Well here we are just two days after perhaps the greatest collapse/upset in professional sports and the future for the Pens now looks a little brighter. The two teams (Washington and New Jersey) which owned Pittsburgh's professional hockey club were taken to task on their own ice by teams that had what we would call, sub-par regular seasons. The Pens are now the top seed in the East and are about to enter round 2 against the hot, though 8th seeded, Montreal Canadiens. Sure the Habs just took down the Caps in 7 [in Washington] behind the unprecedented never-been-seen-before play of Jaroslav Halak. But while their cinderella moments have been great they now face a well rested, well tested Penguins team who has been here before...and before. Hence the clock is now showing 11:55pm for Montreal. Certainly this is not to make light of the Habs heroic efforts in taking down Ovi and company. Their effort was valiant and their desire to win something you don't see in sports very often. But for them to expect to pull another 4 wins over 871 (Crosby and Malkin) will literally take nothing short of a miracle.
Lets take a look at the numbers. This season the Pens had won the season series 3-1. The last two years prior to this were locked even at 2. Meanwhile Sid and Geno have put up some impressive numbers against the Habs over these past three seasons. In the 10 games Sid has faced against his fathers former team he's put up 6 goals and 5 assists in 10 games (averaging 1.11 ppg), which includes a hat trick he performed earlier this season on October 28th. Geno on the other hand has put up a whopping 6 goals and 10 assists in the 12 games (1.33 ppg) he's faced against the Canadiens. Anyway you look at it 871 seem to play well against this team.
But then again just because the numbers are in favor of the Penguins doesn't mean the Habs chances are completely gone. They managed to do what just about everyone thought was impossible. The playoffs are just a different animal than the regular season, simple as that. It takes far more than goal scoring and confidence in your ability to get through a playoff series. It takes leadership, grit, will, tenaciousness, endurance, resiliancy, and mental toughness.; among other things. Interestingly enough none of these qualities describe the Washington Capitals. It does however describe the Montreal Candiens. But more so does it also describe the Pittsburgh Penguins team that has had its core in tact for the last three years [four really] they have been in the playoffs, two of which have been in the Stanley Cup, one included the hoist. The Crosby-Malkin-Staal-Gonchar-Orpik-Fleury combo is one that I can't say many teams can ever say they'll ever have. The talent that embodies this core is in my opinion, unmatched in the NHL. But not only do they have talent, they have a winners mentality. They have that uncanny ability to dig deep and pull everything together to do what it takes to win. That is not something that everyone has, nor can it be coached.
Having said all of that I think this series could start off pretty close. I have a tendency to believe this series will be similar to that of the Canes series last year. The first two games were hard fought grinding games full of speed and grit. The next two became rather forgetful for the Canes. Now do I think the Pens will sweep, I do not. I feel the game will go 5 games in the Pens favor. It could go 6 if the Habs steal game 1 like Ottawa did. But I just think since the Habs just went 7 games against a hard hitting, fast skating Capitals team and the Pens have rested up for the past 5 days that they will have the advantage. Sure Halak is unreal right now. But he hasn't faced the type of plays set up by the Pens. He hasn't seen the creativity that comes with the scoring chances created by Bylsma's system. The Caps are a different system. They are of the mindset that if you shoot more the more you'll score. That theory doesn't hold true in the playoffs. The Pens are more structured and creative in the way they score. Couple that with the fact that SUP87MAN is out of his mind, it remains to be seen whether Canadiens can stop the Pens and if Halak will indeed play the role of Lex Luthor, or for that matter be his kryptonite.