We finally felt the full power of the long dormant Consol Energy Center on Friday.
But we never imagined what it would take to get that moment, when 18,000 fans screamed for the Penguins until their throats gave way. If you go back 10 days to when the playoffs started, you'll recall that the Pens were close to overwhelming favorites to not only beat the Flyers, to not only get to the Cup Finals, but to win the Stanley Cup. But a funny thing happened on the way to the parade. The Pens backed off for 2+ periods in Game 1, got outclassed in Game 2, and melted down in Game 3. It was rock bottom. It seemed like there was no hope for a comeback. Even we felt the hope withering away.
Down three games to none and facing maybe the most hostile environment in the league, the Pens had become, of all things, the underdogs. The Flyers, powered by unlimited goals, became the favorites. They were celebrated in the media. They taunted the Penguins and their fans. The people of Philadelphia chanted "you can't beat us." And they had every right to -- they were killing the Pens. But heavy lies the head that wears the crown over a cesspool of orange hair.
Sometimes it's good to be the underdog, to have nowhere to go but up, to have no one believe in you. Because when you're the underdogs, you have nothing to lose. And when you have the mindset of an underdog with the talent of the overwhelming favorites, well, you're just deadly.
More on Game 5, the Penguins' secret weapon, and looking ahead to Sunday, after the jump...
- We told you Friday that we suspected Marc-Andre Fleury would need to steal Game 5, and he responded with a third period that elicited no fewer than six booming "Holy shit"s from Jim from "The Office," who was sitting just a few rows behind Artistry.
"It felt good not to give up 26 goals in one period," he said after blanking the Flyers for the final two periods of Game 4.
Then he turned around and played the 20 minutes of his life, 20 minutes the Penguins had to have to survive, in the 3rd period of Game 5. To say nothing of the fact that he kept the Pens within a goal in the first, as the Flyers went for the kill shot on the power play. Let's be clear: the Penguins still face a steep climb in this series, but the Flyers will have no better opportunity to win than they had on Friday. They outshot and out-chanced the Pens, and they blanked Crosby and Malkin. But Fleury left them literally shaking their heads. If he's not a money goalie, we don't want to be rich.
- Jordan Staal rightfully gets almost all the credit for the success of the Pens third line, but let's save a little for Tyler Kennedy. No Pens fan thinks that TK is as good as TK thinks he is, but one thing you can't argue with is that TK has a sense of the moment. He finished one of the prettiest goals in Pens playoff history in Game 4 in the '09 Finals against Detroit and had two points, including the game winning goal, in Game 6, when the Pens worked maybe the hardest they've ever had to work to win a game. And last night's game winner was an absolute laser. He may not be Jaromir Jagr. But he can be pretty damn good.
|Smiling like a butcher's dog.|
- We defied conventional wisdom by saying Dan Bylsma should break them up. (It's not too late, incidentally.) But if the "untouchable" Geno-Neal-Kunitz line decides to show up for Game 6, the Pens are in great shape. Right now Malkin is playing over the edge, like a wild stallion whose liable to kick you in the face out of sheer recklessness.
- We can't help but wonder how much of Sidney Crosby's off night had to do with his collision with Malkin.
- Now that he's in spending games in the press box, Paul Martin's poor play can no longer obscure Zbynek Michalek's poor play. Do the Pens dare scratch a combined $9 million?
- Steve Sullivan is having the same effect on this team as Bill Guerin did in 2009, minus the camera friendliness and relentless pranking of Dan Potash.
- If the City of Philadelphia were a giant sphincter, and it is, it would be sealed shut right about now. How do the Penguins take advantage in Game 6?
1) Hit Timonen, Carle, and Coburn. At every opportunity. Because those are essentially the only defensemen playing for the Flyers. How much does Peter Laviolette trust Pavel Kubina, Andres Lilja, and the rookie Gustafsson? Those three averaged about 8 minutes of ice time. The top 3 were all pushing 30 minutes. No telling what the Flyers do if Game 6 goes to overtime.
2) Take abuse. Can everybody agree we don't want the Flyers on the power play? OK, great.
3) Get them thinking early. The Penguins don't even need to take a first period lead. Just weather the early storm, look the Flyers in the eye, and make them understand who they're playing against. It's the Stanley Cup favorite Pittsburgh Penguins.