
Through four games the Penguins have led for 121:44, while the score has been tied for 133:09.
THE SHARKS HAVE LED FOR 0:00.
“We have been chasing the game all series,” Peter DeBoer said.
“We’ve had pretty good starts,” Mike Sullivan said of the Penguins ability to lead for the entire series. “I think everybody’s been focused right from the drop of the puck, trying to gain momentum right away. Anytime you can score the first goal in a game it really increases your chances. I think our guys are just focused on trying to play the game the right way.”
A major player in the Penguins’ transformation over the past couple months has without question been Phil Kessel. He stepped up again in Game 4 to play a big role in the Penguins now putting a stranglehold on the series.
Kessel who had the primary assist on Cole’s opening goal, added his second assist of the night in the second period in setting up Evgeni Malkin on the power play at the side of the net for a tap-in goal.
21 points in 22 playoff games, it’s Kessel’s overall game that has quotes coming from his head coach that were unforeseen even at the start of the playoffs.
“Phil deserves the credit for his contribution to helping this team win,” Sullivan said. “I think Phil has made a complete commitment to this team. We don’t get to where we’re at if Phil doesn’t play the type of hockey that he’s played throughout the course of this playoffs.”
Who pictured that type of quote from Sullivan a few months ago
The third period in closing out the game was more of the same, player after player stepping up.
The Sharks in close to a do or die situation again in the third, have a major push and Matt Murray comes up large. The Sharks get one by Murray to cut the Penguins lead to 2-1 and what happens next is Eric Fehr icing the game with 2:02 left in regulation.
What was so fitting on the Fehr goal was Carl Hagelin winning a foot race on a loose puck to send in Fehr all alone. The Penguins’ identity (speed) delivering a crushing goal.
Murray who earned the games No. 1 star with 23 saves, improved to 5-0 after a loss with a 1.75 GAA, .935 save percentage. Anytime the noise starts surrounding his play and you can bet he was one bad game away in Game 4 from the Fleury crowd coming out like vultures, Murray comes back to like an Ace pitcher with a shutdown performance.
Since the Stanley Cup Final has gone to a best-of-seven, only 1 team of 32 has come back from a 3-1 deficit.
History is on the Penguins side to close this out and likely quick. Reality is also on the Penguins side.
The Penguins have dominated the Sharks by hitting them with waves throughout their lineup 1-18.
The Sharks are only two lines, four D-deep in matching up against Pittsburgh. The Penguins are so good structurally and so committed to doing the little things, they can hid their lower tier players and that’s a major difference in this series.
Although all four games have been close on the scoreboard, three 1-goal games, the Sharks only shot has been their stars catching fire. It’s yet to happen and likely too late because it’s hard to imagine the Penguins’ will allow it.
Pittsburgh’s top players have also rose to the occasion in certain games. Game 4 it was Phil Kessel again and Evgeni Malkin’s turn for the first time this series.
Malkin’s bounce back game was also more than about getting his first two points of the series.
His performance started from the drop of the puck with a committed effort to playing all three zones and playing the right way away from the puck, key areas that have been lacking in his game.
“I thought he was really good, not just because he got on the scoresheet,” Mike Sullivan said. “Obviously that’s great for him and great for us, but I thought his overall game was really good. He played at both ends of the rink and when he plays that way, he’s so hard to defend. It seems like the puck follows him around.”
The Penguins have had a special run that started on a March night in Columbus and now they’re on the brink of doing something special Thursday night.