By Artistry (follow me on Twitter)
There's fear in the air in Pittsburgh. Or at least at my gym. Jerry the Trainer bet me and a middle-aged gentleman doing squat thrusts that the Penguins won't make it out of Round 2 of the playoffs. Doug, the other trainer, shook his head slowly and said he didn't see how they'll win a playoff game given the way the Pens performed last night. Let me be clear. I don't think Jerry and Doug have any idea what they're talking about. But the feeling of dread that they're articulating is legitimate and - based on long experience - healthy.
Did the Penguins peak too soon? Not at all. We haven't even seen the Penguins. Not with Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Kris Letang, and Paul Martin all together on the bench at the same time. There is still no telling what this group could do.
But here they were in New Jersey, giving up a third period lead for the first time all season (they're now 19-1 when leading after two), with Malkin trying to work his way back to top form but Sid, Neal, and Martin still on the shelf, and often looking like their heads were somewhere else. Then we find out that in all likelihood we're getting the Islanders in Round 1. Out of all the remaining possibilities, that's the last team we want to see. Why?
1. They're lighting quick. Crankshaft, go put a body on Michael Grabn--oh, I'm sorry, he's already taking a post-game shower.
2. Evgeni Nabokov. Pretty sure neither Malkin nor Crosby have scored a goal against him. EVER. Who has the goaltending advantage here? Are we sure it's the Penguins? Really, are we positive?
3. 1993. Don't really want to talk about this here. Just listen if you want.
Add to this list the fact that the Penguins were losers in their last three playoff series. Of course we're uneasy. The Penguins should be, too. If John Tavares skates onto the Consol ice next week, they should feel tremendous apprehension, even fear. This is a good thing and should provide great comfort. You're probably wondering why that is, how the creeping doubt, Neil Greenberg saying we're no good at puck possession, that feeling that we're on the verge of enormous disappointment, could ever inure to our benefit. Well, have you ever seen a herd of frightened elephants?