How did that happen?
Remember way back on Monday when fans and, surprisingly enough, some in the media, had the Eastern Conference over because the Penguins lost Games 4 and 5 and had to go to Tampa Bay facing elimination?
Have these people never seen a seven game series before?
One columnist wrote that it might be time to forget about the Crosby-Malkin era – that it appeared to be over.
I did some research and discovered that, in every series that went seven games, in every sport, after five somebody was up 3 games to 2.
And I was shocked to find that, in every series that went seven games it was tied 3-3 after six.
If you know your Pittsburgh sports history you know the Pirates fell behind the Orioles two games to none in the 1971 World Series and 3 games to one in the 1979 World Series and won Game 7 in Baltimore both times.
And you know the Penguins fell behind the Capitals 3-1 in the 1992 Patrick Division playoffs.
And here’s what Ron Cook wrote in his Post-Gazette column before Game 5 :
“Don’t get the idea that Kevin Stevens wasn’t ashamed late Saturday night just because he was man enough to stand front and center of hockey obituary writers while most of his teammates hid like bad little boys.”
“He is very much ashamed because he has played like dog meat against the Washington Capitals.”
Cook went on to say that Stevens’ teammates had played just as poorly if not worse.
The Penguins didn’t just lose Game 4. They were blown out 7-2 and Cook and everybody else had the series over:
“But beat a highly skilled, supremely confident Washington team three in a row? At this point the possibility is too remote to even consider.”
And not only was the series over, but the Penguins had been exposed as a fraud and the Stanley Cup win a year earlier was probably a fluke.
“No, there’s not much reason to believe that this flock of Penguins will be remembered as a superior team. It’s tempting to say their playoff flop is an aberration but is that accurate?”
“Or was their playoff magnificence last spring the aberration?”
“Well the playoff party is almost over and there is an enduring feeling around the National Hockey League that the Penguins Championship season was a bit of a fluke.”
Of course the Penguins won the next three games and the next three series, and won their last 11 games in a row on the way to their second straight Cup.
They were even better the next season, but were upset in the playoffs by the New York Islanders.
Now that the Penguins have won the Eastern Conference Final, here are some things everybody who has followed Pittsburgh sports should have learned about seven game series: You have to win four games but you can lose three.
The order in which you win your four doesn’t matter.
Other than injuries to key players, what happened in the previous game will have nothing to do with the next game.
And if the Penguins lose to San Jose, can we please stop the talk about how disappointing the Crosby-Malkin era has been?
They just played in their fourth Eastern Conference Final. Crosby has been a Penguin for 11 years.
They are four wins away from winning their second Stanley Cup.
Mario Lemieux played in three conference finals in his first 11 years and won two Cups in 17 years.
Crosby and Malkin are playing in their third Stanley Cup Final.
Lemieux played in two.
And when you hear about how Sidney Crosby doesn’t step up in big games – and you’ll hear it if he doesn’t put up any points in a Game 1 loss to the Sharks – keep Game 7 vs the Lightning in mind.
It’ll show up on his game log as one of those games when he didn’t show up because he had no points.
He was the best player on the ice.
Now, all the Penguins have to do is win four more games against a team that’s better than the one that just took them to seven games.
Enjoy the ride. The chance to play for a championship is almost as rare as winning one.[/hide]